Rhythm on the Wall – Content Driven Bulletin Board Ideas
I love the challenge of creating a bulletin board that excites and delights students… but I know that not everyone feels the same. For some folks, coming up with bulletin board ideas and then actually pulling out all the materials to create those displays can be a huge hassle. You scour Pinterest and Facebook groups for hours trying to find an idea that gets your brain racing but the whole process just makes you tired. I get it. That’s why I wanted to share this idea about using a rhythm bulletin board to create a display that’s themed, exciting for your students, and driven by the content we teach every day!
I first thought of making a rhythm bulletin board when I was helping my students compose and improvise with food-themed words as a guide. We used words like pumpkin, apple cider, and turkey to serve as inspiration and we listened for the rhythms that each word created. Turkey was “ta ta” or two quarter notes. Apple cider was “ti-ti ti-ti” or four eighth notes strung together. We would then take those words and put them into groups and patterns, making little phrases of different rhythms. Learn more about this process when you watch this LIVE video about my lesson plans.
As soon as you start listening for the rhythm in words you begin to hear the possibilities everywhere. School bus, candy bar, outer space, piece of pizza, skate board… all words have rhythm! When you draw students’ attention to the rhythm in words they begin to think more consciously about how they can use those rhythms to build phrases and guide improvisation. My goal was to get kids thinking about the rhythms in all words!
My first attempt at turning this into a bulletin board display was around Thanksgiving so for that set I jotted down some of my favorite fall food words and other things that reminded me of autumn and Thanksgiving. I came up with “Turkey Dinner,” “changing colors,” “friends and family,” “pumpkin pie,” and about 18 other words and phrases that seemed to fit the theme. I found pictures and backgrounds that fit with the theme and pulled the whole thing together. I added a bulletin board header that spelled out “The Rhythm of Life” and put it out in the hallway for kids to see. Click here to see more of the full set.
The response to the bulletin board was wonderful and overwhelming! Kids loved to look at the different vocabulary words and make the connection with the rhythm that matched. In my list of words I included some things that they really loved (lots of the food words) and also some things that they might not have come up with on their own like “turkey trot” and “apple picking.” Here are a few examples of how other teachers have made this bulletin board work in their schools!
One little extra that I wanted to include for parents and administrators was an explanation page that told them a little bit about what the rhythm bulletin board was for. I included a little blurb that said something like this: “All words have rhythm. If you take the time to think about it, everything around us can be musical and full of life! Here are some words and rhythms of autumn. Can you think of any other great fall words to add?”
I had such success with that first bulletin board that I knew I wanted to keep the ball rolling and bring back this concept for other seasons and themes. This Spring I had a farm-themed concert for first grade and also an ocean-themed concert for second grade. So, to get kids excited about their upcoming concerts I made up a bulletin board set with farm words and another with ocean words. I printed it out and used the display to advertise for the upcoming concert but also to get ALL my students thinking about the rhythm in words (not just those kiddos who had performances coming up).
For my ocean-themed rhythm display I wanted parents to see it as they walked in to the second grade concert but I didn’t have a bulletin board available. Instead of putting up borders, background paper, and typical bulletin board elements I just took the posters themselves and (using a little tape) just stuck them up on the wall outside the gym. As parents were filtering in to find a seat for the performance they passed the display.
Kids look at what we put out in the hallways and they actually think about what’s up on our bulletin boards. When I put up a rhythm bulletin board like the ones I’ve shared here, kids start to think about words in a new way. They make connections between the people, places, and things they see in every day life and the rhythms they learn about in music class. Since using rhythm bulletin boards I’ve had teachers and parents talk to me about how their kiddo was identifying rhythms in everyday words and coming up with their own list of rhythm words.
So far I’ve made seven rhythm bulletin board sets like this:
- Sounds from School (Back-to-school themed)
- The Rhythm of Life (Fall-themed)
- Sounds of the Season (Winter Holiday)
- Barnyard Rhythms (Farm-themed)
- Rhythms of the Zoo (Animal-themed)
- Sounds of the Sea (Ocean-themed)
- Rhythms of the Stars (Space-themed)
Have you tried out a rhythm bulletin board display like this in your school? What have you done to customize the display or make it exciting for your kiddos? Share your ideas in the comments below.