ABOUT BEAT BLOCKS®
PURPOSE AND HISTORY
The basic function of the Beat Blocks is to provide students a concrete manipulative to aid in introducing and comprehending the abstract concepts of steady beat, beat versus rhythm, note subdivisions, the layering of musical elements that create a complete musical work. It also serves as an aid in assessing students’ understanding of rhythmic complexities.
The first set of blocks I ever made came as a necessary visual for my students struggling with note subdivision. It always bothered me that they didn't truly understand the nature of how notes really work with each other, and how music functions in different layers. Worksheets with boxes on them only frustrated my students because a quarter note and whole can can fit in the same sized box! Also, students were learning meter as rote memorization although they could move, sing, and play to it. Notation was a struggle. One night at home, I noticed my son's Mega Bloks and a light bulb went off. The blocks each had different amounts of bumps on them representing beats, and I could then build other blocks on top of them, creating different note combinations. I drew some symbols on paper, Mod Podge-d them on blocks with magnets on the back, and stuck it on my white board at school. Immediately the kids said "oh.... I get it! Can we play with them?" How could I say no? I went home that night and made labels for all my son's blocks (which I did replace!) and my classroom has been transformed.
By using manipulatives that students are already familiar with, there is a sense of comfort automatically involved, as well as the idea of creativity and play. Dictating rhythms can be fun! Composing is simple when students are given only the tools they need. Beat Blocks allow you to give only the necesary tools right into their own hands to use to create music, meaning tools they don't need for that particular task aren't given. Students sent to compose an 8 beat rhythm know which rhythm combinations to use because they are only given the rhythm blocks they need. When composing arpeggiated chords, students discover exactly which notes are available as chord tones and can disregard the rest. Meter is no longer an abstract concept but instead the difference of 2, 3, or 4 bumps on a base block.
To make implementation easy and accessible for classroom teachers, Beat Blocks are available online as a DIY kit (print labels yourself and make them with basic instructions), or you can make different sets depending on your needs. Custom blocks are available as well, and lessons are compiled in a method book complete with original lessons and guides for implementation. Check out the blog tab above to subscribe to new ideas on lessons and concepts as well.
ENGINE ENGINE NUMBER 9 ON BEAT BLOCKS
In the past 5 years, Beat Blocks have reached over half of the states in the US as well as 8 countries!