Preschool Music: Quarter Rest Means Don't Make a Sound!


 3 yr old moving to the beat in music class

This week our music classes were filled with lively dancing moves alternating with quiet-as-a-mouse stillness. I have found that this sort of activity is a big favorite with Preschool aged children. We had fun connecting the concept of the musical "rest" to the "freeze" part of the Freeze Dance! Read more about the symbol of the quarter rest & quarter note in my post at this link: Montessori Sandpaper Music Notation Cards 

Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

The popular "Freeze Dance" Games that are familiar to early childhood settings are a favorite for a very good reason. That activity fulfills the development needs of young children to practice these important skills:

  • Listening
  • Concentration
  • Coordination
  • Having Fun!
There are many "Freeze Dance" recordings that are great fun for young children. My choice for this week was from Hap Palmer, a well-known (and well-loved!) standard in high quality children's music & music education. Our selection was "Rock & Roll Freeze Dance" from his cd, "So Big".  (Available on Amazon and at iTunes)

This music is so contagious everyone was up and dancing!

Everyone up & dancing in music class!
Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius from Carolyn"s Archive

Then there's the really fun part...the music randomly stops and everyone freezes!
The music is so fun that at first, there are a few children who don't freeze right away when the music suddenly stops. However, everyone catches on very quickly. Before long, even the youngest children are stopping in the middle of their cutest dance moves. This takes very attentive, concentrated listening and then immediate control of the muscles to STOP! (That's coordination in a very fun way!)

After such a great "Freeze Dance", the children have now had a concrete experience with the idea of not making any sounds or moves and this can easily be related to the concept of "the rest" in music.

My students have had lots of experience with "resting our instruments" at the beginning of a music activity. Out of consideration for the children who don't yet have their instruments, each child "rests" his/her instrument while the teachers are passing them out to the group.

"Resting" our instruments while waiting for everyone to get theirs
Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius from Carolyn's archives

To introduce the concept of the musical "rest" to the children, I like to start with rhythm sticks. These can be purchased at this link: West Music Basic Beats Rhythm Sticks 

There are so many ways to play rhythm sticks!

3 yr old "drumming" with rhythm sticks
Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius from Carolyn's archives

3 yr old tapping rhythm sticks end-to-end
Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius from Carolyn's archives

Tapping rhythm sticks together and tapping them on the floor
Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius from Carolyn's archives

After the children explore playing these, I show them how to not play during a "rest" in the music. (Ex: "Hot-Cross-Buns-rest ")

Group "resting" their rhythm sticks during the song "Hot Cross Buns"
Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius Photography

The "rest" in music class, means NOT playing!
Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius from Carolyn's archives

Not only is it great practice to sing songs & play rhythm sticks,'s really great practice to incorporate the "not playing" part of music that we call the musical "rest"!

By the end of our lesson, all the children had lots of practice with "not playing" when there was a "rest" in the music. They got pretty good at playing a nice beat to our songs and then not playing at all when there was a rest. A simple rhythm pattern that works well with the quarter rest in music is: 
"Ta-ta-ta-rest " 
I'm so glad you are visiting my sight. I would love to hear your ideas...just leave a comment below!

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Artfully Montessori: Here is a Rationale You Can Really Use!


                                                    All photos are from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Amy is a recent AMS graduate from the Montessori Institute of Advanced Studies in Northern California and she has come up with plenty of reasons for including lots of Art in the Preschool Classroom.

I've had the pleasure of teaching (and learning from) Amy as one of her Instructors in this wonderful Montessori training program. Her paper is presented here for us early childhood educators to have some handy reasons for the importance of art in the Preschool classroom.

From Amy Mo:
"Every culture has some form of art, and it is what we do beyond the basic activities of surviving.

Art has many forms and purposes, and in the Montessori classroom, it is a way for children to experiment with materials, a way to be creative, and a way to express themselves.  Montessori believed that all children naturally want to express themselves, and they will do so either through speech, body language, drawing, or writing." 

"The instinct for self-expression looks for a means to manifest itself; and this may be in at least one of two different ways. One of these is through writing, which is used to express ideas; and the other is through representative art." (The Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori p 283, Chap 20)

Amy goes on to say:
"But children have to develop their abilities to express themselves.  They have to learn to speak a language if they want to express themselves vocally.  They have to learn how to hold a pencil and control their fine motor movements in order to write.  And in order to draw, they have to have the same motor control as in writing when making lines and coloring.  Therefore Montessori approached art and drawing in the same manner as other tasks that the child must master.  She broke it down to the individual component skills, and then she created activities that allowed the child to practice and master each."

"We might note in conclusion that the best way to teach drawing is not to leave a child completely free, but to provide the means for its natural development by training the hand." (The Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori p 284)
Amy continues:
"Montessori has many activities that train the hand in the practical life curriculum, and with the metal insets as part of the language arts curriculum, children have a way to work on drawing lines and coloring/shading. 

Today in the Montessori classroom, there are many other mediums in which children can express themselves through art.  They can tear or cut paper and glue them to make a collage.  They can use a variety of mediums like watercolors, crayons, charcoal, pastels, acrylic paints, tissue paper, stamps, etc.  They can also combine these mediums.  But the important part is making sure to decompose each activity into the basic skills needed and teach each skill step by step, so children can be successful while learning, experimenting, and expressing themselves with these materials."

"When a child gives up the effort to express himself with his hand, he hampers the free development of drawing. To avoid this loss, we should enrich his environment with means of expression and indirectly prepare his hand to carry out its functions in the best possible manner." (The Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori p 284, Chap 20)

Amy concludes:
"Just like the Practical Life work, art activities are not only for children to express themselves, but they are also set up to entice the child to work on an activity with the objective of cultivating concentration, order, independence, and coordination.  There is no better rationale than that for having art in the classroom!"

Thank you very much, Amy, for allowing me to share your writings in this post. And, thanks again to all of you readers out there for visiting my site. 

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And, thank you again for visiting my site. I hope you have gotten some information that is useful and gives you more tools for successful teaching!

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Montessori Outdoor Classroom: Look What We Did With A Clay Pot!

DO YOU LOVE CLAY POTS AS MUCH AS I DO? Take your love of clay pots to the Outdoor Classroom! 

You can begin with scrubbing clay pots which is a very satisfying activity, especially if your clay pots used to have plants in them and now there are residues of dirt and roots.

So, in "Montessori-land" this is a Practical Life activity and it involves so many skills! All the way from large motor (carrying the water and filling the wash tub) to fine motor (scrubbing the tight crevices of the pot with a small scrub brush). There is care of self (putting on the apron) and there is the point of interest (the joy of seeing the sparkling clean pot shining in the sun!) And so much more...

Learn more about the importance of Practical Life activities at this link: Montessori Practical Life information from Montessori

Then, there's the intriguing activity of "grading" clay pots according to size so that the variety of plants or seeds (we like planting bulbs in these pots) will have the correct size pot. Grading is a classic Montessori Sensorial Activity and this provides children with some pre-math skills development. Measuring & comparing are "Pre-Geometry!"

You can learn more about the importance of Sensorial Activities in the Montessori environment at this link:

After the clay pots have been scrubbed, ordered according to size, and then matched up with the correct size flower bulb, then the children can decorate the pots to ready them for planting the bulbs.

Painting clay pots is another very satisfying activity, since the clay takes the paint very well. You can add glue (or egg!) to children's tempera paints to get a more durable and shiny finish. Or, you can give the children acrylic paints that will be vibrant and adhere well to the clay surface. With younger children markers and bingo dot markers work well, too. Keep in mind these materials may not be weatherproof and so the children might have to touch up their painted clay pots in the near future.

I think it's easy to see the benefits of this Art Activity with clay pots. When using a paint brush, the children are not  only exercising the important muscles of the hand that benefit the child's emerging writing abilities, they are refining yet more of the fine motor skills necessary for doing just about any handicraft. Not to mention the creative and aesthetic sensibilities that are being awakened in the child through the art experience.  

Of course the point of clay pots is to plant things in them! Just about anything looks good when planted in a child-painted clay pot. Now here comes the Study of Botany, since the children will be curious about the names of the plants they are planting.  They will need to learn about the care & feeding of their little plantings as well. 
I personally love planting flower bulbs in clay pots since the children have great fun digging deep into the soil in their pots. (children & dirt go together!) Also, the child has to take care to plant the bulb with the root side pointing downwards (even more botanical information for the child to learn in a concrete manner!) 

Exploring clay pots can bring endless hours of learning through play. The 4 yr old girl in this photo discovered a fun way to view the world...through the hole at the bottom of a clay pot!

This post is part of Montessori Monday's link up, where you can read lots more posts about Autumn activities for the Montessori environment. Click here: Living Montessori Now: Montessori Monday!

Thanks for reading this post and I hope you gathered some fun ideas and a new appreciation of the clay pot! Please leave a comment or two in the comment section just below. I'd love to hear from you and enjoy your sharing of ideas, too!

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Our Homeschool: Fond (and-not-so-fond) Memories!


All photos are from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

In 1983, our family moved to a beautiful (actually very beautiful!), little farm nestled in the mountains of North Carolina, just outside Smoky Mountain National Park. We were all so happy! 

We had 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 goats, 4 geese, a dozen chickens, a magnificent blue & gold pet macaw, a big red barn, mountains in our back yard, and a babbling stream in the front! 

What we didn't have was a good school for our 3 elementary-aged children. Just months earlier, the local elementary school had made national headlines for an incident in which the principal paddled every child on the school bus for misbehavior: from the 6th graders all the way down to the Kindergarteners! At that time corporal punishment was legal in NC, and so the principal was within his rights.
So we homeschooled.

In those days, homeschool fell into a grey area of the North Carolina law. The only legal way to homeschool was to set up a private school (which we did!) and even that kind of set-up required that you have at least one child enrolled who wasn't part of the family household (which we did!)
However, we still got in trouble with the law! 

That same local school principal reported us to the truant officer, and one Saturday evening the sheriff came knocking at our door and told my husband and I that we were under arrest for truancy!

We were doing all that we could to "legally" homeschool during those days, but we still ended up having to retain a lawyer and yes!...the sheriff did take my husband down to the station to sign a paper saying we wouldn't leave the county until after we appeared in court.

Our lawyer arranged for us to continue our homeschool as soon as he showed the court the evidence of our private school. Even so, there were court battles going on throughout the state during those years and homeschooling was a top debate.

Nowadays, the legalities of homeschooling are not in such a grey area anymore. That's a good thing!

For us, in the 1980's,  Growing Without Schooling (click link for more info) was our go-to place for all homeschooling resources, including curriculum and legal references. Growing Without Schooling was the newsletter produced by John Holt, who has been one of my heroes since my college days. I read his first book, How Children Fail, in 1969 and I was hooked! John was a conscientious educator searching for effective teaching methods and then he came out with his next book, How Children Learn, considered a classic in child development/education studies. Over several decades, John critically examined the art of teaching and wrote many great books. He finally came to the conclusion that children might be being damaged by the way schools teach and he wrote Teach Your Own in 1981. This book about homeschooling had an enormous impact on the homeschool movement and still does! John Holt wrote often about the Montessori method and was a strong advocate of Dr. Montessori's ideas, especially her teaching concept of "control of error" and the brilliant "Montessori Erdkinder" for adolescents. (Just click on the links to find out more about the Montessori terms mentioned above.)

Here is a link to a helpful organization that has been around since the early days of Homeschooling: Home School Legal Defense. They have information on the legalities of homeschooling in every state.

I know this post has been a departure from my usual topics, but I just felt like writing about homeschooling since it was the most wonderful time of our family life ever! Fond memories.

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Montessori-Style "Sandpaper Music Notes" and Fun Extensions!


And, having fun with learning music notation can certainly have a long-lasting and very positive effect on our little "Future Musicians"!  

It's just one of those important things in music education, so why not make its introduction playful and appropriate for the little children!

We Montessori teachers are forever looking for effective ways to present concepts to children that begin as a concrete experience, so that later moving into the more abstract understanding of that concept will come effortlessly to the child.

Okay, so playing simple pitched & unpitched rhythm instruments gives children a very sensorial and concrete experience: You shake the maraca and it makes a sound! Music!

However, music notation is a very abstract representation of making music, just like letters & words on a page are abstract representations of real things. 

The Montessori classroom is filled with concrete, real learning materials that children can touch, feel, hear, manipulate, see...and even smell & taste! One of the most famous of these are the "sand paper letters", invented by Dr. Montessori in the early 20th century. You can read more about sandpaper letters here: Wikisori Sandpaper Letters

 A few years ago, I made "sandpaper music notes" for the children in my Montessori Preschool classroom. These were a big hit with the children, since these little Montessorians knew just what to do with them!

Carolyn's quarter rest "sandpaper music note" with sand tray for tracing.

Here, you can see how the quarter rest is traced in the sand tray after the child has traced the quarter rest "sandpaper music note."

I made my "sandpaper music notes" from squares of smooth wood mounted with the music notes cut out of boat decking with a heavy adhesive backing. (materials from Home Depot)  So, they are not actually "sandpaper notes", but rather "textured notes"...however, the children still love using them!

"Quarter rest sandpaper music note" made from adhesive-backed boat decking.

"Textured Quarter Note" for children to trace with their writing fingers.

In this week's Preschool music classes, I introduced the "textured quarter note" and the "textured double eighth notes" because we have been counting out the rhythm "Ti-ti-ta" for months now! The children were delighted to see that "Ti-ti-ta" can be written in music note form and then read!

The Montessori method of introducing a concept with the 3-Period Lesson is an old stand-by for me, and so I presented these music notes that way. When I showed the quarter note, I gave them the name ("quarter note") and then I told the children that we call this note "Ta" in our rhythm echo games that we do at the beginning of each class. I did the same with the double eighth notes, telling them we call these "2 eighth notes" and in our rhythms we say: "Ti-ti". Click  this post link  for more on "ti-ti" and "ta": Freeze Dance with a "Ti-ti-ta" twist!

And, here's a link where you can read more about the Montessori 3-period lesson technique: Three period lesson from Montessori Services site

After the children passed around the "textured music notes" and each got to feel & trace the notes, we played this fun circle game: 
All the children closed their eyes, then I showed them the double eighth music notes and asked, "Is this "ta" or is this "ti-ti"? 
This game went on for a good while, as the children really love it! 

There is also a lovely extension for the "textured music notes" that I think your group will enjoy.


After the children have had lots of experience tracing the textured music notes, they enjoy making their own notes to take home! First, the child "writes" the music note using a glue stick on a square of colored paper. Then, the paper is placed  glue-side down into a tray of glitter. When the paper is lifted from the glitter tray, the glitter adheres to the glue "writing" and there is a beautiful music note!

Just plain fun! Hope you enjoyed this post and feel free to leave a comment or two below. I'd love to hear your ideas!

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