Thursday, October 17, 2019

Helping kids learn to count with blocks!

I made a teaching tool to help my beginning students understand rhythmic notation.

I bought a set of 70 very inexpensive wooden cubes, and, using the eighth note as the smallest unit, I taped groups of them together and labeled them with their corresponding note values using Finale-printed notes (eliminating the staff lines, and setting the page size to 150%). My main goal was to have my students see and feel just how many eighth notes it takes to equal a half note, or how two single eighth notes and a set of two beamed eighth notes are equal in value.

I'm considering making a set to explain compound time, and am still trying to figure out how to incorporate the idea of the pesky dot into something that would make sense to novice music readers. I will be adding sixteenth notes soon, but I'll have to wait until I have more blocks (only half my order arrived).

A crude version of this worked well with the one beginner I taught today. I'm looking forward to how this more elegant set works with the beginners I'm teaching next week!


Now with sixteenth notes, dots, and rests, not to mention proper glue!

You can go here for a free PDF of labels to cut out for 200 1/2" blocks.

From the comments, here's a clickable link to a page that has free music fonts (thanks Matthew Hindson and Daniel Harper).


VicDiesel said...

For the tied eights you're using a linear representation, but for the half and whole note you use a two-dimensional one, which does not make sense to me musically. What are you trying to illustrate there? Just the amount of eighth notes? Will that give someone a better understanding?

Elaine Fine said...

The original first photograph did make the beamed eighth notes look two dimensional. I have replaced that photo with a better one. Thank you for your observation!

Dan said...

I love this idea! This reminds me of Cuisenaire Rods ( which are used to teach math concepts. One idea: Composer Matthew Hindson has a free rhythms font on his Web site ( which includes notes, ties, beamed and non-beamed eighth and sixteenth notes, time signatures, etc.; for me, this was easier to use to make the notes than Finale.

Elaine Fine said...

Those rods were my inspiration! Thanks for the link to the rhythm font!