Tennis Ball Fun! Guest Post by Denise Gagne

Tennis Ball Fun!

Tennis Ball Fun and Relative Note Values

Create a chart that includes a whole note, two half notes, four quarters and 8 eighth notes.  This activity is from the resource, Rhythm Instrument Fun.  This is a great resource – click to see a demo on Rhythm Instrument Fun.

Rhythm Instrument Fun sample

Introduce these note values to your youngest students using movement. (without notation) Play the quarter notes on a drum and have the students walk to the quarter notes.  Then play the eighth notes and ask the students what kind of movement they sound like. (running) Play patterns alternating between quarter notes and eighth notes and have them make their feet move the way the drum tells them.

With students who are beginning to read notation, do the same activity, but use the notation. Later you can add the half notes and whole notes. A good movement for half notes is a slide. A good movement for whole notes is a stretch.

Movement Activity 1:   Play walking notes (ta ta ta ta ) and running notes (ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti) on a drum, a woodblock or a cowbell. Have the students move to the music that they hear.   Try this same activity while you play recorded music.  You can use selections that are given in Rhythm Instrument Fun.

Movement Activity 2: Play walking notes (ta ta ta ta ), running notes(ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti), sliding notes (too-oo   too-oo ) and stretching notes (fo-o-o-our) on a drum, a woodblock or a cowbell.

Movement Activity 3: For older students, after notation has been introduced, divide the class into two or three groups. Copy the walking notes and running notes onto large colored sheets of cardstock and put a string on the notes so children can hang the notes around their neck. Play walking notes (ta ta ta ta ) and running notes (ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti) on a drum, a woodblock or a cowbell. Have the group that has those notes on move to the music. Add sliding notes (too-oo   too-oo ) on a different colored cardstock when you think your students are ready.

Play along with the music using relative note values.  Listen to the first 8 or 16 beats to hear the tempo. Change notes at the ends of phrases. Invite a student to be the leader.  You could have all the students play the same instrument or you could assign different instruments to each note value.  If I’m having all the students play the same instrument, I like to use beat boards that they play with drumsticks.

Beat Board

This is a cutting board purchased for $1.50 at Dollarama.  Stacy Werner created the graphic to stick on.  It’s just copied on a copier, then affixed to the cutting board with sheet protector, also purchased at Dollarama.  If you don’t have a class set of drums, a class set of beat boards is a fun alternative for percussion activities.

If you have students play different instruments for different note values, I like to use finger cymbals for whole notes as they resonate, and the sound is held for 4 beats.  I use drums for the half notes, sticks for the quarter notes and shakers for the eighth notes.

4. Play tennis balls to the note values
. This is a great activity for students in Grade 4-5. Decide how you can use the tennis balls to show the note values.

whole note (fo-o-o-our) – bounce the ball once and hold for three beats. (bounce, 2, 3, 4)

half notes (too-oo) – bounce the ball and hold for one beat. (bounce-catch)

quarter notes (ta) – toss the ball from hand to hand (toss right, toss left, toss right, toss left)  eighth notes (ti-ti) – toss the ball twice as quickly as for quarter notes.

Have them play the tennis balls to recorded music.  Use Surfin Rock in the Rhythm Instrument Fun book.  Post the note values chart and point to the note value you want them to do with tennis balls.  Change note values at the ends of phrases, or whenever you feel like changing.

Rhythm Instrument Fun is a great collection of activities for PreK – Gr. 5 classrooms! Lots and lots of ideas for using non-pitched instruments with your students!

Rhythm Instrument Fun
 Rhythm Instrument Fun

Video demo for Rhythm Instrument Fun.

Tennis clubs will often give away or sell for a nominal amount the older balls that don’t bounce as well.  These balls will still work very well in your classroom, and will really help your students understand relative note values.

When the tennis balls completely lose their bounce, turn them into a funny face that will show children when to sing out loud and when to put the song inside their head.

Tennis Ball closed  Tennis Ball opened

Dan Fee has written some great movement activities for using tennis balls with classical music.  One of my favorites is his movement activity to Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.

While it’s a bit difficult to understand from written directions, the published resource, Listening Fun, includes videos that make it really easy to learn the activity.

Wedding March Video


Stand in a circle or in rows.

Hold the tennis ball in the left hand.

0:00-0:07 Present the tennis ball on the first brass triplet. Pass it from hand to hand on each half

note, following the triplet pattern, ending with the ball held in the right hand.

0:08-0:20 Bounce and catch the tennis ball 8 times.

0:21-0:27 Repeat triplet passing pattern.

0:28-0:41 Bounce and catch the tennis ball 8 times.

0:42-0:56 Holding the tennis ball, pretend to bounce it on beats one and two. Bounce and catch the

ball on beats three and four. REPEAT three more times.

0:57-1:10 Bounce and catch the tennis ball 2 times. Mime playing crash cymbals following a

quarter/quarter/half note rhythm. REPEAT.

1:11-1:26 Pretend to bounce twice on beats one and two, then bounce-catch on beats three and four.

REPEAT three more times.

1:27-1:43 Bounce/catch two times. Mime crash cymbals as above. REPEAT.

1:44 Freeze with the tennis ball held in both hands, arms outstretched.

Listening Fun and More Listening Fun By Dan Fee and Denise Gagne

Listening Fun
Listening Fun

More Listening Fun
More Listening Fun


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