Songs to Teach Quarter Rest

Many music curriculums teach quarter rests in first grade. However, if you are relatively new to a school (as I am), your older students may be learning quarter rest along with your younger students. Today I’ve gathered some of my favorite songs for teaching quarter rest, and I’ve brought some that work for kindergarten through third grade.

These songs:

  • Are satisfying to sing
  • Have great accompanying dances or games
  • Can be used as a creative springboard to inspire student-created ostinati
  • Work for a variety of grades
  • Can be used later in your curriculum to highlight other rhythmic and melodic concepts

Let’s jump in!


Bow Wow Wow

Bow Wow Wow is an American folk song with an accompanying partner dance.

You'll probably love it as much as your students do!

How to Play the Game:

Create a single circle, with partners facing each other.
Measure 1 - Stamp three times (right, left, right)
Measure 2 - Shake finger at partner in steady beat
Measure 3 - Partners clasp hands and quickly trade places
Measure 4 - Stamp three times turning away from partner and facing neighbor (new partner)

I love watching students’ faces light up when they turn to see a new partner!

Other reasons to love this song:

  • Mi Re Do
  • La
  • Sol-Mi-Do
  • Ta, Ta-di



This is an African American folk song with a great game to go with it!

My students love playing this game, and I’ve used it successfully with first, second, and third grades.


How to play the game:

Formation: Children stand in a circle with hands joined and raised to form "windows."
Measures 1 - 4: One child “flaps wings” and weaves in and out the "windows"
Measure 5: The bird taps one child on the shoulder in a steady beat.
Measure 6: The bird taps a second child on the shoulder in a steady beat
Measure 7: The bird taps a third bird on the shoulder in a steady beat

All three chosen students get in line behind the head bluebird and the game begins again. Continue singing until all students are in the bluebird line.

Other reasons to love this song:

  • Ta, ta-di
  • AB form
  • La
  • Half note
  • High do

Bell Horses

I’ve written about Bell Horses here, and how I use it to teach sol and mi. It’s also great for teaching quarter rest, and since my students are already familiar with it, all the better!


How I use this song:

I combine this song with the rhyme, My Little Pony. As we sing the song, Bell Horses, some students prance in open space around the room. To accompany us, a small group of students is chosen to play jingle bells in one corner. Another small group uses rhythm sticks to play the “nails” when we speak My Little Pony.

Other reasons to love this song:

  • Partwork: some students move, some students play, some students speak the rhyme
  • Ta ta-di
  • Sol mi
  • La


Tinker Tailor

This is an elimination game from England, and one of my favorites for teaching quarter rest. I like it because the students are naturally listening for the "beat without a sound" as we play the game.


How to play the game:

Students pass a ball in a steady beat and sing the song. On the quarter rest, the student with the ball is out. In my class the out students go to the “orchestra” to play a steady beat while we play the game again.

Other reasons to love this song: 

  • Ta , ta-di
  • Sol, mi

....if you have their interests at heart, you will let them learn while they play; they will find that what they have mastered is child’s play.
— Carl Orff

I love each of these songs for teaching quarter rest, not just because of the songs themselves, but because they remind me that the magic of teaching is in making our teaching concepts child’s play

Happy teaching!

A Free Orff Arrangement for Practicing Rhythm vs Beat

Miss White had a fright
In the middle of the night
Saw a ghost eating toast
Halfway up the lamp post!

Here's a fun arrangement to use with your young students, just in time for Halloween!


About the Arrangement

The name of the game here is simplicity! 

I can't even begin to tell you the number of times I've looked at an arrangement and thought "Oh yeah, we can learn that in time!" and grossly underestimated the amount of time it would take to put the arrangement together. 

This arrangement is designed for simplicity. This is made to be able to be thrown together in a few lessons if your students have already been practicing rhythm vs beat. 


For this arrangement I've given the steady beat to the metals (finger cymbals and triangle). Membrane instruments have the rhythm (congas and bongos). This was to give just one more layer of differentiation of the rhythm and beat through the texture of instruments. The wind chimes add some spooky ambiance to make this perfect for halloween.
That said, you could use whatever instruments you have available in your classroom as well! 

A Learning Plan: 

Rhythm vs Beat

Before students play this arrangement they should already know the terms rhythm and beat, and be comfortable speaking and playing both

They'll also need to be very familiar with the rhyme, Miss White

Rhythm vs Beat

1. Speak and Clap

Have one half of the room speak and clap the rhythm of the words while the other half speaks and claps the steady beat. Make sure to switch the groups so that all students can practice both parts.

Be sure students speak this in their spookiest, most expressive, whisper-like voices!

2. Audiate and Clap

This flows very easily after students are comfortable speaking and clapping rhythm and beat. Simply ask them to "speak the rhyme in their heads" and repeat the activity from step 1. 

3. Put on instruments! 

Now the fun begins! The transition to instruments should be an easy one but always take time to remind students about how to treat the instruments with respect (remind them instruments are not toys).

They'll simply have the instrument "speak for them" while they speak the rhyme in their heads. Lastly, you can add the wind chimes. 

For an Extension: 

For an extension of this arrangement, have students create some ostinati they make themselves. Something like "Ah! A ghost" or "Ghost eating toast" would be perfect. These can even go on instruments if you have time!

Click to download the arrangement! 

Happy teaching!