It’s November and that winter concert is on the horizon! You may be feeling great, or you may be exhausted. Either way, your voice has been working hard and it’s time to give it a rest with a rhythmic composition activity that is easy to execute, versatile, and fun!


Here’s How It Works


Choose your theme and objectives

  1. Choose a theme such as sports, fall, food, or animals.
  2. Choose the notes that students will be allowed to use.  This activity works with 1-beat rhythms such as quarter notes/rests, beamed 8th notes, beamed 16th notes, beamed 8th and 16ths, etc.

Set-up the worksheet

  1. You can use paper and a pen, PowerPoint and clip art, or have your students set-up the page.
  2. Section off part of the paper for a “Word Bank” where you (or your students) will write words that relate to the theme. Alternatively, you could list words on the board that relates to your theme as a class.Try to have a combination of nouns, verbs, and adjectives.  Also, include words with a varied number of syllables.
  3. Create boxes for the number of beats you’d like them to compose. Each box equals a beat. If you’d like 2 measures of 4/4 time, create 2 rows with 4 boxes each.
  4. Add a time signature in front of the first box.
  5. Add a line under each box for students to write-in the words they’ve selected for their chant.

Here’s an example using a basketball theme (download a blank template at the end of this post).


Student Directions

  1. First, have the class chant something that they already know such as Doggie, Doggie, Where’s Your Bone, or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Then, I would show them how to notate it on the board by putting each beat in a box and the word below the box.
  2. Then, compose a chant as a class on any topic.
  3. Next, pass out the worksheet and have students create a chant.
  4. You’ll probably have to listen to several of your students’ chants individually to make sure that the 8th note rhythms aren’t lilting. I try to model the evenness of beamed 8th notes by walking with the rhythm in my feet correctly and incorrectly. I’ll tell students that if someone were stepping to your rhythm, they need to have an even gait, not a wonky one.
  5. It’s also fun to add instruments to the chants. You can use unpitched percussion or use the pentatonic notes on barred instruments.
  6. Once students can perform their chants on an instrument, create duets, trios, quartets, etc! It will sound impressive if the students can all perform their chants without saying the words out loud.

Here are some additional instructions for students to try:

  1. Students don’t have to stick to the words in the word bank, they can come up with additional words.
  2. You write more than 1 word under each box as long as the rhythm notated above it is correct.
  3. Say and clap your chant.
  4. Just clap your chant (say the words in your head).
  5. Listen to a chant composed by someone sitting next to you.
  6. Create a duet by performing your chant at the same time someone else is performing theirs.  Switch parts.

Download a blank template below!

Right-click to save the image below to your computer. Then, print the image.

This worksheet may be used in your classroom for educational purposes only.

I hope your students enjoy learning this activity!

Have a musical day!



Jane from SillyOMusic

I've been teaching since 2009 and now live in North Carolina with my husband and rescue dogs. I currently teach early childhood music, but I've taught elementary and middle school music for most of my career. I love creating resources that are fun for the whole class!