I like games, and they can be a great motivator in band class. Rhythm is one area of fundamentals that is particularly effective when gamified. Today I'll share some sample games I use with my first and second year students that are simple, fun, and helpful.
All of these games make use of the rhythm pages at the back of Essential Elements 2000 (books 1 and 2), but other rhythm pages would work fine as long as they are laid out similarly. It's nice that the EE book pages have a consistent four bars per line and progress from less to more difficult.
One other common piece of the rhythm games is the use of a metronome or some sort of background track--the drum loops in GarageBand can be particularly effective if you choose loops that emphasize the subdivision of the rhythms you are working on.
There are two or three teams--usually I use instrument families (woodwinds/brass) or sections. On each team's turn, students take turns playing one measure at a time in sequence. The goal is to play the longest stretch of measures without any mistakes. Once a student makes an error (wrong rhythm, rushing/dragging, etc.), their team's turn is over, and they earn one point per correctly played measure.
Variations: students play more than one note per measure of rhythm, or each student plays the next note stepping up a scale.
For this game, I give the students a range of measure numbers to look at (as much as a whole page). I perform a measure (usually twice) and the students write down the measure number on a piece of paper. I sometimes do this game in teams (or with partners) to help weaker students. After every five rhythms, I stop and have students check their work.
Variations: To make the game more challenging, I'll improvise a melody rather than playing a single pitch for the measure.
Invented on the last day of school this past year, Rhythm Tic-Tac-Toe could also be called Rhythm Bingo or Rhythm Connect Four. You need two teams that are roughly equal in musical ability.
Draw a 4x4 grid on the board and label each row with measure numbers corresponding to a section of the rhythm sheet (i.e., pick four lines from the sheet). Teams take turns with one student at a time selecting and playing a measure from the board. If they play it correctly, mark the square for that team. The team that gets four in a row first wins.
Variations: Play until the whole board is complete. Make students play more than one note for each measure. Increase the tempo on the metronome.