teaching students to write rhythm

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    I’ve been using the approach that David Newell outlines in “Teaching Rhythm” with my middle school band this year. Everything was going great- the kids were counting and playing the rhythms we worked on, and they all seemed to understand it well. I gave them a four measure rhythm composition assignment yesterday- very simple- 4 measures in 4/4 time, use each of these rhythms (four sixteenths, eighth-sixteenth patterns) at least once, etc. About 2/3 of the kids did it perfectly. The other third was shocking- they showed no understanding of how many beats are in a measure, some of them wrote things that aren’t even notes (something that looked like a half note with a flag was popular,) some were completely illegible, etc. I’m not sure how to address this- if I start from scratch with the whole group, the kids who can do it will be bored out of their minds. If I keep going, that third of the band will never get it. I’m not sure how to teach two levels of this at the same time. Any suggestions? Where do I start with the kids that really don’t get it?

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