Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Chairs That Speak Rhythm

Marguerite Schmitzer


Using chairs to visualize beats, this lesson introduces the concepts of whole, half, quarter, and eighth notes to second graders.


The student reads simple rhythmic and melodic notation, using traditional and nontraditional symbols.


-Four empty chairs
-Chairs That Speak Rhythm chart for each child (See Associated File)
-The song “Yankee Doodle” [The Music Connections], [Second Grade], CD 6-35, Page 199 from 1995 edition of Silver Burdette Ginn
-CD player
-Drums and sticks (non-pitched instruments)
-Three teacher-made charts (On one sheet of 8x11 paper, draw a whole note. Use another sheet for the half note. Use another sheet for the quarter note and another sheet for the eighth note.


1. Have all materials ready before class starts
2. Have four chairs set up
3. Have CD ready (or tape). Make sure it is on and ready to be used.
4. Know the Chairs That Speak Rhythm chart well.


1. Before the class enters, have a chart labeled Chairs That Speak Rhythm displayed in the classroom. Also have pencil, drums, and sticks under each chair in which a child sits.

2. While the children are entering the classroom, play a song that has a strong steady beat of your choosing. (Example: "Yankee Doodle")

3. Four empty chairs are lined up in view of all children.

4. Without speaking, demonstrate a steady beat to the music playing a drum. Children will want to play with you. Allow children to participate.

5. Showing each of the notes, ask questions, such as: Who knows what these symbols are? What are they used for? Why do we need them? Can you show how these would sound on a stick? At this time, do not give answers, but show them the four chairs. Tell them that they represent four steady beats.

6. Ask four children to come and fill the four chairs. This represents four counts with the quarter note being the one beat.

7. Demonstrate how that would sound. Have children show the beat on their sticks or drums.

8. Have the four children on chairs now sit on the floor. Use one child to cover all four chairs. This child is showing how many beats? How do you show four beats without clapping four counts?
Show the picture of the whole note telling them what the name is.

9. Use one of the four children to cover two chairs and one child to cover the remaining two chairs. Ask: How do we count this? As you are asking them the question, show the half note.

10. Review with the children the questions from procedure #5. Then repeat the procedure using the eighth note.

11. This would be a good time to model drawing the note or notes on the board prior to the children working on their Chairs That Speak Rhythm charts.

12. Assess the activity.


After the hands-on lesson, students will fill in the chart, Chairs That Speak Rhythm, found in the Associated File.
Assess students’ charts by the following criteria:
-Student recognizes whole, half, quarter, and eighth notes.
-Students can draw each note.
-Student knows the count of each note (meter signature of 4/4).

(Be sure to provide feedback for the students who have not mastered the concepts. Give the students opportunity to practice.)
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