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Poison Rhythms


Poison Rhythm is one of my favorite rhythm activities ever.  Students are so completely engaged.  They will read and perform dozens of patterns over and over without complaint.  Read on to learn more about this exciting game.

How to play poison rhythm:

  1.  Choose a poison rhythm and write it on the board.
  2. Have students practice this pattern by clapping and saying it several times.
  3. Explain that once the game starts that they can’t clap or say this rhythm.  If they do YOU get a point.  If no one in the class claps or says the poison rhythm, the class gets a point.
  4. Erase the rhythm and either show flashcards (that have a few copies of that rhythm in it) or clap the rhythm and let them decide from just listening while you echo.

I decided that using the flashcards was cumbersome, so I created a digital version.  That was SO much easier.  The play is pretty much the same except the PDF walks you through the beginning steps and there’s a theme for each set of games.  

Take a look at this video to see how I introduce/review this game with a class:


There are MANY variations to this game.  You can do a quick search on Facebook or Google to see the variations.


Instead of just clapping the rhythms, I like to mix it up.  Sometimes we will use buckets and drum sticks, tubanos, other non-pitched percussion instruments, Boomwhackers and sometimes we turn our chairs around backwards, sit facing the screen and use drumsticks on the back of our chairs. AWESOME!

If you are interested in using my digital versions (that you could also print if you wanted) take a look here:  Poison Rhythms.




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Rhythm Cards for Rockin' Repetition


Use these simple rhythm cards to establish routine and improve rhythm and steady beat skills in your music classroom.  In music education the simplest ideas are the best. Your students will thank you for adding this activity to your music routine.


I love creating a routine at the beginning of my classes.  It helps students focus and gives me a second to handle questions and get things ready to go.  For some classes this is a hello song, echo clapping or a movement activity.  In this post I'll share one of my favorites.  Rhythm cards are the perfect way to get students thinking and moving in music class.

The rhythm cards that I am referring to have 4 beats worth of notation.  I copy the same card on front and back so that they are easier to use. One card has 4 quarter notes.  Another has two half notes and so on.

When using these cards I am reinforcing note values and sharpening skills that we will use in other activities to compose rhythmic ostinatos or melodies.  Students are able to feel the duration and this makes a strong connection.  Using this activity at the beginning of each or during each class for several weeks in a row has been a great skill builder!  I like to call it "rockin' repetition".

Use these simple rhythm cards to establish routine and improve rhythm and steady beat skills in your music classroom.  In music education the simplest ideas are the best. Your students will thank you for adding this activity to your music routine.


I wish this simple but brilliant idea was mine, but I actually learned about it from Kristin Lukow, music educator extraordinaire on the Music K-8 discussion list.  I've incorporated it into lessons for many years now and my students are better for it.  Thanks Kristin!

Here's what I do:
I choose a song with a medium to fast beat (which are much easier than slower songs) and start it as students are walking into music class.  They clap the pattern as an ostinato until I change the card.  That's really it!

Use these simple rhythm cards to establish routine and improve rhythm and steady beat skills in your music classroom.  In music education the simplest ideas are the best. Your students will thank you for adding this activity to your music routine.


This activity works great with my drums, classroom percussion instruments and different kinds of body percussion instead of just clapping.  Often we will do this with tennis balls or basketballs (if I can borrow some).  When we use balls with the cards here are the movements:

whole notes - count as you move it around your waist, back and then to your front.  Think of it as traveling around the world.
half notes - bounce so that the first part of the note is when the ball hits the floor and the second is when you catch it
quarter notes -same as half note but on each beat.  It helps to be closer to the floor for this one.
eighth notes-hot potato!  We pass it from hand to hand in rhythm.

Since this activity is used many times during the school year my play list is pretty diverse and always growing.  I include songs that I'll use with tennis balls, basketballs and with body percussion.  I can choose faster pieces for body percussion than the others.  Some student favorites:

"Can't Stop This Feeling" by Justin Timberlake
"Song of the South" by Alabama
"The Star and Stripes Forever" Sousa
"Best Years of Our Lives" by the Baha Men
"I Love a Rainy Night" by Eddie Rabbit

You can check out my entire playlist for rhythm cards here:  Rhythm Cards Playlist on Amazon Music.

I know this is a simple idea, but once you've implemented it I think that you'll find it  is helpful not only for establishing routine, but for improving rhythm skills and steady beat with your students.  I'm so sure it will that I want you to have a copy of the cards for free!  Print out two copies and laminate the same pattern back to back.  Get the cards here: Rhythm Cards for Rockin' Repetition




Use these simple rhythm cards to establish routine and improve rhythm and steady beat skills in your music classroom.  In music education the simplest ideas are the best. Your students will thank you for adding this activity to your music routine.




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Pass the Chicken - A Game for Reviewing Anything

Looking for a quick and easy review game? Try Pass the Chicken! Great for any classroom, this blog post shows you how to play the game and gives you a free list of music themed categories to use. FUN for music class or any classroom.

Pass the chicken is one of my go to games when I need to review something or even when I just have a few spare minutes with a group.

Here's how to play:
1.Have your class stand in a circle.
2.One student holds the rubber chicken (or whatever object you want to pass).  
3.You say one of the categories from the included list.  
4.The student immediately pass the chicken to the left and the others continue to pass it as the one who was it says five things that fit the category.
5.If they name 5 whoever has the chicken when they finish is the next person who is it.  If they don’t, they have to come to the center of the circle and do the ”Chicken Dance”.  
6.They hand the chicken to the person on their left who is now it.  The play repeats.

When we are reviewing instrument families my categories for the game might be:
Brass Instruments
Percussion Instruments
Instruments with strings
Instruments that start with T
Instruments that have a reed

Sometimes I've planned a lesson that doesn't take as long as I think it will.  Other times I'm stuck with a group waiting for their teacher to pick them up.  Pass the Chicken is a great way to see what they know and keep them focused.  I keep a list of different musical topics near my desk so that I can refer to it when I can't come up with any ideas.




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Looking for a quick and easy review game? Try Pass the Chicken! Great for any classroom, this blog post shows you how to play the game and gives you a free list of music themed categories to use. FUN for music class or any classroom.



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