Beat Competency & Learning

Beat Competency blog post heading


What is beat competency?

We are all born with a beat inside us. So much of what we do concerns beat. We walk in a beat, our hearts beat, we breath in a beat. Language is rhythmic. Words have rhythm.
Being able to maintain a steady beat is called beat competency.

Beat competency is involved in:

  • clapping along to a beat
  • bouncing up and down
  • marching
  • mimicking what is called out to a beat


Why is beat competency important for learning?

Research has shown that beat competency is important in learning. Professor Reyna Gordon of Vanderbilt University has looked at the link between rhythm and grammar. She has seen (through her research) direct correlations between a good grasp of beat and language development.

A sense of beat is needed to understand the intonation and cadence of language itself. Sometimes this can be lacking in children. They may struggle with beat competency due to many different reasons. This can therefore be detrimental to their learning. The good news is that it can be developed.

As with many things the more you do something, the better you become at it!

Furthermore, there are many opportunities to improve beat competency with children.
Tatty Bumpkin songs involve keeping a beat. Children Inspired by Yoga classes involve visualisation and use the imagination, whilst moving to a beat. This is a fabulous way to build a true sense of rhythm in the mind.


How to build beat competency at home

Much more could be done in schools beyond the early years, in my opinion. I regularly do simple beat competency activities with children in my work throughout Key Stage 2 and beyond.

Most of all, one of the key benefits of this sort of work is that children love it. It is enjoyable. This is the key factor for engagement, and in turn successful outcomes. Happy people learn.


3 simple things you can do with your child to help develop beat competency

  1. Use a pair of sticks (one pair for every person). Tap out a simple rhythm (even four straight beats). The others then repeat it. Alter the dynamic and see if this can be copied. This simple act of focussing on a beat or rhythm and then repeating it is very useful. Repeat each phrase you do about 3 or 4 times before changing it.
  2. Keep a beat (like a metronome) and chant sentences along to it. The others repeat. The sentences can be anything. Even simple sounds are useful (the vowels for example). Change the tempo of the sounds. For example you could make the ‘a’ sound as in ant, along with 4 beats – a,a,a,a then you could just make one long ‘a’ sound to the four beats. Following this you could do double a sounds to the four beats – aa aa aa aa
  3. Marching and bouncing to a beat. Use the sticks again. Decorate some wooden spoons to make them personal. Tap a simple beat and march along to it. Chant things you see as you walk around. ‘ I can see a flying bird.’ Take it in turns to chant something and then the others repeat it. This is not only developing beat competency and the ability to fit words in to a rhythm but also awareness. Noticing things. Focus. Concentration. All valuable skills for their developing mind.
    I hasten to add valuable skills for all of us whatever our age!


I truly believe that the more we have a sense of rhythm in our lives at an early age, the more effective our learning will be.


Philip Davis is an international educationalist


He runs his own company, Write Inspired and works with children of all ages, inspiring a more engaged and motivated love of learning. His innovative, acclaimed methodology uses sounds, movements, visuals and model making to inspire ideas. These are personal to the learner. His focus is writing. He enables children to lose the anxiety and fear that they often have in this area.
Philip has worked all over the UK and abroad with many thousands of students.

He also regularly runs courses to help teachers and school leaders build a more dynamic and engaging approach to teaching and learning. Consequently, he was recently made an honorary research associate at Kings college London as part of the Language Acts & World Making Project.
Philip is a songwriter and co-writes the songs on Tatty Bumpkin.
You can Tweet him at @educationphilip.

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