Friday, December 20, 2013


Let's be honest. Teaching elementary music requires a TON of lesson planning and prep work.  My goal is always to make the most of my students' time in the music room while minimizing the amount of prep work I have to tackle.  One strategy I have used to help cut down on my prep time is "Pick a Warm-Up." It requires a lot of up-front work, but it will save you a ton of time in the long run!

I have a jar of sticks in my classroom that have different rhythmic and melodic warm-ups on them.  I have color coded the sticks, so that all the rhythm warm-ups are blue and the melody warm-ups are green. I allow a student to pick a stick from the jar, deciding our rhythmic (or melodic) warm-up for the day.  I always reserved the right for "veto power," in the event that they draw a stick that I don't think will work well for the day or rhythm we are practicing. However, I rarely have to use it.

Here is what my sticks look like...

As you can see, some of the rhythm warm-ups in my jar are:
I Have, Who Has
Telephone Rhythms
Post Office
Poison Pattern
Music Walk
Drop 4, Add 4
Four by Four
Morse Code

Over the course of the next few days, I will explain each of these in greater detail. However, today I am going to start with a class favorite... Tic-Tac-Toe!

My students LOVE playing rhythm tic-tac-toe, especially when it is boys vs. girls! This is a great way to help your students get practice with new rhythms.  We always start by reading the entire board as a class, which is great for your students that need additional guidance or practice. From there, we divide up into two teams to see if one team can perfectly perform three rhythms in a row for TIC-TAC-TOE!

For complete instructions and a free sample board, you can visit my Teachers Pay Teachers Store at...

A great extension for this activity is to have students create their own boards. I often use this as a way to assess students writing rhythms. You can check to see if they understand note values and durations, make sure they are notating rhythms correctly, and also allow them to be creative! A template for building your own board is included in the Tic-Tac-Toe set on my TpT store.

My students always have a great time making their board and playing against each other. I have even caught students creating boards at recess!

Whether you are practicing quarter and eighth notes or tim-ka and tam-ti, Rhythmic Tic-Tac-Toe is a fast and fun way to get your students reading rhythms!



  1. Fantastic post! I love your jar of sticks. What a wonderful way to give students choice and ownership of their own learning! Congratulations on a great start to your blog!

  2. Great ideas, Kate! Excited to find your blog and TpT store. Would you like to be added to the Music on TpT pinterest board? You can send me your pinterest address/username if interested. :)

    1. Hi Aileen! You are definitely one of my inspirations for starting a blog! I am reworking my pinterest account to try and streamline everything, but will send you my info asap. Thank you! :)

  3. I'm looking forward to your future posts explaining the warm-ups as some are unfamiliar to me.

  4. Hi Kim! Thanks for reading my blog! More posts and products are coming very soon!

  5. Hi Kim,
    I love this idea! What are your melodic warm ups?