Beat Strips

Double blog post today, because that's the kind of day I'm having, lol!!  I made two batches of muffins for my kids (blueberry and chocolate), bought two new outfits, so things are coming in twos!!

This is an idea that I got from two of my friends who teach in my district (Jenna O. & Cathy K.).  These are beat strips and are great for rhythmic dictation and notation.  They were a little time consuming to make, but I hope to give you some tips to make it go faster and easier!

Here's the general idea.  Every student gets a beat strip, like this:
This is Jenna's original template, I have redone them, using a different font to look more like a time signature.

From there, I have rhythms that are prepackaged according to grade level (this will vary for everyone, depending on your sequence).  Here's a picture of the beat strip with my first grade "pouch" of rhythms:

Here's the way they look on the chart:

After first grade, students will have more then one "pouch."  So, when my second graders use half note they get the second grade pouch with half note in addition to the first grade pouch with ta, ti-ti and ta rest.  **  Note: I don't call them "first grade pouch" so the kids don't have a misconception if they are behind in the sequence.  I refer to the rhythms in them with the students.  Then, when they put them away, they must return them to the correct baggie, kind of like sorting out legos when you're done building!

 Here's a couple pictures of the first grade pouch with the third grade rhythm baggie:

And here's a couple shots of my fourth grade pouch:

Now, I mentioned I re-did Jenna's file.  Here's the four beat dictation board that I showed above:
What you would do is print these out on card stock, laminate them (so they'll last a long time) and then cut them into the strips that you saw above.  

I started thinking about the Common Core Standards and wanting my kids to do longer dictation/compositions so I created an 8 beat board (below):
 I also wanted my students to write in 3/4 meter, so here's a 3/4 board (3 beat dictation/composition):
And here's a 3/4 meter board that's 6 beat dictation/composition:

 I also made all of the rhythms in both stick notation and notation with note-heads.  You print these out on card stock first, then laminate and cut along the dotted lines (for a class of 30 you print 10 pages of each rhythm):

With the rhythmic elements that last longer than one beat I made light gray lines to show the beats (it's a nice reminder to the students that a dotted half note gets three beats, or a half note gets two beats or syn-co-pa is three sound over two beats). It's important when cutting these cards to NOT cut along the gray lines!! :)

Here are the time saving tips: 
  • Print them on card stock, they'll last longer
  • Color code them, if possible, according to rhythmic element- this will make assessing them much quicker- you can do a quick glance for color, major time saver during class!
  • For a class of 30, you'll need 10 pages of each concept
  • Cut them out on the paper cutter AFTER you laminate them
  • Look at your curriculum and print the ones you need.  Or print as you go.  Start with the 1st grade set one year and gradually print more
  • Recruite some 5th graders to sort them- it's a great reinforcement for them too :)

If you're interested in these cards, they can be found at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  And there you have it, the double post for the day!!!  Have a GREAT Martin Luther King Jr. Day tomorrow!!!


  1. Like the color coding idea! I do something similar with 12 inch rulers. I put a strip of Velcro on the ruler and then a piece of Velcro on the various note value cards. Students can create rhythms and also carry them around the room to various instruments without fear of them getting mixed up. I've always told them what time signature I want used, but I like your idea of having this as another card piece!

  2. Do you have strips for quarter and sixteenth notes you could share? I love this idea but do not want to try reinventing the wheel if you have the files to share :)

    1. Hi Amanda,

      My beat strip set has quarter, 2-eighth, 4 sixteenth, 1 eighth-2 sixteenth combinations (and vice verse), half note, syncopa, dotted-quarter-eighth (and vice verse). Does that help? And if you need anything added after you purchase it I'll happily add it. :)

      Here's a link:

      Please let me know if that didn't answer your question.

  3. Hi Amy,

    What type of bags/storage did you find for the four beat patterns (such as whole note/rest)? They're too long to fit in any Ziplocs that I can find!


  4. Thank you so much for making these, Amy! I am currently using them in Beginning through Advanced Group Piano at a high school in our Theory Room. Have you (or will you) make any for 6/8 time signatures? I would love to use that as well. Thank you, again!

    1. that's a great suggestion! I will put that on the to-do list!


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