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Windshield Wipers
A Music Lesson on Steady Beat
Template for Activity

“Windshield Wipers”
 A Music Lesson on Steady Beat


Subject Area:







40 minutes


Essential Question:

Can a heartbeat (pulse) be felt in music?





This 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.


Teacher Materials:


·        “Windshield 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.

·        8 ½ x 11 pictures of the following: a clock, a wind chime, a dog barking, a girl jumping rope, and windshield wipers.

·        Recordings of music without a steady beat and with a steady beat

o       “Silver Apples of the Moon” by Morton Subotnick, 1967 (no pulse)

o       “Aria” or “Sub Aria” by John Cage (no pulse)

o       “Terpsichore Dances: I, Entrée-Courante” by Michael Praetorius (steady beat)

o       “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” performed by Bill Haley & the Comets (steady beat)

o       “The Washington Post March” by John Philip Sousa





In 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.

Anticipatory Set

Ask 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.”

Direct 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.)


Explain, “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.)

Place 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. Switch groups.


Show the poem, “Windshield Wipers” to the class. Assist the class with reading the poem aloud.


“Windshield Wipers”

Windshield 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.


Read 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 windshield wipers.


Activity 1

Once 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.


Extension Activity


Some 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.


Activity 2

Ask 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.



The 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.



Play 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.


Local Resources:
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.



Related Performance Indicators:


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).



Colleen Brecker


Oishei Foundation
Corporation for Public Broadcasting