The biggest challenge I have is how to teach time signature to my students.
My school is strictly standards-based. In Colorado, the state standards set the expectation that the process of learning time signature begin in 3rd grade (CAS.3.3.1.c - Explain the function of the top number of a time signature involving two, three, and four beats.). While I do not always agree with the grade level expectations, I think teaching how beats are organized is something that can be done
Having a student population of over 90% ELL students, they take everything literally and do better with exact explanations. Then add in my higher level ELL students and they then want to know why a measure is called a measure, does putting beats in a measure change them, and is time signature like a fraction, plus many more rationalizations.
My students who are strong in math do well with time signature but I needed to find a way to make it simple for all of my students to understand
In the middle of teaching I had a epiphany of how I could make this simpler for my students to understand: Somewhere in my head I rationalized that a measure was like a box, beats are bouncy and bounce all over the place (this is a great visualization for ELLs). We have to organize the beats so we can count them correctly so we put them in boxes, but how many fit in each box?
Enter the time signature. When it comes to the beats I only talk about the top number until I know my students get it (it can take from one day to one month). In the meantime, I use the note being counted (getting one beat) in place of the bottom number (I do not go into the bottom number until 4th grade after my students have covered fractions).
The animated slides really help my students figure out how beats are organized. Following the explanation, students have an opportunity to practice rhythms and figure out what the top number of the time signature is.
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