The first month of school we focus on connecting to the steady beat. Actually, we do not stop focusing on steady beat after a month -- it is a constant and continual focus!
In kindergarten, students use body percussion to connect to the beat. "Body percussion" means clapping hands, patting legs, snapping fingers (always a challenge), and stomping feet. We find other ways to connect to the beat, too, like nodding our heads, blinking our eyes, and swaying from side to side. Keeping the beat does not always mean making a sound!
In first grade, students also connect to the beat, first with body percussion, and then with instruments such as hand drums, rhythm sticks, woodblocks, and cymbals. They find it a challenge to keep a steady beat on an instrument while speaking or singing at the same time, but it is worth giving it a try! I often ask them to rub their belly and pat their head to get the idea here. "That's easy" they always say...
In second grade we began the year with a task to "Create a Rhythm". I set up a piece of paper with 20 boxes, and every student needed to fill in one box with a one-beat notation, either a "ta" (quarter note), "ti-ti" (pair of eighth notes), or "rest" (we use the letter "z" to indicate a rest). Students could choose any box that did not already have a notation in it. At the end we got our composition. Here is an example of "Create a Rhythm" from a second grade class:
I then took this paper, copied it and cut it up into strips. We use these 4-beat strips as a pattern to play either using body percussion or play on percussion instruments. Oh, and we are playing the pattern while singing a song! So the only thing that connects all this together is STEADY BEAT!!!!