hands drumming

The Rhythms of Our World – Idea File

Students learn about rhythm and polyrhythm as they create the sounds of a rainstorm using their hands and feet. Then they make up their own rhythms inspired by listening to sounds in everyday life.
Grades: K-3

Teaching Concepts:

  • Rhythm is the element of music that deals with the beat or pulse and the distribution of notes within that beat.
  • Polyrhythms are several rhythms performed at the same time.

Academic Content

  • Music: elements of music (rhythm and polyrhythm), listening

Lesson Idea
Resource: “Rainstorm,” performed by John McCutcheon in Program 3 of KET’s Old Music for New Ears

View: Define and demonstrate rhythm for your class. Ask students how a rainstorm might have rhythm. Then watch the video segment in which John McCutcheon shows children in the studio audience how to create the rhythm of a rainstorm. They make sounds with their hands and feet in different, carefully conducted rhythms. Try making a rainstorm in your classroom. Discuss how the beat changes as the rainstorm progresses.

Create: Have students brainstorm a list of things they might hear on a regular basis that has rhythm. (If possible, take your class outside and listen for rhythmic sounds.) Ideas might include horses galloping, a train going over a bridge, factory sounds, church bells, etc. Then ask students to simulate these rhythms with body parts or with found objects in the classroom.

Expand: Define polyrhythm and ask students how they might create one. Divide the class into three groups. The first group will establish a slow, steady beat by clapping. The second group will clap two evenly spaced notes per beat. The third group will clap three evenly spaced notes per beat. Can students create a polyrhythm inspired by one of the sounds they identified in everyday life—like the rainstorm?

Author: Sara O’Keefe

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K-12The Arts