When teaching to read traditional music notation, We highly recommend separating the elements. Pitch can be taught separately from rhythm. By teaching rhythm using stick notation, our students can focus on a single element without overwhelm.
Stick notation is taking traditional notes and removing the note-head.
The note-head is the round dot at the bottom of the stick. The dot is placed on the 5 lines of the staff and depending on where it is, tells us which pitch to play. By removing the note-head, we focus only on the rhythm.
The use of hand movements, words and sounds enable us to get the music in our body, mind, eye and ear. Multiple modes of experience!
By using fun fruit names like Lime, Mango, Pineapple and Huckleberry, we can learn to count rhythms with ease - and taste! Delicious!
The finger signs add another mode of learning to accommodate more learning styles: aural, visual, kinesthetic. Next we'll have a party with limes and mangos to eat along with our rhythms!
Here's a video I made with the help of 5 year old students Ella and Govind.
Note, I adapted some of these ideas from the book Music Mind Games.