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Rhythm Vocabulary

Page history last edited by Sendaiben 14 years, 11 months ago

Rhythm Vocabulary (technique)


Andy Whitmyre


GRADE LEVEL: SHS (any grade/ any level that is having a hard time accurately pronouncing English words and phrases)
SKILLS: Speaking, Listening
TIME: 5-10 minutes
MATERIALS: Some vocabulary words/phrases and a handheld percussion instrument. ( I like to use a cowbell as it is powerful and small, but anything will work… you can ask the band teacher to borrow a cowbell, tambourine, shaker, etc… from the band room)
YEAR: 2007




1. To improve student’s pronunciation.

2. To have students focus on naturally occurring rhythms in the English language.

3. To increase the student’s awareness of the syllabic structure of English words.




1. Start with the printed vocabulary list at hand.


2. Say one word out loud with natural speed, inflection, and cadence.


3. Then, say the same word again slowly while striking the percussion instrument on each syllable or accent (see notes).


4. Have the students repeat the word once with you striking the instrument and then once on their own in a more natural fashion.


5. Repeat this pattern at least 2 to 3 times for each vocabulary word.


6. Spot check words at random using the same method or another pattern (see notes).




 This technique can be used to highlight a number of rhythmic structures in spoken English. The instrument can be struck with every syllable (HIP-PO-PO-TA-MUS); or, just on the accented words that receive stress within a phrase; or even on every word in a whole sentence to show the natural pauses that come with punctuation and inflection. It is up to the teacher to determine what the focus (micro or macro) of the exercise should be.

 The teacher-student repeat pattern presented here is just one of many possibilities. The one outlined in the PROCEDURE is: Teacher --- Teacher with Inst. --- Student ---Student with Inst. Try different arrangements to fit the situation as you see is best. Teacher --- Student --- Teacher with Inst. --- Student with Inst. EXC…

 A number of games and challenges can be created around the use of rhythm and instruments. For example, the teacher can just present the students with the rhythm alone on the instrument and then they have to come up with what English word/phrase/sentence matches the pattern. Get creative!

 ALSO, the instrument can double as a behavioral correction device for those classes that are very noise, unruly, and otherwise hard to focus. Nothing instantly brings a class to attention like MORE COWBELL!!!!

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