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How to Teach Kids About Rhythm: Musical Pie Lesson

Kathleen Holyoak is an award-winning composer, pianist, organist, and author.

You can teach children about rhythm and note values by comparing them to words. For example, a quarter note can be compared to a one-syllable word. This lesson associates notes with the names of pies.

You can teach children about rhythm and note values by comparing them to words. For example, a quarter note can be compared to a one-syllable word. This lesson associates notes with the names of pies.

There are many ways to teach children the basic elements of rhythm. With the use of audio and visual aids, children grasp concepts more quickly and remember them more easily through association. This lesson associates rhythm and note values with different kinds of pie.

Supply List

  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Wooden spoons for tapping out rhythms
  • Pictures of notes
  • Pictures of pie (see some examples at the bottom of this article)
  • Blackboard (optional)

How to Teach This Lesson

The Basics

Explain: Today, we are going to learn how pies can be musical and that every kind of pie has its own special ingredient: rhythm.

Do: Write RHYTHM on the blackboard or on a piece of paper.

Explain: There are many kinds of pie in this world, but before we talk about your favorite, let’s look at the word "pie."

Do: Clap while speaking the word four times—"Pie, pie, pie, pie"—and ask the children to clap with you.

The word "pie" moves in quarter notes.

The word "pie" moves in quarter notes.

Quarter Notes

Explain: The word "pie" has only one syllable, and that rhythm can be compared to a quarter note. A quarter note looks like this.

Do: Draw or show a picture of a quarter note.

A quarter note is black with a stem.

A quarter note is black with a stem.

Show the children what quarter notes look like.

Show the children what quarter notes look like.

Ask: What kind of pie has the same rhythm as the word "pie"?

(You can eventually suggest the examples of peach pie and meat pie.)

Peach pie and meat pie: two quarter notes.

Peach pie and meat pie: two quarter notes.

More Rhythm Patterns

Explain: Let's talk more about the different kinds of pie and their rhythm patterns.

Explain: I have a favorite kind of pie, and as I tap out the rhythm, see if you can guess the name!

Do: Tap the rhythm for strāw-ber-ry pie.

Ask:

  • Can you guess? (Wait for guesses.) My favorite is strawberry.
  • How many syllables are there in the word "strawberry"? (3)
  • Do the syllables for strawberry move faster or slower than the word "pie"? (faster)

Do: Have children clap the rhythm together.

The rhythm for straw-ber-ry pie.

The rhythm for straw-ber-ry pie.

Ask: What did you notice about the rhythm? (Some syllables move faster.)

Explain: “Straw” has the same rhythm as “pie,” but “ber-ry” has two syllables, so they move faster.

Do: Clap to demonstrate.

Ask: Can you think of another kind of pie that has the same rhythm as strawberry pie? (blackberry, blueberry)

Do: If necessary, show photos of other kinds of pie.

Blackberry pie and blueberry pie have the same rhythm as strawberry pie.

Blackberry pie and blueberry pie have the same rhythm as strawberry pie.

Highs and Lows

Explain: When we speak, there are highs and lows in our voice patterns. Without those inflections, language would not be very interesting, and neither would music.

Do: Speak in a monotone voice while saying each syllable slowly without pausing: "If we could take the rhy-thm a-way from words they would be ve-ry bor-ing to lis-ten to."

Ask: How would you like to hear everyone speak that way?

Explain:

  • In normal speech, some words move faster and some move slower, and the same is true with music.
  • Rhythm is a very important element of music.
  • Melody and rhythm go hand in hand, and together they make music more interesting.

Eighth Notes

Explain: Eighth notes move twice as fast as quarter notes and usually get 1/2 count.

Do: Draw or show a picture of eighth notes.

Explain: Eighth notes have a flag that makes them move faster. Two eighth notes equal one quarter note.

Two eighth notes equal one quarter note.

Two eighth notes equal one quarter note.

Explain: We just talked about syllables that move faster, but we also have some that move slower.

Do: Clap the rhythm for ap-ple pie.

Ask:

  • Can you guess what kind of pie I was clapping? Remember, there is one note for every syllable.
  • Can you guess other kinds of pie that have the same rhythm pattern? (lemon, pumpkin, cherry)
Each of these pie names features a rhythm of two eighth notes and one quarter note.

Each of these pie names features a rhythm of two eighth notes and one quarter note.

Using visual examples of these rhythms will help children understand and remember them.

Using visual examples of these rhythms will help children understand and remember them.

Ask:

  • Has anyone every eaten mincemeat pie or pizza pie?
  • Which kind of musical pie has the same rhythm? (apple, lemon, pumpkin)

Triplets

Explain: The rhythm for chocolate pie is more complicated. Chocolate pie has more syllables than some other types of pie.

Do: Clap out the rhythm. Have the children clap back the rhythm.

Ask: How many syllables are in the word "chocolate"? (3)

Explain: Chocolate pie has three syllables in one word. So, there are three notes for just one count.

Do:

  • Have the children clap the rhythm for "pie" while you clap the rhythm for "chocolate."
  • Have the children clap the rhythm for "chocolate" while you clap the rhythm for "pie."

Explain: When three notes move to one count, this is called a "triplet," which means three.

Do:

  • Draw or show a picture of a triplet.
  • Have children write out a triplet and explain that a "3" is written above the grouping of notes.
A triplet is a grouping of three notes that equal one count. Here is a triplet and a quarter.

A triplet is a grouping of three notes that equal one count. Here is a triplet and a quarter.

Explain that a "3" is written above the grouping of notes, and show the children a visual example.

Explain that a "3" is written above the grouping of notes, and show the children a visual example.

Ask: Can you think of another kind of pie that has the same rhythm as chocolate? (coconut)

Sixteenth Notes

Explain: We have talked about one-, two-, and three-syllable words and quarter notes, eighth notes, and triplets. There is one more note we need to learn about.

Do: Show a picture of huckleberries or a huckleberry pie.

Explain: Not everyone might know what huckleberry pie is. Huckleberry pie looks a lot like blueberry pie. However, the berries are more tart. When I was young, I used to pick huckleberries when we went to Canada. We would take them back to my grandmother's house, and she would make jam, syrup, or huckleberry pie with the fruit.

Do: Clap the rhythm: four sixteenth notes.

Ask: How many syllables do we have? (Huck-le-ber-ry has 4 syllables, and 4 notes move to one count (quarter).)

Explain:

  • These are called sixteenth notes.
  • Sixteenth notes have two flags instead of one, and they move even faster.

Do: Draw or show a picture of sixteenth notes.

Four sixteenth notes equal one quarter note.

Four sixteenth notes equal one quarter note.

Conclusion

Explain: We have many kinds of pie, and each has its own rhythm pattern.

More Ideas to Incorporate

  • Follow the same steps when naming other kinds of pie.
  • Clap out rhythms, and have the children guess the name of the pie
  • Let children take turns clapping the name of their favorite pie.
  • Show photos of pie and have the children clap the name in rhythm. (A photo gallery of pies is provided above.)
  • Have the children continuously clap the rhythm of "pie" (a quarter note) while you say the names of different kinds of pie.
BYU's Jerusalem Center Organ.

BYU's Jerusalem Center Organ.

About Me: Music Is My Legacy

Music has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. I have many wonderful memories as a child as I grew up with a very musical mother who was my inspiration. As I sat on her lap and placed my fingers on top of hers while she played the piano, we sang songs such as "Swinging on a Star" or "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen."

At the age of 5, I began taking piano lessons, and it became my passion in life. I loved to practice so much that my mother had to tell me to stop because I could play for hours. If I am ever discouraged, I turn to music. It lifts my soul and helps me to soar!

Through the years, I have taught music on many levels, and whenever my grandchildren come to visit, I love to teach them about music. Music fills my life and buoys me up, and I want everyone I know to love and appreciate it as I do. Therefore, anything I can do to instill a desire to learn is my motivation for sharing and writing articles. Music allows me to express my feelings in a way that words can never speak. Music is my legacy!

Comments

Sherry on March 26, 2020:

This is fabulous! What a wonderful music teacher (and pie maker) you are!

Kathleen Holyoak (author) from Paradise Valley, Arizona on September 22, 2014:

Thank you, Maureen, for taking the time to review my hubpage. It gives me great satisfaction knowing if I can help someone learn a little more about what I love so much.

maureen on September 22, 2014:

Reviewed it yet again! the world is a better place because of YOU

Maureen on September 22, 2014:

U are the most creative thinker I know. I love you and what u do SO much

Kathleen Holyoak (author) from Paradise Valley, Arizona on September 08, 2014:

Thank you, Janice. I always appreciate hearing from readers.

Janice on September 07, 2014:

Really clever way to teach children about rhythm.

Kathleen Holyoak (author) from Paradise Valley, Arizona on August 19, 2014:

Thank you for your comments.

Sharon on August 15, 2014:

Loved learning how to relate rhythm in music to food.

Kathleen Holyoak (author) from Paradise Valley, Arizona on August 11, 2014:

Thank you, Justine. Keep studying and practicing but you have to take it step by step. As the old saying goes, "You can't eat the elephant in one bite."

justine on August 11, 2014:

Thank you G'ma for the effort you are putting in that's is so inspiring , indeed you are a great teacher .

Kathleen Holyoak (author) from Paradise Valley, Arizona on August 08, 2014:

Thank you, Maureen! Please feel free to share with your beautiful grandchildren.

Maureen on August 08, 2014:

You are a wonder, you are!!!!!! Just keep on making the world a better place! I love you tons!

Kathleen Holyoak (author) from Paradise Valley, Arizona on August 07, 2014:

GW: Thanks for your comments. My goal is to help people help themselves learn music any way they can.

GW on August 07, 2014:

Great article! I learned a new way to help children learn rhythm.

Kathleen Holyoak (author) from Paradise Valley, Arizona on August 06, 2014:

I would love to hear back from any of you who are willing to try these ideas for teaching children about music. If anyone would like pdf files of some of the photos or the rhythm patterns, just let me know and I will send them to you. Thanks for taking the time to read and learn and good luck!

Nicole Coulter on August 06, 2014:

Thanks for sharing your ideas! I'm going to use them with my three children, and MYSELF!

Zelma Kinnison on August 06, 2014:

Wonderfully clever and creative! An excellent method for keeping children interested in music and wanting more.

Ashley on August 06, 2014:

What great content and ideas! Love knowing better ways to get kids involved with music!

Kathleen Holyoak (author) from Paradise Valley, Arizona on August 06, 2014:

Thanks, Dan. I appreciate your comments.

Daniel Carter from Salt Lake City, Utah on August 06, 2014:

Not only well presented, but clearly a great and valuable article to so many people! Teachers, parents, siblings, grandparents—you name it! Great work, Kathleen!

Kathleen Holyoak (author) from Paradise Valley, Arizona on August 06, 2014:

Thank you! Children learn more quickly when they can see and touch. Even eating a piece of pie and associating it with a rhythm pattern helps them to remember and learn more quickly. You have to be creative when teaching children and that's part of the challenge to keep those young minds from being distracted.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on August 06, 2014:

that pie looks cute and funny

Kathleen Holyoak (author) from Paradise Valley, Arizona on August 05, 2014:

Thank you so much. Check out my other hubpages about teaching music to children. This is another one . . . .

https://wehavekids.com/education/Teaching-Children...

LailaK from Atlanta, Georgia on August 05, 2014:

My nieces are over from out of state and I am seriously thinking about doing this activity with them after reading your hub! Thanks for taking the time to write it. Voted up and away!

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