Using rhythm bugs is by far my favorite approach for teaching rhythm. The connection to natural language patterns makes difficult rhythm patterns accessible for even young children and the matching visual images on the bugs that correspond with the standard rhythm notation make a memorable association for visual learners.
To make the most of the rhythm flashcards it is helpful to use them in a logically sequenced order in a variety of ways.
8 Great Ways to Use Rhythm Bug Flashcards
When teaching rhythms I focus on the sound first, just as in language development by introducing the sounds of rhythms through echoing and song patterns. The Let's Play Music Connections CD includes a chant-like introduction to the basic rhythms similar to this video. (It also has several other great songs that introduce other theory concepts like steps and skips, chord roots and key signatures using song lyrics.) Once students are familiar with the rhythm bugs, they can easily pick up the rhythm patterns in new pieces by chanting the names of the bugs they see before playing the piece!
Which bug is missing? Easy Rhythmic Dictation
Line up flashcards on the floor with one card missing. Clap the pattern and have them guess which bug is missing.
Scrambled bugs - Harder Rhythmic Dictation
Line up a few flashcards in scrambled order. Teacher claps a pattern and students arrange the bugs in the order they heard them.
Rhythm Tag Group Game - Ear Training and Steady Beat
Have students sit in a circle of five and each select a rhythm bug card equivalent to 1 beat (no Slugs allowed!). They clap and chant their rhythm 3x and then "tag" another person's rhythm to clap and pass the beat to. (Bug, Bug, Bug, Grasshopper - Grasshopper, Grasshopper, Grasshopper, Beetle - etc.). After students are comfortable with the sounds of the "bugs" flip the cards and review the traditional rhythm symbols & their names. I love how this combines the Sound-Feel-Sign-Name learning sequence all into one short activity!
Rhythm Cup Circle
Choose 2 Bugs + 1 Slug. Students sit in a circle and tap the rhythm bugs or slide their cup to pass to the person next to them on the slugs (half notes) similar to this glow cup tap challenge. For a challenge choose 6 rhythm bug cards + a slug for a longer pattern.
Rhythm Telephone Race
Students form 2 lines. The teacher taps one (ex: grasshopper or beetle) or several (butterfly, beetle, slug) of the rhythm bugs simultaneously on the backs of the last players in line on both teams and they raced to tap the rhythm message up the line so their team player at the front of the line can be the first to correctly dictate the rhythm they felt using bug rhythm flashcards set out in front of them.
Rhythm I Spy
Students tally the number of rhythm bugs in their current piece and play minute to win it racing to tap the rhythm card that occurs the most before 1 minute is up.
Bug Walk through the Music
Similar to the Tie Track/ Slur Slope Game the student's music becomes the game board and the players use game pieces to move through it. To prepare identify the different type of "bugs" used in the song and put those rhythm cards into a hat or dish. Start your game piece on the first note of the piece. Take turns picking rhythm bugs from a hat and move your marker through the measures in order searching for the next matching rhythm in the song. The winner is the first one to reach the last note in the piece.
Bug Rhythm Flashcards are now available for purchase in the Let's Play Music store.