How to Prepare Quarter Rest

In this post we looked at some great songs for teaching quarter rest. Now that we have songs picked out, we’re ready to move on to preparing this rhythmic element.

 
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Experience first!

One of the first tasks we have when preparing a musical element is letting students experience it without a label through what they feel, what they hear, and what they see. We do this through singing games.

Tinker Tailor

Each of the songs in this post has an accompanying game or dance that works great for preparing quarter rest, but my favorite is Tinker Tailor.

Tinker Tailor is ball passing elimination game sung on a two note chant (that’s right, this song can double for Sol Mi practice!).

There are three specific ways this song helps prepare students:

  • Kinesthetically: Students keep a steady beat on their knees while they pass the ball. Since students are out when they get the ball on the quarter rest, they are feeling the beat without a sound because it’s a crucial part of the game.

  • Aurally: Having the “out” students reinforce the steady beat on instruments allows students hear a beat being played without a sound.

  • Visually: Students watch the ball being passed around the circle and see that the ball doesn’t stop with the singing. It continues with the beat. Students can see that there is a beat even when there isn’t a sound.


Describe what you hear.

The next step is for students to describe what they hear in the song. We do this by asking guided questions to get the students thinking about the specific rhythmic element.

After playing the game to Tinker Tailor, ask students to keep a steady beat on their laps while they sing the last phrase of the song ("rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief"). Then, follow a script like this:

T: How many beats are in this part of my song? (8)
T: What word do I sing on my first beat? (Rich)
T: What word do I sing on my last beat? (There’s no word)
T: Does our voice make any sound on the last beat? (no)

These questions guide students to describe a beat without a sound.


Match known phrases to sound / no sound on a beat

Students are aware that there can be a beat without a sound, so it’s time to identify a quarter rest in known songs.

Using the songs in this post, as well as some others your students know, have students listen to specific phrases to determine if they contain quarter rests. For this example, I used Cobbler Cobbler, Tinker Tailor, Rain Rain Go Away, and Bell Horses.

Start by listing out the phrases on the board (lyrics only - no rhythms) and writing four hearts. We want students to do the actual determining of sound / no sound by ear instead of by sight.

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  • Cobbler cobbler mend my shoe, have it done by half past two

  • Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief

  • Rain rain go away, come again some other day

  • Bell horses bell horses what’s the time of day

While you point to the hearts to keep the steady beat, students may sing the phrase or clap the rhythm of the words.

Have students help you group each of the four the phrases into two categories: “beat without a sound” and “sounds on all the beats”.


Notate it!

After students can describe what they hear and aurally identify it, they’re ready to see it represented visually.

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Using a song like Bow Wow Wow or Bell Horses have students help you notate the first 8 beats. Start by placing two lines of steady beat hearts on the board, then ask students to clap the words and tell you how many sounds they heard on each beat. (This is great review for quarter and eighth notes!)

Since we’re in the presentation phase, we’ll use a question mark for the quarter rest - students have not learned the proper notation yet.

You can do this as a whole class, or use these printables for individual or partner work. They’re available totally free in the Folk Song Index. Just scroll down to “Activity Sheets”.

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Next time, we’ll look at how to know your students are ready for presenting a quarter rest, and peek at some awesome ways to practice!

Happy teaching.

Music in First Grade: How to Practice Sol and Mi (Part 3)

Sol and Mi are the first of many melodic intervals our students will learn with us. In past posts, we’ve looked at:

Finally, we’re on to my favorite phase - the practice phase. 

In this step, students use everything they’ve learned so far and apply it consciously to sol and mi. Let's look at three ways to practice this interval.

 
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1. Use Activities from Preparing Sol and Mi

Some of the most natural ways to practice sol and mi are from the preparation post. These activities are natural because students have already done them, but sol and mi were been called something different. Now the only thing to do is keep the same activities, but use the real names for sol and mi.

Here are some of my favorite ways to practice sol and mi:

  • Games (like Apple Tree)

  • Improvising a Melody

  • Writing Down the Melody

  • The case of the missing notes

 

Read more about these ways to prepare and practice sol and mi here and grab the free worksheets in the library.


2. Dictate the Teacher’s Melody

Dictation is a great way to make sure students know the theory behind an interval. To complete this activity students need to be aware that if sol is on a line, mi is on the line below it. If sol is on a space, mi is on the space below it, and we call that a skip in music.

Manipulatives for dictation:

One great manipulative for dictation is a bag with two pieces of string and a few bingo chips inside. When students get their bag, they lay out the black string to create two parallel lines. When they’re done, everything gets thrown back in the bag and you’re good to go for the next class!

If your students use the full staff to dictate sol and mi, consider laminating a class set of staff paper to use again and again with your bingo chips.

Dictation activities with sol and mi: 

There are several forms that dictation can take in the music room. Whatever the dictation activity, I always have the students sing the pattern back to me before they write it down - especially at the beginning. I want to make sure they have aurally deciphered the melody before they dictate it.  

  • Sing and Sign Sol Mi: This is the easiest one. The teacher literally sings and signs the pattern, “sol mi sol sol mi” and students write it down exactly as they heard it. (While it might seem as though you're "giving the answer", this step shows that students understand the basic concept of this interval being a skip apart. If students are confused about what line and space to use, the rest of your dictation activities will go awry.)

  • Sign Sol Mi: This is similar, but the teacher does not sing. Students need to watch the signs closely to get the pattern.

  • Hum Sol and Mi: When students have had enough practice with singing and signing, the teacher may change to humming. No words, no hand signs, just the interval. This really challenges students to pay attention to the melodic contour instead of relying on clues like solfege names and signs.

  • Play Sol and Mi on an instrument: Similar to humming, when a teacher plays sol mi on an instrument there are no words or signs for the students to follow. They just have the melodic interval! It’s possible for a change in timbre to throw students off, so I like to use this one toward the end of our practice.

Students as Teachers:

These activities are great, and students get even more value out of them when they are the ones giving the pattern! Consider handing over your teacher role to a student once they’re comfortable with this way to practice sol and mi.


3. Improvise an Answer

Improvising is one of the best ways I have found to show how a student understands the material. It takes a real understanding of the element to be able to use it on the spot, effortlessly, in an improvisation.

Improvisation is something that can bring adult musicians to tears if they’re not used to it! Students, however, can easily improvise easily, without nervousness, if they have enough structure.

Improvisation activities with sol and mi:

  • Question and Answer: The teacher asks a “question” and students improvise an answer. I like to have students copy me a few times at first. Then I say, “great! This time, instead of copying me why don’t you make something up!”. Since they’re in a group, this is a non threatening way for students to try out new ideas.

  • Use text: Some students need extra help to create a new melody. In these cases I like to use text. Sing a very basic question to the student (“What’s your favorite dinner?” “How are you today?”) and allow him or her to sing back an answer. One danger I’ve found in this approach is that students may sneak “la” into the response. The first time it happens, I wouldn’t address it - congratulate the student on responding. The second time it happens, I address it by saying we should only use "high and low" in our response.

  • With a song: Another very natural way to make something up is through a song. Choose one phrase that students improvise - either vocally or on an instrument - in a song they know well. This can be done as a group first and then as individuals later.


The practice phase is my favorite of the three because I really get to see what students know, and what they can do with all the information of an element. I love watching their process of developing as young musicians and I’m always so proud of the skills they’re developing in the practice stage!

There are even more sol mi songs in the Folk Song Index.

What are your favorite ways to practice sol and mi?