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The other day I was browsing Pinterest when I came across this post by Jodi from Fun in First (a fellow Indiana Teacher-Author), in which she discusses how she practices sight words using paper plates. I loved the idea and think it could easily be modified for the music classroom.


You’ll need some sturdy paper plates or bowls. Write four-beat rhythm patterns on the back of each. Draw a star on just one of the plates/bowls.


  1. To play the game, have students sit in a circle and give each student one plate.
  2. Then, play the music you’ve selected (something with a strong downbeat that reinforces the rhythms you’re working on) and ask students to pass the plates to the steady beat.
  3. When the music stops, the student with the star plate will speak/clap/tap their rhythm first, then all the other students will follow (one at a time) reading the rhythm on their plate. The students will continue to read their rhythms until they’ve made it all the way around the circle. Then, the music begins again. I wrote the rhythms on the bottom of the plates purposefully so that students could tap the plates or bowls like a drum.

Color-code the rhythms (like I did above), so that you can easily see which rhythms can be used with each class. For example, blue rhythms are for second grade, while pink rhythms are for fifth grade.

If you have a particularly competitive class, set a winning point total at the beginning of class. Then, award points each time the students complete a full circle. If they reach the point total before the end of class, then they win.

If you have a class that needs an extra challenge, add rhythm instruments to the mix. Ask students to place their instruments behind them until the music stops, then grab and play. Each time they complete a circle, they can pass their instruments one person to the left, so that students get to play a different instrument each time.


Combine this lesson with an opportunity to compose using the free worksheet below. Students compose an eight-beat rhythm. Then, if there’s extra time, they draw food on the plates and then write the rhythm that matches beneath it.

You can download the free worksheet by clicking on the image below. Enjoy!