This pilot study compared two approaches for teaching rhythm reading skills to first-grade children. Two intact first-grade classes participated in six lessons focusing on simple rhythms (4 beats using eighth and quarter notes). The lessons were based on the same musical materials; only the approach was varied. After random assignment, Class 1 experienced the “Subdivision Approach” where the quarter note is the beat, and eighth notes are subdivisions of the beat. Class 2 used the “Additive Approach” where, in this case, the eighth note is the “shortest sound” and a quarter note is the equivalent of two short sounds.

Pre- and posttests were administered using the respective rhythm icons, asking the children to say the rhythm syllables and do the corresponding hand movements. Within-group pre- and posttest scores showed learning took place with each method. Several t-tests showed that the Additive Approach class scored significantly higher than the Subdivision Approach class (p<.001). The results of this study indicate that, for this particular set of subjects, the Additive Approach was more successful than the Subdivision Approach in this rhythm reading task. Of particular interest was the fact that the Additive Approach prepared students to more successfully decode and perform syncopated rhythms seen only in the pre- and posttest. The research approach employed appears, with modification, to be a useful one that may successfully be employed in a larger project. Although the results of this particular study cannot be generalized to a larger population, the positive results indicate that further study is merited.