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Grade: Middle
Subject: Music

#3572. Rhythm Telephone

Music, level: Middle
Posted Wed Sep 28 19:47:10 PDT 2005 by Jessica Eve Irwin-McGinnis (
The daVinci Institute, Jackson, MI
Materials Required: Rhythm Measure Flashcards (may be hand-made), Chalkboard/Whiteboard/PresentationPad
Activity Time: 15-30 minutes
Concepts Taught: Rhythmic Awareness & Notation, Reading, Writing & Performing

This lesson works best as a reinforcement of the concepts of rhythmic notation. Students must read, perform, and notate rhythms over the course of this game, which is based on the popular children's game "telephone" in which a message is whispered down-the-row to see how it changes.

- Place seats in front-to-back columns of 4-10 students per team, two to four teams per class.
- Prepare flashcards with one- to two-measure rhythms thereupon, to be held by the teacher at the back of the lines.
- If a chalkboard/whiteboard is available, make sure each team has a space thereof, or if a presentation pad is used, tape one sheet of paper for each team to the wall in front of each team's line. Place chalk/marker under the front chair or give to the front student of each team.

- Make sure students separate into even-numbered teams. If even numbers cannot be achieved, students may take the roles of "operator", "scorekeeper", or other classroom-helpers to participate, and should rotate with active teammates.
- Explain the rules to the students, using an example flashcard. You may choose to use this flashcard again during the game, or not, depending on the needs and abilities of your students. These cards should not have any "see-through" notes (half/whole), because this game works better when there is at least one note per beat.
- The Rules are as follows:
1. The teacher (or a selected student) is the "operator", who has the flashcards. The operater also watches the teams to make sure they do not communicate to one another except via taps on the back/shoulder, and that no-one turns around to look at the flashcards except the "dialer".
2. The players in the back seats of each row are the "dialer", who is the only one in the team who gets to see the rhythm flashcard. When signalled, he must tap the rhythm with one finger on the back/shoulder of the person in front of him.
3. The players between the back and front seats are the "phone cord", continuing the tapped rhythm-message up to the front, one at a time, using only one finger.
4. The "reciever" is seated in the front seat, and upon recieving the rhythm-message tapped upon his shoulder/back, he must write it on the board.
5. The team who writes the message correctly first scores one point. When a point is scored, the teams rotate. The first person moves to the back (or to a helper-position, in which case the helper takes the back seat) and all other seats move up for the next round.
-Ideally over the course of fifteen to thirty minutes (depending on the size of your class) you should give everyone an opportunity to be both dialer and reciever.