Teaching Ties and Dotted Notes
Found in: Reading
Can anyone give me some tips on teaching dotted notes? I felt like I tried to teach them like Neil does as equal to the notes tied together- and although the concept made sense to them- they didn’t get it very well. Especially the younger ones aren’t getting it very well. I taught it exactly the same way to my husband and he got it very very quickly- so is it age? Does it just take time over and over doing it with the CD, or should I teach them to say “1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &”- explaining that it gets 1 & 2 (which is how it makes sense to me- but doesn’t necessarily make sense to others) Any tips would be greatly appreciated!
Mark M., New York
I think it’s an age thing — or at least an experience thing. Some of my younger students who hadn’t studied fractions in school before doing the rhythm program have a little bit of trouble with both dotted notes (which require that you understand how to halve a number of different things) and also the basic idea of filling up a measure with the appropriate number of whatever different kinds of notes (because this, too, involves thinking in fractions, especially quarter and sixteenths).
I think we need to not see this as a problem but, rather, a hands-on fraction learning opportunity that we happen to be providing them. We just need to accept that we’re in a little bit of the role of math teacher, and if they get “wrong” some of the “math problems” along the way, it’s just part of the learning process and we should take those opportunities to review things until they become clear.
What I have started doing is calling it “left, right, left.” This seems to make it easier for the students to get the next “right” in the proper rhythm also.
Check they understand the math of what a dotted note means. If not,
- Lots of cutting up of cakes/toast/apples at home
- Rhythm circle cut up
- I cut up dowling and paint it different colors into whole; 1/2, (2); 1/4 (4); 1/8 (8); and 1/16 (16 pieces) and leave it with the students for a week.. It helps them write the rhythm as well.
If it’s clapping rhythm (sure there must be something in F&Q library) – lots of practice make sure S,D,Q are really strong. Sometimes I may write in the value of the dot visual prompt.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
I agree with Carol – using the ‘L-R-L’ language that they are already familiar with is probably best. Getting comfortable with dotted notes is a journey. They just need consistent exposure and repetition.
In the Read ‘n Play program, Vol. 1 goes with the Reading Rhythm program. I provide several extra exercises for dotted notes to give students extra practice which they can complete at home. Also, you can practice the extra dotted rhythms as a class.
Your expectation should be that they initially understand the concept and can follow along with the rhythms in class, but they likely won’t master it until they’ve had consistent exposure for a while.
Robin Keehn, Washington
I take a very simple approach to dotted notes. I say as little as possible. Here goes:
“A dotted quarter note says: One and two”
That’s it. Memorize that and you’ve got it.
Dotted quarter notes are “missing” the “and” so it will be somewhere else in the measure. It will usually show up as an eighth note or two sixteenth notes (and I show them this in the RR streams) or as a rest of that value. I don’t even say this until they understand the “One and Two.”
“Dotted half notes say: One and two and three and”
I don’t go to the math of it. In my opinion, It just doesn’t need to be articulated. The less I say and try to explain, the better. Dotted notes were the bane of my existence and after reading for 25+ years, I never understood them. Once I discovered it was as simple as One and Two (or two and three or three and four depending where they are in a measure), it changed my life as a reader.
Lori N., Utah
I read what I could find on Simpedia and really liked what Gordon wrote about keeping the feet going in a left right pattern through the process of learning about and internalizing dotted rhythms. I’m just teaching dotted notes in Simply Music for the first time, so I have much to learn about what works, but I’m finding initially that it is very helpful to have the students feeling that subdivision of eighth notes throughout by tapping their feet in a regular pattern.
The left right motion is nicely balanced and seems to work with the brain well. Because keeping the feet going is working so well with the dotted rhythms for me, I will probably be more consistent from now on about having them doing the left right feet from the beginning of Reading Rhythm. Feeling the subdivision really works.
Gordon Harvey, Australia
How can I but agree with this? I’ll just add in case it’s unclear that it’s okay to control the events if necessary. Let’s say you’re working on a rhythm that has a dotted quarter note followed by an 8th note. You just show the student that the first note goes with foot-taps LRL and the next note goes with R. Have them clap and hold while they tap the LRL with the feet, then clap the next note with the next R foot. No problem if they have to stop at any point, but just have them persist until it begins to flow. They can begin by saying the LRL etc as they clap’n’tap, but it helps if at some point they switch to voicing the note lengths: “Baaa ba”.
It sounds complicated on paper but is pretty simple to unfold.
I also like Jane’s idea of using something like the Note Disc. You would just take a segment representing a 1/4 note and a segment representing an 1/8 note, put them side by side and say it’s clapped as one note, or better still, cut out a new segment equaling three 1/8 notes. This would not actually require any real math conversation at all, and could simply be mentioned as an illustration. You probably don’t really need to do this, but if it’s explained in a simple and brief way, it may reinforce the hands-on process with some visual learning.
Mark., New York
When processing onto the keyboard, first try dotted notes and ties without the dots and ties, as Neil says. But then, once that’s set, try it again, still without dots and ties, but this time, for the two notes that would be combined into the longer note via the tie/dot, repeat the same finger rather than just continuing up/down the FSS. This way, the melody shape becomes accurate for what it would be with the final, tie/dot rhythm. Get used to that melody, then add the ties/dots. Then once used to that, it should be possible to easily enough move to other positions or start on a different finger, because by now the rhythm has been processed properly. It’s just that melody itself becomes a tool for processing the rhythm.
I have discovered that it helps tremendously when the students write (in pencil!) either an “x” or the beat numbers directly above or below the notes in the measure that land ON a beat. Then, when they are clapping and voicing the rhythms, they can be sure to match the “x” or beat number with a clap.
It has really made a big difference for all my students with grasping the concept of ties and dots much more readily. I also don’t have them play and voice the rhythms on the piano until they are fluent and accurate with voicing and clapping.