Popsicle sticks in The Music Room

Popsicle stick rhythm manipulatives: Blog post includes directions for making and strategies for using!

Manipulatives are one of my favorite things to use in the music classroom, so when I heard that Lindsay Jervis from Pursuit of Joyfulness was hosting a linky party about manipulatives, I thought I should contribute! I am writing today about using popsicle sticks for rhythm writing.

After my first graders have reviewed the term “rhythm” and have worked with icons, and before they are working with the notation for ta and ti-ti, I have them work with “long” and “short-short,”  notated as ___ and _ _. This is a great intermediate step to getting them to hear 1 sound on a beat and 2 sounds on a beat. Popsicle sticks are a great way to practice this! I make a bag for each student, with 4 laminated hearts in each bag (which you can make with an Ellison die-cut or Cricut), and then several regular popsicle sticks and several half-sized popsicle sticks. (As a side note, when I first started teaching, I sat and cut TONS of popsicle sticks with scissors. It was hard work, so I'm glad they now have half-sized sticks!) I just saw some at Hobby Lobby the other day, but you can also get them at Amazon by clicking on the picture below:

I first have students work with popsicle sticks on the board. I find that before individually using manipulatives, having students work with them in a whole group setting can be very beneficial. Magnetic tape, in my opinion, is one of the best inventions ever. Simply tear a piece of tape and place it on the back of a popsicle stick, so students can work with them on the board! You can find magnetic tape by clicking on the picture below:

When working with them in a whole group setting, students can write patterns from songs they know. When students have their own manipulatives, you can have students put out their four heartbeats, then tell them which pattern to write, such as “long long short-short long.” This seems like a very easy step, in that you are telling students what to write, but some students really need this intermediary step before dictating completely on their own. It's also great for working on their musical memory!

Then, after telling them a few patterns, you can clap a pattern, have them echo, then have them encode that pattern. This is a great formative assessment; you can see how well students can hear the pattern, and how much more preparation you have to do before you present ta and ti-ti. You can have students spread out in the room, then circulate as you have them dictate. I mark down the students who are absent, then put a minus next to a student's name for each pattern they write incorrectly. If I see several minuses next to a name, I know they still really need individual help. If you are in Ohio and are working on SLO's, this would be a great activity to make sure you are growing each student a year, and really targeting those students who are struggling.

I have also used the popsicle sticks to present ta and ti-ti, by telling a story about how the wind came along and knocked the long so it was standing up tall! We give it the name “ta.” Then another wind came along and knocked the shorts so they were standing up tall too…but they didn't have very good posture, so they have to put a book on top of their heads for better posture. (You can add another short popsicle stick to the top to bar the ti-ti's!)

Even better, you can use the popsicle sticks for other rhythms, like rest, ti-tika, etc. You could add a small chip for dotted rhythms!

Thanks, Lindsay for hosting the manipulative party! Click the picture below to read her post as well as the posts of others.

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Hi, I'm Aileen

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