Lesson activities

General Rhythmic ideas

  • Moving a rhythm from one body part to another, on a signal.
  • Ask students to march (quarter notes) with their feet and clap eighth notes. On the signal, they switch (tip toe eighths, clap quarters).
  • After we learn two different rhythms, I play one, class steps the other. If I change rhythms, the class has to change to the other one. Often there will be a measure of overlap, which creates an interesting internal friction, that takes place in a fraction of a second, and certainly grows your synapses!
  • Practice moving a rhythm from one “mode” to another, for example by singing a familiar tune and at the signal, stepping, clapping or otherwise showing the rhythm of the song.
  • Develop the song by singing, then signalling to sing it silently/internally, and on the second cue, resume singing.
  • Use a grace note for “jump” and a trill for “turn” (twirl around once).
Lesson activities · Singing games

Cuckoo hiding in the trees

I describe the shy cuckoo hiding in the trees who sings a descending minor third.  We are going to search for him in the forest. The only way to find the cuckoo is to listen for his song. Play a variety of walking, running, skipping, tiptoe, or giant step music (see Dalcroze Locomotions) and say, “If you hear the cuckoo, point high up in the tree.”

The next step is to contrast high and low: sometimes the cuckoo hides under a bush. “If you hear his song sounding low, point under an imaginary bush.”

In another variation, the children sing along with the cuckoo’s song, or echo it one beat later. This is a wonderful task, especially if the cuckoo’s song keeps appearing in another key!

The verbal command can be used for as many events and variations as you can identify and contrast: dynamic, harmonic, melodic, metric, timbre, and pitch.

Suitable song:
Cuckoo, cuckoo, sitting in a tree
Cuckoo, cuckoo, up in the leaves
Cuckoo, cuckoo, what do you see?
Cuckoo, cuckoo, sing for me!
Cuckoo, Cuckoo, Cuckoo, Cuckoo
Cuckoo, Cuckoo, Cuckoo, Cuckoo

Lesson activities

Locomotion Rhythms


Often used as a preliminary exercise as a warm-up.

Improvising music on the piano in different tempi and with different locomotor rhythms (above). Children follow with the appropriate movements. On a signal (musical/verbal) they do the locomotor movement backwards. Any pupil who misses the signal will have a little surprise when he continues marching forward while everyone else is going backwards!

Combine this exercise with stop and start, so if the signal is given when they are stopped they have to remember which direction they were going when the music resumes.