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I made a trip to Target last weekend. Naturally I headed straight for the Dollar Spot to search items that could be used in the music classroom. As usual, I was not disappointed.  

 

It was hard to walk away with only a few items, but I managed to control myself. I decided on a dry-erase board, mini cupcake erasers, and some foam hearts.

 

I immediately knew that I wanted to use the hearts and cupcakes as manipulatives, and the dry-erase board provided a cheap alternative to music-specific boards you can find online. The board is double-sided, but the back side features only writing guides, like the ones shown on the bottom half of the board pictured.

 

There wasn’t a large variety of items that could be used as manipulatives, but quarter notes, barred eighths, and quarter rests could easily be practiced using only the cupcake erasers and foam hearts.
As I was playing with my new toys (that’s always what it feels like), I thought of a way to use the manipulatives in centers as a game.
First, I wrote rhythms on each side of the hearts using a very fine point marker. I tried using a medium point sharpie the first time, but because the hearts are made of foam, the color bled out everywhere. It was still readable though, so you could use it in a pinch. The fine point marker just made it look a lot cleaner.
Toss the hearts into a small cup. I used a coffee cup because I always have those on hand. Then, tell your students to shake the cup (like you would in a game of Yahtzee) and pour out the hearts. Students arrange the hearts in a line and then speak the rhythms. If they speak the rhythm correctly, they can rearrange their hearts and speak another rhythm for an extra point. Students could do this as partners taking turns or in a small group of three or four.
If you don’t have the funds to purchase the dry-erase boards, but would still like to try out these ideas with the foam hearts and cupcake erasers, you can download the freebie below to use in your classroom.  Students can place the manipulatives in the boxes and write the rhythm on the lines above. If you don’t have manipulatives, ask students to draw their own picture of a heart or cupcakes (or other valentine-themed object) in the boxes.
How would you use these manipulatives in your classroom? Share your ideas in the comments section!