Music in First Grade: How to Practice Quarter Rest

Finally, after choosing songs and preparing our mystery rhythm, we know the real name to a beat without a sound.

>> Songs to Teach Quarter Rest

>> How to Prepare Quarter Rest

>> How to Present Quarter Rest

Teaching students how to truly hear a rest is teaching students how to be thoughtful, aware musicians. To not play something, but to silently hear it, takes a lot of musical maturity, and it’s one reason I love teaching quarter rest.

Here are some of my favorite ways to practice ta rest. They involve student compositions, instrument choice, performance, and a reflection time.

Let’s jump in!

How to Practice Quarter Rest

Compose with quarter rest

Student-created rhythms are wonderful for practicing elements - what better material to use than material students have created themselves?

This rhythm pattern could serve as an ostinato for the whole piece, or it could serve as an interlude, intro, or outro.

For the song, Bluebird, Bluebird, my students were given these rhythm building blocks:

(Click here to download!)

In small groups, students create a four bar pattern using their rhythm building blocks. Since the purpose of this activity is a quarter rest, students include a silent sign for rest.

When the rhythm cards are in their final order and students can clap and speak their rhythm several times in a row as a group, students put their composition on body percussion.

**Teaching tip: Especially in younger grades, it’s a good idea to model how to have a creative discussion when several students are contributing ideas. Explain that your idea may not be chosen every time, and it’s important to work together as a group to come up with a musical idea that represents everyone.

Add Instruments and Perform

Once students have their compositions ready, it’s time to put them on instruments.

Step 1: Choose instruments in each group:

The teacher may demonstrate several options for instruments: Triangle, rain stick, hand drum, cabasa. . . .

Ask students to discuss in their small groups which instruments would be best, and which would be worst for playing their compositions. Students will discover that not all instruments are appropriate for their compositions - some instruments have a reverberation that lasts far beyond its strike - no good for playing a rest.

Since the purpose of this activity is the quarter rest, students should opt for guiros, hand drums, tambourines, cabasas, maracas, and other instruments that allow the quarter rest space to be clear.

Step 2: Practice their composition on instruments

When students move to instruments, I ask if they can recreate their body percussion on their new percussion instruments. Students can think through all the different sounds their instrument can make (high / low, loud / quiet, etc.), and make connections to levels, volume, and pitch of their body percussion.

Step 3: Give a performance!

With a composition, body percussion and instrumentation complete, students are ready for a “final” performance of their ostinati.

This performance could be in front of peers, in front of you, in front of the classroom teacher, or a larger parent or school audience.

Talk it through

Did we stay together as a group the whole time? Was the space for the quarter rest totally empty?

Our students need time to think through and evaluate their musical performance. They need time to hear feedback from their peers. Create space in your lesson for students to reflect on their performance, and make revisions if they feel it’s necessary.

When we teach quarter rest, we’re practicing inner hearing - inner pulse. We’re teaching how to listen.

I like this activity for practicing quarter rest because it draws upon so much previous musical knowledge. It also puts students in the driver’s seat of their own learning: creating music, exploring new ways to play it, and thoughtfully reflecting and revising their work. It’s a beautiful process to watch!

You can find more songs for teaching quarter rest in my Folk Song Index.

Happy teaching!

Grade 1 Rhythm: Quarter Eighth Note lessons with sheet music, printables, and more!

Ta, Ti-Ti

Ta, Ta-di

Crotchets, Quavers

1, 2-and

Pear, Apple

Quarter and eighth notes go by a lot of names... and they can be taught in just as many ways as there are names for them.

Regardless of which names we call these little guys, if students can keep a steady beat and tell the difference between beat and rhythm, they're ready to learn!

Let's sing, play, and dance our way through the prepare present practice sequence! 

How to teach quarter notes and eighth notes

Preparing quarter and eighth notes 


Students need to be able to hear that there are two sounds on one beat for eighth notes. To help them with this, pick one of the songs from this post (or your own favorite quarter eighth note song!) and sing it as a group while your students keep the steady beat. Isolate one phrase and sing it while the class pats a steady beat. How many times did they pat as you sang? How many sounds did they hear on the third beat? First beat? 


Playing a quarter eighth note ostinato ensures that students are engraining the physical motion of ta ta-di since they play it over and over (and over and over and over)

For example, use a simple ostinato such as "shoe, cobbler, shoe, shoe" or another variation for the song Cobbler Cobbler. Students can clap or take turns playing it on woodblocks or rhythm sticks while the rest of the class sings the song


By this point students have progressed from reading icons over hearts to icons over horizontal lines to represent the beat. Isolate one phrase from a known song, such as Cobbler Cobbler, and ask students to notate it with partners. Popsicle sticks and some small icons work well for this.

Presenting quarter and eighth notes

After enough time preparing quarter and eighth notes, it's time to present! 

Follow a script similar to this: 

How to teach quarter notes and eighth notes

Practicing Quarter and Eighth Notes 

How to teach Ta and Ti-ti


Dictation is n amazing way to practice whether or not students can hear the subdivision of the big beat (quarter notes) into smaller sounds (eighth notes). They've already been doing this in the preparation phase with icons, so in the practice phase we simply replace the icons with standard notation for quarter and eighth notes. 

How to teach Ta Ti-Ti


Another way to build upon the preparation phase is for students to compose their own ostinati for a simple song like Cobbler Cobbler. Have students come up with a combination of "cobbler" and "shoe" that takes up four beats. Write the rhythmic notation on the board and then sing the song with students taking turns playing the ostinato they created. 

How to teach Ta and Ti-ti Grade 1


Similar to what we did in this post, choose a collection of songs and write the names on the board. Then write the opening rhythm to one of the songs on the board and clap it with the class. Can they guess what song they were clapping? 

This exercise gets more interesting when you have students clap the opening line to a song they don't yet know. It's a nice way to practice rhythm and introduce a new song at the same time! 

You can also use this worksheet to have them match phrases of songs they already know to the new rhythmic notation. 

It's free! Just click to download.

Happy teaching!