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The Language of Rhythm

Aim: How can we perform and compose rhythms using language and body percussion?
Summary: Students explore and create rhythms through language and body percussion.
Standards: US 2, 3, 4, 5, 8; NYC 1, 2, 3
Grade: 3rd
Concept: Rhythm & Meter
Artistic Process: performing, responding, creating
Materials: Teacher and Student Worksheets
Time Required: 20 minutes


  1. Speak and clap different rhythmic patterns using words to represent note values (e.g., “pear” for quarter notes and “ap-ple” for eighth-notes.)
    Download Student Worksheet (PDF)
  2. Have students create body percussion movements to accompany each note value (e.g., a clap for “pear” and alternating shoulder taps for “ap-ple”)
  3. Improvise new “pear” and “apple” rhythms and perform with students through call and response.
  4. Play or clap eighth-note / quarter-note rhythmic patterns and have students transcribe what they hear using graphic or standard notation. You may want to practice this as a class before having students transcribe individually.
  5. Have students create their own compositions in small groups or individually and perform their new rhythms for the class.

Going Deeper

  1. Create longer (3–4 bars) compositions with a variety of meters and language patterns.
    • What other words might replace “pear” and “apple”?
    • What words can we use to represent other note values? (e.g., “wa-ter-me-lon” for 16th-notes)
  2. Add rests within the rhythmic patterns, maintaining the “pear” and “apple” structure, but only clapping the notes that are played. Students may want to create soundless movements to represent the rests. See the Teacher Worksheet for rhythm examples.
    Download Teacher Worksheet (PDF)
  3. Invite students to bring in an example of a song that clearly represents the “apple” and “pear” rhythms.


Grade 3 Activity Exemplar: Rhythm and Meter

This video is an exemplar of an activity from Carnegie Hall’s Music Educators Toolbox entitled “The Language of Rhythm.” Students explore and create rhythms through language and body percussion.


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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