photo of mother's hands helping daughter's hands play violin

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.


Grandma's Kite
green line

green line






Support This Site
Gifts from CafePress
help to support
this site.


link to "Let's Have Another Round," music book
Let's Have Another
a book of rounds to sing and play, edited for Suzuki strings students by
Karen Zethmayr

Rhythm Flash
a set of matched pairs of cards with rhythms
from Book One in big notes with no staff.
(Click here for a printable version of the Twinkle rhythms.)

A small child can learn to recognize the four rhythms of the Twinkle Variations visually just as many children learn to read a small vocabulary of "sight words" even before understanding phonics. (Any word you register instantly without puzzling it out is a "sight word," whether or not you first learned it phonetically.

Tap the rhythm on each card, touching each note head (the round part) once, as you say the words of the rhythm. Much later, you reach the stage of "sounding it out," that laborious process of figuring out why some sounds are shorter than others, part of the phonics of music. If at first, kids experience the sight of that cluster of eighth and sixteenth notes in the same way they experience "STOP" on the big red sign, don't worry that they're "skipping" phonics. They're just storing up images that will prove useful when they get to the business of puzzling out the details.

Pick up a card and name it (e.g. "motorcycle putt putt"); ask the child to find another card that looks the same. Play the rhythm on castanets or other rhythm instrument. (This is the game we use most often.)

Use the cards for a game of Concentration. When the child turns up two cards. speak and tap the rhythm of each card. (They, of course will be more interested in a quick read on "who wins," so it's up to the adult to keep the rhythm in the game.

• Print a double set (4 cardsof each rhythm) to play Go Fish.

• For a parent-designed game using the same flashcards for a 3 1/1 year old, click here.

• By the end of Book 1, it's even more useful to have a mental stash of rhythm "sight words." While a child is learning May Song, use a blank card to write the May Song beginning rhythm (dotted quarter, eighth, two quarters.) Tap the note heads in rhythm, and then air bow the rhythm. Have the child look at May Song in the book and count how many times that pattern occurs in the piece, no matter how high or low. Without the book, play the song and have the child count how many times she hears the rhythm. Use the same process for other pieces to build a sight vocabulary of rhythm patterns. When (years later) you get to the point of sight reading, you don't have time to "sound it out," any more than you have time to sound out every "the" you run across in a book.

Please note: I do NOT recommend teaching the child to read while playing in Book 1. We do all the above activities away from the instrument.

For instance, when kids have begun to read the treble clef notes, I routinely have them read early pieces to me while I play what they read. If they say a "wrong note," they giggle and correct themselves. Their instruments are set aside at these times.

The only note reading exercise on this page that I do with instruments in hand is the following:

• For an extention of rhythm flash card use, display one card at a time for the group to play either on their violins or on rhythm instruments.

And the next level is......

When you have that down and are still using the best possible posture and movement (don't expect mastery the first time you do the exercise), have the leader (typically a parent) flip the cards in such a way that the rhythm you are playing is the one that just disappeared, and the rhythm you are looking at is the one you will play. This "looking ahead" is the link between memorizing and sight reading. See the reading readiness game "Who Ran Away" for a lead up activity for new and becoming readers.

And the next level is......

No earlier than Book 2, I will play the same hide-and-play game with kids reading a piece on a technical level well below their current "new piece." I place a card near the first measure, and whey they signal me that they have memorized that measure, I cover it. The understood rule is that as they begin to play the next measure, I cover it as well. This exercise is best when they have alrady done something similar to the level described above.

For a reading teacher's take on note reading, see Reading Readiness,.

One family's method of using the cards:

1) We have used the cards as flash cards. I show a card to Mary and she has to "read" it, i.e., say whether it's Mississippi hot dog or go kitty, go kitty etc.
2) I ask Mary to find two matching cards. The cards are face up.
3) Mary shows me a card and I play the rhythm on the violin
while saying what it is.
4) I play a rhythm, say "Mississipi Hot Dog" and ask Mary
to identify what I am playing.
We take turns playing 1 and 2, but not 3 or 4 (at least not yet).
I find that 3 and 4 really help Mary to recognize that there are different rhythms and what those rhythms are. It also helps her to listen carefully at what is being played. After playing this game she recognized that the same thing was being played on the Suzuki CD. Before that I think the CD was just background music for her.
* contributed by Murielle Hsu.

If you would like to receive notification as new Suzuki resources are added to this site, you can send an email to Your email will not be sold, shared, traded, or used for any other purpose than that which you requested. As it turns out, I have been adding a topic in a parent letter about once a month for my own Suzuki families.

Other Suzuki resources on Grandma's Kite:

Pencil exercises, set one for bow hold
Pencil exercises, set two for bow hold
One Little Elephant (left finger strength and flexibility)
Four Little Elephants Jumping on a Web (left finger naming, strength and flexibility)
Left hand number card "pick up" game
"Home built" violins and ways to use them in group sessions
Reading readiness game "Who Ran Away?"

Reading readiness game "Rhythm Flash "
"Reading Readiness in Music


Grandma's Kite privacy policy

Email Karen Zethmayr