Rhythms and Body Percussion

Grade Levels: K - 4

Students in grades K-4 echo short rhythms and melodic patterns by using their bodies as instruments. Meets National Content Standard 2.


Students will echo patterns using body percussion and unpitched percussion instruments.


  • A short four-phrase or four-line poem of your choice
  • Unpitched classroom percussion instruments

Prior Knowledge and Experiences

  • Students have prior experience echo clapping and performing echoes with other body percussion, such as snapping, patting, and stamping.
  • Students have played an array of unpitched percussion instruments and are familiar with basic playing techniques (for example, how to hold the instruments, where to strike to get the best sound).


  1. Lead the class in body percussion echoes, using a variety of movements and rhythms.
  2. Introduce the poem you have selected by reciting it in rhythm. Have the students learn the poem by rote and then recite it while tapping the beat.
  3. Clap the rhythm of a phrase from the poem without speaking and ask the students to echo. After they clap, ask them to identify the words of the poem that match the rhythm. Continue with several echoes to assess students' inner hearing and ability to associate words with rhythm.
  4. Recite the poem together and keep the beat. At the end of the poem, invite students to echo four body percussion patterns, each four beats long, and then recite the poem again. (The body percussion echoes become an interlude between repetitions of the poem.) Continue the process for several repetitions of the poem. As they grow more comfortable with the process, choose students to lead the echo interludes.
  5. Have the students transfer rhythms of the poem to unpitched percussion instruments. Instruments may be assigned to different lines, words, or phrases, depending on the poem you have selected. Have students play the percussion instruments with or without reciting the poem while continuing teacher-led or student-led body percussion echoes between each repetition of the poem. Or have students continue to recite the poem and perform the interlude echoes on unpitched percussion instruments. The whole class may echo the interlude patterns, or patterns may be directed to small groups of students playing similar instruments, depending on class size and instrument availability.

Indicator of Success

Students perform rhythm echoes accurately while using body percussion and unpitched percussion instruments.

Extension Activities

  • Invite students to recite the selected poem in canon for additional variation in this lesson.
  • Have students transfer body percussion or unpitched percussion echoes to mallet percussion instruments. Arrange bars of pitched percussion in a pentatonic scale. Students can then echo a rhythm pattern by playing it on a single note of their choice, or by playing any pattern of notes. Specific pitches my be echoed as students gain facility.

Standards Correlation

Standard 2d

: Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.

Excerpted from Strategies for Teaching K-4 General Music.

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Provided in partnership with NAfME

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