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!


19 Responses

  1. I love this idea sooooo much! I've done plate passing games to the steady beat before but this is such a great way to take it to the next level and include some rhythm review. Thanks for the worksheet, too. Always love having an extra extension activity.

    1. Personally, I would have them pick up and put down on each beat, but that depends on the song/piece. I feel that sliding might cause students to be a little sloppy with the downbeat, but do whatever works best for you 🙂 Here's a link to a Youtube video that has the passing motion I always envision for this game: Of course, it would be slightly different with the plates, but I think that grabbing/placing on the downbeat is key.

  2. This is a WONDERFUL idea. I have a question about the students reading the rhythm on their plate. Is only ONE rhythm symbol written on each plate? It appears so. Might you have written 4-beat rhythms on each? Just wondering, as your idea is so fantastic!

    1. Yes, you could definitely do it that way! I was thinking of it more in terms of a kind of rhythm train, or a rhythm caterpillar, where students speak their rhythms all around the circle without missing a beat. But I think doing a four-beat rhythm pattern would be great too! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Thank you for a fun activity. This year we have been off for the eclipse (which passed over us in August), ice/snow days and school-wide flu days. Trying to keep all the classes in each grade level at the same point in learning has been a challenge. This activity can be used when my lessons get off-kilter. Thanks for a great idea that is adaptable to any grade level.