March to your own drum: Rhythm and Identity Lesson Plan

I’m really excited about this one! After seeing the kick-off of Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s Stomping Grounds, I can’t stop thinking about all the amazing performances and the traditions they represent.


These performances are happening in different cultural hubs across the city for FREE leading up to the finale at the Auditorium Theatre June 4. CHRP Founder Lane Alexander explained the importance of the festival in sharing culture to teach tolerance. There is so much that can be learn about other cultures around the city and around the world. What is unique about these performances is that, despite coming from traditions around the world, they all have rhythm as a similarity at heart.

A great thing about the kick-off was the founders of the different dance companies spoke about their art forms and the development of their work. I compiled some of the interesting influences they mentioned and thought about the idea of identity in rhythm making. This lesson plan focuses on identity and using rhythm as a device to talk about communicating unique qualities about culture and ourselves.


Lesson Plan

Day 1

  • Welcome
  • Warm-Up/Check-In (Pass the Clap)
  • Discuss rhythm, Watch: Stomping Grounds Promo
    • Where are rhythms around the world?
    • Where do you hear rhythm?
  • Try out some different rhythms
    • Make sounds we hear together
    • Split into two groups, start with stamping feet to a beat altogether, give two groups different clapping rhythms
  • Our goal in the residency: How does rhythm express identity
  • Make identity maps
    • Share your name a couple of facts
  • Homework: What sounds make up your life? How can you translate those to a sound you can make?

Day 2

  • Warm-Up/Check-In (Rhythm groups in circle)
  • Set guidelines to help each voice be heard
    • What rules do you often have? Why do we use them? What is most important?
    • Class as a community
  • Discuss different ways to make sound
    • Take rhythms the students heard and try them out using different sounds
  • Rhythm as division, Watch example of musical phrase evolving
    • Use blocks and fractions to describe how beats can be split
    • Show rhythms and food names chart
    • How will you write down your rhythm? So you don’t forget
  • Homework: Come up with your own beat

Day 3

  • Warm-Up/Check-In (Musical Questions)
    • Review guidelines
  • Rhythm as communication and exchange, Watch Traditional and Hip-Hop combined
    • Reflect on video
    • Share rhythms we came up with, Did you have influences?
    • How can we describe these rhythms? Write them down so we don’t forget
  • Put together a rhythmic “sentence” together
  • What do you want to communicate about yourself? What about your class community?

Day 4

  • Warm-Up/Check-In (Museum Guard)
  • Goals of the day: Turn Rhythm to Action, Full Narrative
  • Are there other rhythms beside sound? Watch rhtyhmic dance without sound
    • Rhythms in movement, in visual pattern
    • Rhythm in our actions
    • How can we honor our identity with our rhythms? Change our community?
  • Use our rhythmic sentence to tell a story

Day 5

  • Warm-Up/Check-In (Pass the Clap)
  • Goals of the day: Compile and Summarize
  • Performance



Then I made this piece if artwork in response to the performance. In a longer term reflection with a class, I think it would be awesome to do this with pictures from the students that represent their identities.

I cut out images of places to symbolize different areas of the world coming together. In the center is a mirror, a reminder of self-reflection at the center of outside influence.

Be sure to check out this program! There are FREE shows all over the city, see where they are coming near you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s