Rhythm Card Activities
A toolkit for music practitioners
working with deaf students
This activity introduces notation to visually support: time signature, musical figures and the music staff. This is achieved through the use of cards with simple symbols that can be transformed into notes.
Children can read, write, compose and perform a short rhythmic sequence in front of their classmates, using body percussion or instruments.
PREPARATION OF THE ACTIVITY:
A circle represents the vocal sound DUM and a single tap on the thighs;
A square is the sound TA and a single clap;
An X is the sound TS and a single tap with two fingers against your palm (Image 1).
Each card shows one or more symbols, representing the musical figures: crotchet, quavers, semiquavers (Image 2).
Start by creating your own cards (minimum two for each symbol) up to a total of 18 (Image 3).
You can also add more cards with your own symbols, to represent other sounds and movements.
Visual cues, multimodal and intermodal musical game:
• Reading rhythmic cards
• Body percussion
• Drum circle and other instruments
From a body music game by Pedro Consorte
With profoundly deaf children with severe learning difficulties, developmental disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders and physical impairment, you can simplify the activity by using just 2 symbols (DUM and TA) and two different musical figures (crochets and quavers).
Some children might want to create their own symbols to represent a sound. Peter created the blue star describing the sound shhh (Image 4).
Step 1. Introduction of the Cards – Musical Memory Game-1
MUSICAL MEMORY GAME*:
The teacher introduces the rhythmic cards through the memory game.
Distribute the cards according to the time signature in which you want to play.
The teacher lays out the cards face down in rows forming a large rectangle on the table or floor. Make sure the cards are not touching each other. They need to be able to be flipped over without disturbing any cards around them.
• The teacher/student starts, chooses a card and carefully turns it over and reads it.
• The teacher/student selects another card and turns it over.
• The teacher links the two cards together creating a first rhythmic sentence. Then they read them and the group repeats.
- if the cards are a match the player takes the two cards and starts a stack;
- if the cards are not a match they are turned back over and it is now the next player’s turn.
With the help of the teacher, each player reads a rhythm.
Children start associating the sounds and the movements to the symbols/musical figures.
*There is a different rule compared to the usual memory game: even if the cards found from the player are a match, the turn passes to the next player. This happens to allow all the children to play their rhythms without waiting too long. The game continues in this way until all the cards are played.
The teacher reads DUM DUM and taps the thighs twice (which represents two quavers).
The teacher reads TA and claps (which
represents a crochet).
WHAT WE OBSERVED
During this game the children might need help inhibiting their impulse to turn over more than two cards, developing self-control and turn-taking, which is an important skill in the children’s development.
It’s really important to point the symbols with your finger while reading the cards, to guide the children and allow them to understand the speed and the beat value of the figures.
This is a particularly good game for non verbal deaf children as they are supported by the body percussion.
Steps 2–4. Sight-reading and Body Percussion
Once all the cards have been taken, the group creates a sequence of cards (Image 5) in a line or in circle (Image 6 and 7).
With the help of the teacher, the whole group reads
the whole rhythmic sequence out loud. Teachers
who are working with non-verbal students can go
directly to step 4 of this activity.
Now, each student reads their own cards, maintaining the pulse.
The whole group goes through the sequence again, adding body percussion.
This develops the association between voice and
RHYTHM OF IMAGE 5
WHAT WE OBSERVED
This is a good activity to develop sight-reading and visual-spacial skills. The body percussion helps memorising and internalising the rhythm.
Steps 5. Sight-reading and Body Percussion
The teacher divides the class into smaller groups. Each group practices its own part many times before coming back together as a class.
The teacher moves between the different groups to help the children practice their rhythm.
Introduction of the concept of musical form / structure of the piece (group 1 first, then group 2, group 3 at the end).
Each group plays in turn with no rest between them. They don’t play in unison.
WHAT WE OBSERVED
Development of turn-taking.
Development of ability to stay focused and maintain concentration: children are required to pay attention when the other groups are performing and be ready when its their turn. To do this they will rely on visual aspects of the activity which is why it is important to keep moving according to the beat and to conduct with clear gestures.
Due to the fact that in this stage of the activity the groups are smaller, some children might feel reluctant or under pressure. The teacher should try to assign the groups according to the ability levels of the children.
Alternative Option – Instruments
Substitute the body percussion with the instruments.
If the teacher is introducing melodic instruments, they can write the symbols on a music stave, helping the children to
recognise the notes though the use of colour (Image 8).
WHAT WE OBSERVED
Before playing the rhythm make sure that the children know the instrument they want to play and how to produce sounds using it (see the section Using instruments in the Introduction).
Working step-by-step (voice only; voice and body percussion) helps the children to internalise the rhythm, making it easy for them to transpose it onto instruments.
Alternative Option – Polyrhythm
Using the rhythm created in Step 5, each group plays their rhythm to form part of a round.
Introduction of the concept of polyrhythm.
• Group 1 starts. After two repetitions of their rhythm Group 2 joins in with their own rhythm.
• Group 3 enters two repetitions later and so on.
To finish, the teacher stops each group, one at a time, starting with Group 1.
WHAT WE OBSERVED
This activity helps the students to develop their musical independence.
In this case, the teacher needs to be sure that each group can play on their own before starting the activity.
Alternative Option – Composition
The teacher divides the class into groups and asks each group to compose their own
rhythm, choosing from the pack of cards.
Each group practices its own part (body percussion) many times alone and with the
teacher, to learn it properly.
Eventually, the whole class will get together again to play all the rhythms following the structure ABA:
A. The whole group reads all the new rhythms in unison;
B. Each group reads its own part in turn, keeping the tempo;
A. Last part in unison again;
Introduction of the concept of musical form / structure of the piece.
Through this activity, the children develop their ability to play together waiting for their turn to play.
Giving the children the opportunity to perform their compositions in front of their classmates will help to build confidence for performing in front of larger audiences in the future.