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Composing in Simple and Compound Meters

Aim: How can we create and perform rhythmic patterns in simple and compound meters?
Summary: Students compose and notate short rhythms in 4/4, 3/4, and 6/8 meters across multiple class periods.
Standards: US 2, 3, 4, 5; NYC 1, 2, 3
Grade: 3rd
Concept: Rhythm & Meter, Form
Artistic Process: performing, creating
Materials: Student Worksheets
Time Required: 20 minutes


  1. Listen to musical examples featuring 4/4, 3/4, and 6/8 time and direct students to move to the beat.
  2. Review time signatures and note values using the worksheets below.
    Download Teacher Worksheet (PDF)
  3. As a class, create several examples of 4/4, 3/4, and/or 6/8 rhythmic patterns by getting suggestions from individual students. Write out each pattern on the board and then practice clapping and repeating the rhythm as a class.
  4. Have students work in small groups to compose their own 4/4, 3/4, or 6/8 measures by completing the Student Worksheet below. Invite students to teach their rhythms to the class.
    Download Student Worksheet (PDF)

Going Deeper

  1. Have each small group add body percussion to their rhythms (e.g., snap for quarter-notes, pat shoulders for eighth-notes, etc.).
  2. Try clapping all of the newly composed 4/4, 3/4, or 6/8 measures in a row without repeats. Decide on an order that seems the most interesting and musically rich.
  3. Have students add pitches to their rhythms to create melodic compositions.


Grade 3 Activity Exemplar: Rhythm and Meter

This video is an exemplar of an activity from Carnegie Hall’s Music Educators Toolbox entitled “Compose in Simple and Compound Meters.” Students compose and notate short rhythms.


Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

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