Sunday, July 21, 2024

Tea Coffee Coffee Tea

by Mark Warner
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Ages: 5-11

This is an excellent way of developing children’s sense of rhythm. Instead of using difficult technical words like crochet and quaver, the idea is to use words with different amounts of syllables, e.g. tea and coffee.


Clap four beats slowly to the children, counting each beat, i.e. 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … Now, repeat the clapping, but replace the counting with the word “Tea”, i.e. Tea … Tea … Tea … Tea…

Next, clap eight beats (twice as fast as before), counting each beat again… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Then, replace each pair of beats with the word coffee (saying each syllable separately), i.e. Coff, ee, Coff, ee, Coff, EE, Coff, EE

Split the class into two groups. One group can clap TEA, and the other group can clap COFFEE (both groups perform at the same time, i.e.

Group 1 clap and says…TeaTeaTeaTea
Group 2 clap and says…CoffEECoffEECoffEECoffEE

When the children are comfortable with this, swap them around.

Now, as a whole class, you can develop this idea, by clapping and saying more complicated patterns together…

Tea Tea Coffee Coffee
Tea Coffee Tea Coffee
Tea Tea Tea Coffee
Coffee Coffee Coffee
(the children might also be able to come up with their own patterns)

When the children are familiar with this idea, they can be split into groups again, with each group clapping / saying a different pattern.


An easy way of writing down this notation is to use grids (replacing Tea with the letter T and coffee with the letter C), i.e.


The class can follow this notation (reading from left to right and top to bottom). Then, try reading it in different directions (bottom to top, right to left, diagonally!). Different groups can also perform different lines, and the children could also perform in rounds.

Developing the idea further…

When the children are happy with the Tea and Coffee activities above, you can use some new rhythms…

Cream So-da (the same as Tea, followed by Coffee) – also written as Cr Soda.

Or-ange Squash (the same as Coffee, Tea) – also written as Or Sq

Co-ca Co-la (the same as Coffee, Coffee) – also written as CC

(the children might also be able to come up with their own drinks to use as rhythms).

Try the activities shown above using these new rhythms.

Listening to rhythms

This activity will develop the children’s ability to listen carefully and to recognise these rhythms by sound alone. Give each child (or group of children) a copy of the worksheet below. Then clap the following rhythm and ask them to write the rhythm that you clapped in one of the grids on the sheet.


(remember that TC is also the rhythm for Cream Soda, CT is also the rhythm for Orange Squash and CC is also the rhythm for Coca Cola – some children may have used different ways of writing the same rhythm)

When you have checked their answers, you can repeat the activity using different rhythms which you might have made up. You could also ask the children to fill a grid with their own rhythm. Then, they can perform it to the rest of the class (who can write it down on one of the grids on their worksheet).

Conventional Notation

This idea is also a good way of introducing children to more conventional notation. Explain that Tea can also be written as(called a crochet) and Coffee can also be written as (called a quaver).

Now, try performing (as a class) the following grid…

Again (if the children are comfortable with this idea), the grid can be read in different directions, and different groups of children can perform different lines of the grid.


Children can compose their own rhythms using Tea and Coffee (or the more conventional notation if they are happy with it). When they have created their rhythms, they might be able to change the pitch of the notes in their rhythms so that they make a melody. For example, their Tea notes could all be played at one pitch, and the Coffee notes could be played at another.

Ruth Hampson has sent the following message, which contains some extension ideas for this activity:

I have been using the Tea Coffee Tea Coffee lesson from your Music Ideas now for two years and have found it very successful in teaching music notation to Year 3. I have added the word Soup which gives the value of the minim and even Chocolate which gives the rhythm of the triplet. The children, after some practice, can even put down the rhythm from a piece of Beethoven, for example, using the tea and coffee idea! Many thanks, and please do more!

Gary Hughes has also contributed a helpful Powerpoint presentation that can be used to introduce children to the concepts of crotchets and quavers.


Tea and Coffee Grids

Tea and Coffee Grids

Download File

Tea and Coffee Powerpoint

Tea and Coffee Powerpoint (by Gary Hughes)

Download File

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