A Music Lesson on Steady Beat
a heartbeat (pulse) be felt in music?
lesson has been adapted from the Silver Burdett Making Music Gr. 1, 2002
edition. The lesson begins with a simple poem to demonstrate steady beat. The lesson
continues with various activities that use the poem to allow the students to
kinesthetically experience the steady beat in music.
Wiper” poem (Silver Burdett Making Music Gr. 1, 2002, page 5 of student
edition) written on an overhead projector transparency, a SMART board, or a
large writing pad.
½ x 11 pictures of the following: a clock, a wind chime, a dog barking,
a girl jumping rope, and windshield wipers.
of music without a steady beat and with a steady beat
Apples of the Moon” by Morton Subotnick, 1967 (no pulse)
or “Sub Aria” by John Cage (no pulse)
Dances: I, Entrée-Courante” by Michael Praetorius (steady beat)
Rattle, and Roll” performed by Bill Haley & the Comets (steady beat)
Post March” by John Philip Sousa
this lesson students will be able to clap the steady beat of a piece of music,
determine whether or not a piece of music uses a steady beats, and will be able
to perform a steady beat.
the students, “Do you know how you can feel your heartbeat?” Some students may put their hand on
their chest. Others may know how to find their pulse. Show the students how to
feel their pulse at their carotid artery at their neck with their two fingers.
Assist students. Ask if anyone knows another word for “heartbeat.”
Define the word, “pulse.”
the students to find their pulse again. Model how to pat the pulse on their
leg. Ask if anyone can pat the pulse that they feel on their leg. Students
volunteer. Ask if the pats were all the same or if they were different in
length. Demonstrate a pulse and then a rhythm of various lengths on your leg
while asking question. (The students answer, “The same.”) Ask the
students what would happen to their heart if the beats were not all the same.
(Answers: you might be sick, or you would have to go to the hospital.)
“The beat in music is the pulse felt in music. It is the heartbeat of the
music. Just like our heartbeats, the beat in music always stays the same. It
might speed up or slow down, but the lengths of the beats are all alike.”
Place the individual pictures of a dog barking, a girl jumping rope, a wind
chime, and a clock ticking on the board. Ask the students which pictures show an object
that keeps a steady beat. Discuss answers. (Many times the students still do
not understand the concept at this point of the lesson. Therefore take time for
each picture to explain why the object does or does not keep a steady beat.)
the picture of the windshield wipers on the board. Ask the students to raise
their hands if they think windshield wipers keep a steady beat when they are
turned on. “If you raised your hand, you’re right!” Check for
understanding. Most of the students should be demonstrating their mastery of
the concept at this point. “What do windshield wipers sound like when they
are wiping the rain away?” The students volunteer answers. Model the
action of windshield wipers with your forearms while saying “swish,
swish, swish, swish.” The students join you. Ask one half of the class to
pat the beat on their lap while the other half windshield wipe with their arms.
the poem, “Windshield Wipers” to the class. Assist the class with
reading the poem aloud.
wipers wipe the windows,
Wipe the water off the pane.
This way, that way, this way, that way,
This way, that way in the rain.
the poem aloud twice. The first time read the poem without a sense of pulse.
The second time read the poem with a steady pulse. Ask the students how the two
versions were different. The students determine which version contained a
steady beat. Teach the poem to the class so they are able to recite the poem at
a moderate tempo. Model how to recite the poem while moving your arms like
the class has mastered reciting the poem, divide the class into halves again.
One half of the class keeps the beat by saying “swish, swish” and
moving their arms. The other half recites the poem to the beat. Switch groups.
students love to dance and perform for each other. Divide the class into two groups
– a boy group and a girl group. The girls start off as the dancers. Model
how they can create a movement, like the windshield wipers, that keeps the beat.
The boys “rap” the poem. Model how to “rap” their poem into
their imaginary microphone. Then the groups switch. This can be a great little
piece for a concert.
the students if they know how to play patty-cake with a partner. Choose a
volunteer. Play “Patty Cake Baker’s Man” to demonstrate how
to play patty-cake with the volunteer student. Explain how they will create
their own patty-cake game using the windshield wiper poem. Tell the students to
choose a partner. If the students are having difficulty finding just one
friend, groups of three or four can work well too. Explain that you will give
seven minutes to create and rehearse their patty-cake creation. Turning off the
lights will be their cue to stop and listen for further instructions. At the
end of the seven minute practice, check to see if the groups are ready to
perform or need a little more time to rehearse. When the students are ready,
have each group perform for the entire class. Reinforce proper audience
behavior at this point.
students return to their seats. Play an excerpt of “The Washington Post
March.” Clap along with the song and encourage the students to join in.
Stop the music and ask if the march has a steady beat. Play the first 30
seconds of “Silver Apples of the Moon.” Try to keep the steady
beat, but, with some exaggeration, demonstrate the difficulty to do so. Usually
the students love the effort. Ask if the music maintains steady beat. Play the
additional songs and ask if there is a steady beat. This is a formative
assessment. The students raise their hands if they believe the song contains a
steady beat. Check for understanding.
the entire piece of “Silver Apples on the Moon.” Allow the students
to create movements to the recording. Note: there are moments in the piece
where there is a steady beat. Make sure the students clap or move to the steady
beat at these times.
Check in your community to see if there is a local band or orchestra which
would allow students to experience the steady beat of a live concert! Your school
districts may also have a music department at the secondary level in which your
students can sit in on a practice and observe how the conductor helps the
musicians keep the beat.
Students demonstrate appropriate audience behavior, including attentive
listening, in a variety of musical settings in and out of school (e).
Students describe the music in terms related to basic elements such as melody,
rhythm, harmony, dynamics, timbre, form, style, etc. (b).
Students describe their understandings of particular pieces of music and how
they relate to their surroundings (e).
Students identify and demonstrate movement elements
and skills (such as bend, twist, slide, skip, hop, etc.) (a).