A Half Note Presentation Plan

If your students have great repertoire for half notes, plus solid preparation strategies, they’re ready to move on to the presentation phase!

In the Kodaly philosophy, the presentation phase is where students learn the real name of the element they’ve been using. I love this approach because it reminds me that the name of the element itself does not have as much meaning as many teachers would be lead to believe. The name “half note” is simply something we assign to a two beat sound to make communication between musicians easier. Memorizing the label and shape of the notation has little significance when we put it in the context of experiencing how a half note feels, sounds, and how we can use it.

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Before we begin, make sure your students have plenty of experience with half notes in the preparation phase. Some of my favorite ways to prepare half notes are to: 

  • Experience first through games
  • Notice a note that lasts two beats
  • Explore through movement compositions
  • Explore through instruments
  • Read a visual representation

With these activities - or your own favorites - we're ready to move on! 

Choosing Classroom Repertoire

I wrote about some of my favorite songs for teaching half notes here. You can go to that post to see how I use each song, and get directions for downloading the sheet music. 

Are they Ready to Move on? A Presentation Test

Before we present the name of a half note, we need to be sure students are ready to move on from the preparation phase. That’s where our presentation test comes in.

I want to make sure my students have had lots of experience with this element, but the thing I care most about is aural skills. Can they aurally identify a half note? If they can, I know whatever mistakes they make in performance of a half note will sort themselves out.

That said, in my classroom the presentation test is essentially an ear training test.

There are two main ways this might look in my classroom:

  1. Whole-Class Test: The teacher will sing a phrase from a known song on “loo” and the students will echo back on ta, ta-di, and long.
  2. Small Group Test: If you want more targeted information, you can load the phrase into an app like Seesaw and have students submit a recording back to you in small groups. (P.S. I made a video that mentions assessment in the music room using the seesaw app. You can watch it here.)


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With the data back from your test, we can move on to presentation.

However, if the results of your test show that most students aren't ready to move on yet, don't push them before they're ready. You've still had a wonderful preparation activity and gained some valuable data! Take a few more lessons to prepare half notes and circle back around to presenting in a week or two.

If it is time to present, sing a song your kids both know and like - something from this post would be perfect. 

For this example, we'll use the American folk song, Who's That. 

1. Aural Presentation

  • Tell the students that musicians have a special name for “long”. When we hear a sound that lasts for two beats, we call it a “ta-a”. The real name for a “ta-a” is a half note.
  • Sing part of the song that contains a half note on rhythm syllables.
  • Try with another song or another portion of the song that contains half notes.

2. Visual Presentation

  • Tell students that musicians have a special way to write a half note, and show the notation on the board.
  • Have students help you write out a target phrase of a song containing half notes.
  • Sing the target phrase on rhythm syllables while students point to the board.
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The formal practice phase will take up the next several lessons, but I like to include it here so to help students bridge the gap between the two phases.

By this point in the lesson students have been sitting down a lot! It’s time to get moving - which means we need a game.

Games as Intentional Practice

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Bluebird Bluebird is a great one for this.

Students should have plenty of experience playing this game, and they should know the song very well.

  • The first time you play the game, do it completely as normal. (Students sing on regular text.)
  • Then, ask students to play the game while they sing on rhythm syllables

The presentation phase is the smallest of the three in the Kodaly philosophy. It matters that students all elements by the correct names, but it’s more important that they understand what these elements sound like, feel like, and how to use them.

Next week we’ll look at some specific ways to practice half notes!


Music in First Grade: How to Present Quarter Rest

In this post we looked at some great ways to prepare quarter rest through singing, games, listening, analyzing, and notating.

Now that students have this preparation it’s time to present the real name and symbol for a quarter rest.

To do this, we first need to know if students have enough experience with a quarter rest. Then we need a solid presentation plan to follow.

Let’s jump in!

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A Quick and Simple Presentation Test

The point of a presentation test is to ensure that the class is ready to move on to labeling and seeing the real notation for the rhythmic element. If you have data from these preparation activities, great! If not, this presentation test is perfect for you.

When I give a presentation test I’ll use one of my favorite songs for teaching quarter rest, such as Bow Wow Wow.

With four steady beat hearts on the board, I’ll ask students to tell me on what beat there is no sound. They will show the correct number of fingers on their hand (holding up 1, 2, 3, or 4 fingers), but only when I say “Go”. This helps me know that students aren’t simply looking at someone else’s answer and copying.

Students keep a steady beat on their laps as we sing the second phrase of the song, “whose dog art thou?”, and then I ask them to stop and think before they answer.

Then we sing it again.

By the time I say “go” students are confident that the answer they give is their own. I also ask students to hold their answer close to their chest, so their neighbor doesn’t accidentally see.

Then I can quickly go around the circle with my seating and assessment chart and mark grades for each student.

When I see that the majority of the class has given the correct answer, I know we’re ready to move on to presentation.

2. Presenting Ta Rest

With the data in from our presentation test, students are ready to move onto the next phase. The purpose of the presentation phase is for students to give a name to the sound they hear, and see the visual representation.

To present ta rest, follow a procedure and script something like this:

2. Give it a name:

  • Students keep steady beat on their laps while the teacher points to steady beats on the board. Sing Bow Wow Wow together.
  • T: “Remind me, how many sounds do we hear on this beat?” (none)
  • T: “Musicians have a special name for no sound on a beat. It’s called ta rest. Let’s say ‘ssshh’ when there’s a ta rest, that way we remember not to make any sound there.”
  • Students sing the whole song speaking “ssshh” at the appropriate time.

2. Give it a symbol:

  • T: “We can represent ta rest by using this sign: Z”
  • Students help the teacher notate whole song in rhythmic notation.
  • Students speak and clap the whole song in rhythm syllables

You can grab this free presentation lesson plan to use in your classroom - just click the image to download! 

I love this presentation plan for a few reasons:

The presentation test is super simple and gives me the information I need before moving forward.

I also love how the presentation script uses everything students have learned about rhythm so far - steady beat, rhythm, ta, ta-di. . . And now we get to build on that solid foundation of musical experience.

Next time we’ll look at some awesome ways to practice ta rest.

Happy teaching!