Seesaw Clapping

A clapping activity that demonstrates upbeat versus downbeat in rhythm. To make the distinction between the downbeat and upbeat and to learn the organizing principle of music by distinguishing and demonstrating melodic movement.

Step 1

Invite the students to clap on the downbeats (1, 2, 3, 4). Count as you are clapping, “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.” Make sure that the students are clapping on the numbers (not on the word “and”).

step 2

Next, clap only on the upbeats (and, and, and, and). Continue until students feel comfortable clapping on the upbeat.

step 3

Split the class in two and instruct half the class to clap on the downbeat, half on the upbeat.

step 4

Next, have the two groups switch parts. The effect of the students’ clapping on the up and down beats will create a clapping conversation or a seesaw effect.


Challenge the group to play a combination of downbeats and upbeats: as in “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.”

Art Making


Optional instruments:

Ankle bells, tambourine, clave, etc.