Rollin' the Dice

(This lesson plan first appeared in the MENC publication Strategies for Teaching Middle-Level General Music.  It is presented here with adaptations for a small group.)


Objective:                            With rhythms provided by the teacher, or with rhythms they have composed,

                                            students will notate, arrange, and perform a 16 measure drum cadence in the

                                            manner of a John Cage chance composition.              


Standards:                           Reading and notating music.

                                                Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.

Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.


Materials:                            Pair of dice



                                                Paper (unlined)

                                                Handout containing 12 measures of rhythms in 4/4 time (optional, depending on

                                            whether students will composer their own rhythms)

                                                Handout containing dice instructions





And Experiences:             Students have studied and performed rhythms in groups of four beats.





        1.                   Pass out the handout with the dice instructions.  Read the directions out loud to the class.


        2.                   Divide the class into groups of 4-5 students each.  If using a rhythm worksheet, pass out the worksheets along with a pair of dice, unlined paper, and a ruler.   


        3.                   If students are composing their own rhythms, have groups work together to come up with 12 measures of rhythm in 4/4 time.  They may use any notes/rests already learned, but no two measures should be the same.  Use the ruler to draw a non-pitched rhythm staff on the blank sheet of paper.


        4.                  Using either the rhythm worksheet or their own 12 measure rhythms, have students follow the dice         instructions to create a 16 measure drum cadence.


        5.                  After students notate their cadences on a blank sheet of paper, have them select percussion instruments to practice and perform their cadences for the class.



Assessment:                           Students accurately notate a 16-measure drum cadence.

                                                    Students successfully read and perform their cadences.