Rhythm Abacus

This is an idea that had been "simmering" for a while.  I knew that I wanted to create an abacus to practice rhythms.  You know, just an new way to practice the "same old thing."  My brother-in-law had made a ladder golf (a.k.a. lawn golf) set a few years ago and while we were playing it this summer I thought the same way he went about building that game could be used to build my abacus.

Before I get into the details, there's one of the rhythm "sets".  This one is for half note.  There are three rhythms on a "bead" and with half note I knew that I wanted to also be able to assess it to check their knowledge of the critical attributes of half note (that it was one note that lasted for two beats.  That's why I did not do a "bead" that was twice as long to represent two beats.  Instead, I purposely left one of the slots on the second beat empty (if you turn that second or fourth bead there is a ta, ti-ti or a rest).

This one notates "Who's That":

 And this one is "Here Comes a Bluebird":

So, if you're familiar with ladder golf, it's got three rungs on which to aim your tethered balls.  So, using PVC pipe (1/2 inch) and 90 degree & T connectors I was able to construct this.  I think if I made it again I'd make it a little smaller.  To made the base (in the right of the picture below) I used 6 two-feet long pieces of PVC pipe.  The corners used the 90 connectors and the middle (hard to see in this picture) used a T-connector, so that the standing up part can connect.

The rungs, which hold the beads are 2' long and are spaced 6" apart.  A T-connector was used on most of this, with the exception of the corners which used the 90 degree pieces.   I did not glue any of the PVC pipe together so that it easily comes apart to store and rotate the rhythmic concept pieces.  By the way, did I mention that the beads are made out of pool noodles?  They are 4.5 inches long and I put three rhythms on them (I bought the noodles from the Dollar Tree and the rhythms are spaced out ~6.5 centimeters apart):

Here you can see how the pool noodle bead easily slides onto the PVC pipe.

Not the most clear shot but you can see how the beads were put on and now all I had to do was fit the other side on:

Here's the ti-tika set (yes, if you follow my blog you know I'm compulsive. So, I have a set for all my rhythms, and yes, they're color coded!).  I used this today to review with my 4th graders.  

They rotated the beads to create the rhythm for "Fire on the Mountain" (this is a tricky song on the ending of that second line!  I use the skeletal rhythm and change it from a tim-ka to a ti-ti for easier whole song reading):

I hope you all enjoyed the TpT sale!!!  I'm hoping to have some more products posted soon, but having a student teacher and with my own two in 1st grade & preschool at my school, I'm having a hard time finding much time in the evening!  But, an instrument flashcard set to go with the "I Have/Who Has" instrument edition is in the works, as is an "I Have/Who Has?" Absolute Pitch Reading Game.  Oh, and a Bedbug game (thanks to my ever creative 2nd graders!!!)

Hope you're having a great start to your school year or for you lucky one who are still on summer break, having a great vacation!!!


  1. Great idea! I have everything I need to do this too! What did you use to cut your pool noodles with? Scissors or a knife? And a sharpie to write the rhythms on them? I'm guessing 2 diff rhythms (or blank space) per noodle piece?

    1. Thanks! I cut them with a knife (super easy!) and then used the GIANT Sharpie to write the rhythms, I thought I said, but I must have forgotten to add that I put three rhythms on a noodle/bead.

  2. Girlfriend, you are the bomb-diggity! Awesome idea!! :)

  3. This is cool! What do you do with the ladder after it's set up? I've never seen this before. Thanks!

  4. I love it! I needed something new to teach rhythm. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I've seen this before and have wanted to do it. I've held off because of space and set-up/tear down issues (zero minutes between classes to change out the 'beads' for different grade levels). Have you created a variety of different games to use with the abacus? Thanks for sharing another fun learning possibility!

  6. Love it!! I just made it today with summer clearance noodles. Thanks for the awesome idea- I can't wait to use it. Such a perfect way to teach so many concepts!!


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