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3-5: Rhythm Beginnings

by Meg Anderson, Learn NC

This lesson plan introduces the terms beat, steady beat, and tempo for the first day of rhythm work.

A lesson plan for Grades 3–4 Music Education

Students will:

  • differentiate between steady and unsteady beats.
  • learn the term tempo and walk in time.

Time required for lesson: 40 minutes


piano or recorded music and a music player


Students will have already learned several songs to sing.

To prepare for lesson students sing one or more familiar songs to focus attention and motivate.


1. The teacher will demonstrate a steady beat by clapping.

2. Students will clap along to a steady beat.

3. The teacher will explain that one beat is like one clap.

4. The teacher will demonstrate an unsteady beat.

5. Students will decide on several examples if the teacher is clapping a steady beat or not.

6. Students will then have to decide if a piece of music the teacher plays on the piano has a steady beat. (If the teacher cannot play the piano then find suitable recorded music).

7. Next, students will clap a variety of tempos and then learn the term “tempo.”

8. Students will identify the tempo of 3 different pieces of music played on the piano or recorded. Students describe tempo as fast, medium or slow.

9. Students will now experience a steady beat and different tempos by walking to the beat.

10. First explain the rules of movement:

  • no touching anyone or horseplay
  • no talking
  • keep some distance between you and others
  • do not move until the teacher says go

11. Students will then form a large circle (mine walk around the group of chairs).

12. Improvise on the piano some simple music with the beat being clearly played in the bass. I use a I-IV-I-V-I progression as my music outline.

13. Students should walk in a circle to the beat, one step for one beat.

14. Then change the tempo to fast or slow. Warn the students before making any major change.

15. In preparation for the next lesson have the students walk one step for two beats, four beats or half of a beat.

16. Students return to their seats.

17. Sing a song such as “Havah Nagilah” in which the tempo changes and discuss the change.

18. Sing previously known songs with a variety of tempos and have students identify if fast, medium, or slow.


Students are assessed by asking questions. During the movement section see if all students are walking in time. Having students count out loud to eight will help the slower students to get on beat.

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