What We Did In The Montessori Music Room: High & Low With Funny Sounds And The High & Low Challenge!


Recently, our Montessori Music classes have been filled with activities about distinguishing between High and Low with an emphasis on HAVING FUN!

We always begin our classes with warm-ups for the hands, the voice & the whole body, and these have been focused on "high and low" in fun ways. You can learn more about my warm ups and view a little video at my past post: Musically Montessori #6 A Sequential Curriculum for Everyday Music with Young Children.

The children really enjoy practicing the sound, "mi" in their high voices. Then, we make the sound, "moo" in a low voice and I always find it very interesting how closely the children match my pitch! I sometimes use the kids warm up version of Bob Marley's One Love from a fantastic cd by the renowned vocal coach Susan Anders. Here's the link: One Love Introduction.

Another warm up song from Susan's cd that the children really love is The Lion Sleeps Tonight (that song from the 1960's that is now part of the Lion King story). You can find this song through the link above.

This week, I chose most of the lesson activities from my favorite music curriculum, Music Room from the Australian company called Bushfire Press. Here's their link: Music Room Book One.


I don't know how long this fantastic deal will last, but I downloaded it last week and it's a must! There are 21 song & musical activities (mp3 music format), four lesson plans, and even some visuals you can print off to use with your children! The 2 lessons on High & Low are the basis of the fun activities I have been offering to the children during the past few weeks of music classes in the Montessori Preschools where I teach. Here's the link for this wonderful resource:eMusic Room Book 1a.


You can be one of the first to get in on the first in this training series that I know will be very helpful and fun for classroom teachers & music specialists,  as well as parents and caregivers of young children. 

I will have little INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEOS to give you VIRTUAL HANDS ON EXPERIENCE  with the lessons from the eMusic Room curriculum and there will be LOTS OF EXTRAS LIKE: 

  • music class management strategies that work
  • ideas for Montessori-style extensions & embellishments,
  • engaging techniques from my many years of experience and my Orff-Schulwerk training
  • and much more!

You can sign up for my email subscription list and you'll receive my updates straight to your inbox!  Subscribe for updates at this link:Magical Movement Company Subscribe for Updates. 

A favorite activity for the children has been the "High & Low Listening Game." The children prepared their ears for focused listening by rubbing them gently around the edges to sensitize the ears for listening. Then, I turned on the Music Room cd and we heard some sounds (human voices) that were either high, or low. The children put their hands up in the air if the sound was a high sound and they put their hands on the floor if it was a low sound. 

The first sound was a baby's voice making sounds of delight in a very high pitch. This was quite entertaining for the children, since they recognized it was a baby right away and these little ones are just getting out of babyhood themselves! 

The next sound was the sound of a man snoring! It was hilarious and the children were surprised and laughing throughout! This was definitely a low sound!

The game got more and more interesting with the sounds getting funnier as the game progressed! The children were full of laughter and from my observation, I saw that some of the younger ones were still a little unsure of whether the sounds were high or low, so this funny game was also an important exercise in distinguishing the pitch of familiar sounds (the human voice!).

Next, we had a great time singing the song from Lesson 3 of this  eMusic Room unit called "High & Low Challenge". I brought my Xylophone to class and played either a high note or a low note on this wonderful Orff tuned percussion instrument. The words to the song go like this:
Hey-ho! Off we go.

Am I high or am I low?

So, when I played a high note on the Xylophone, the children once again raised their hands up in the air and when I played a low note they placed their hands down on the floor. By the end of the activity, the children were singing the catchy little tune perfectly!

In the Kindergarten & First Grade classrooms, we passed the Xylophone around the circle and each child played either a high note or a low note while the rest of us sang the song. Then the children put their hands up high or down low depending on what they heard.

Whenever I introduce the Xylophone to a group of children, I point out that the way we know it is a Xylophone is because the bars are made of wood. I show them the bars and give them that vocabulary, then I ask, "Are these bars made of metal or of wood?"

For the younger groups, I took the Xylophone around for each child to play a little something. I reinforced when the child played a high note or a low note by singing "High...low" according to what was played. In the photo below, you'll see the classic Orff Xylophone (designed from the original Orff-Schulwerk method developed by the composer Carl Orff in the early 1900's.) You can learn more about Orff-Schulwerk at my website. Here is that link: Classes & Workshops .

And you can see a video explaining the Orff-Sculwerk method of music education at this link: Videos. 

Beautiful Orff style Xylophones for children are available on Amazon at this link: Studio 49 Xylophone at Amazon. and more on this page:Xylophones on Amazon. 

Before passing the Xylophone around to each child, I showed them the mallets that are used to play the instrument. First, the children repeated the name, "mallet", then I asked them to pretend they were holding the mallets one in each hand. Then I showed them how to pretend to hold the mallets like they were the handlebars of a bicycle and I asked the children to keep their elbows lifted and their wrists strong but loose.

Every single child (more than 750 throughout the week!) played with such care and made beautiful sounds come out of the Xylophone. I was amazed at how many of these little ones actually played a low note, then a high note with intention and grace. And, what big smiles were on their faces!

At the end of every music lesson, I always give each child a stamp on the hand to end the class. The rubber stamp this week was a rendition of a Xylophone and the children were pretty excited! I told them the picture on the stamp was one of the kind of Xylophone that you would see played in the Orchestra. It is much bigger than the one we played and has more bars, is longer and is up on a stand so that you would play it while standing up.

Below is a photo of what the Xylophone of the Orchestra looks like. I have several posts you might enjoy that tell more about the history of the Xylophone and also a youtube video of one of the greatest xylophonists, Teddy Brown. Here's that link: What About Music? Xylophones & Giraffes!

And this post has one of my quirky little videos showing my version of the Music Room "High & Low Challenge Game":

I have seen traditional Xylophones (wooden bars, not metal) for children at both Lakeshore Teacher Supplies and also at Montessori Services. These are entirely appropriate for using in the above activities that I described, and if you have the Montessori Bells in your environment, you can easily substitute them for the Xylophone! I have often used the lovely Montessori Brass bells for lessons with the "High & Low" games and later the children can manipulate these bells on their own as an individualized activity at work time.

For some added fun, I played my slide whistle for the children! Once again, the children raised their hands up high when the slide whistle went up to the high pitch. Then the children placed their hands on the floor when the slide whistle went down to the low pitch. The really fun part for the children is when I "try to trick them"... (Ex: by playing the slide whistle in a random pattern, like high/ low/ high/ low/ low...high/ low/ high / high!) Lots of giggles!

Yes, You can even find slide whistles at Amazon! Here's that link: Slide Whistles at

It is surprising how many young children don't quite understand and distinguish the high sounds and the low sounds in music! Sometimes, I think they may simply be struggling with the music vocabulary (high vs low). Whatever the reason, offering fun activities with "High & Low games" strengthens auditory discrimination skills and helps train the ear for singing (and playing) in tune. Very important for a child's development in both music and the joys of a full life!

When we end our music classes we sing a good bye song. There is some echo singing in this song and so I have fun singing in my high voice for the children to echo with their high voices. Then, I sing in my low voice for that fun low echo from the children! Just more reinforcement of the concepts of high and low in music a fun way! You can easily do this with any of the songs your children like to sing: the more familiar the song, the better!

I am so happy to have you visiting my Blog and I hope you have lots of fun with high and low games in your music circles with your group. I love to hear you ideas, so please feel free to leave a comment in the section below!

Advertising Disclosure: Magical Movement Company may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website. Thanks for your support!

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Montessori Arts: Celebrating the Asian Season of the Harvest Moon with Children & Families!

This is the time of year when our Holiday Season becomes important, and the Chinese Moon Festival & the Japanese Floating Lantern Ceremony are both wonderful seasonal cultural explorations for young children in the Montessori environment.

Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

San Francisco's Chinatown is a-buzz with the second most important celebration of the year: the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival! Moon cakes are everywhere and very important to the celebrations during this season. 

There are many versions of the story  but my favorite legend goes like this. 
A young girl named Chang-o was sent down from the heavens by the Jade Emperor to do valuable service in the land of the mortals. This is where she met Houyi, the young archer, and they became good friends. A very strange thing happened one day. Suddenly ten suns appeared in the sky and after a few days the land was parched and the people were dying of thirst. Houyi had the idea to shoot the suns out of the sky using his bow and arrow to save the earth. And he did! He reserved one sun for the earth and then everything was restored to a state of well-being. Houyi was revered by all, and eventually he and Chang-o were married. Houyi was offered an elixir to become immortal, but he didn't want to leave his beloved Chang-o. However, Chang-o drank the elixir so that she could return to her home in the heavens. And she did! Houyi was so sad to lose Chang-o, that he prepared her favorite sweet cakes and offered them at the full moon in remembrance of his beloved wife. Houyi eventually ascended and took his place in the sun and so there is the yin and yang of our solar system. 

Over the centuries, the Chinese people have grown to revere Chang-o as the moon goddess and "moon cakes" are prepared in her honor during the brightest full moon of the year, the harvest moon of late September. In some traditions, Chinese women prepare 13 moon cakes to symbolize the cycle of the year and to honor growth & good health in all areas of life for the upcoming year. 

The first time I attended this beautiful festival, I was enamored by all the music and dancing that was happening all along Grant Street in downtown San Francisco. I was particularly taken by a group of young people who were playing traditional style Chinese music with an array of both ancient and modern instruments. That was fifteen years ago and this group is still playing in the Bay Area with many innovative techniques, yet the traditional Chinese sound. Here's a youtube video of their wonderful performance at the S.F. Lotus Festival a few years ago. You can learn more about their music at their website: Melody of China.

I have told the story of Chang-o and the Mooncake Festival to older Preschoolers and they are fascinated! We have often acted the story out with silky scarves, little Chinese drums, triangles, cymbals, and even chopsticks tapped together like rhythm sticks! 

The children love to have a little Moon Festival of their own with moon cakes, warm tea, and lots of dancing to Chinese music from the cd, Melody of China. Usually, moon cakes are available during this time of year at Asian markets, but if you can't find them, you can use round rice cakes instead. 

Often, the Chinese Moon Festival is celebrated at night when the full moon comes out, and families traditionally walk in the night with lanterns to gather together for the festivities.

My Montessori Preschool group has often enjoyed making colorful paper "lanterns"  to hang around the room for our classroom Moon Festival. We have also created "moons" out of crescent-shaped and also big round-shaped paper to hang around the room. It's great fun to decorate these with silver glitter or aluminum foil!

I like the following book for the story of Chang-o. There are beautiful illustrations and the story is authentic. It's not exactly a preschool picture book, but quite informational for the teacher and fun for children to look through in the classroom book corner.

   Legend of the Moon Maiden
This book is available from Amazon at this link:Legend of the Moon Maiden at Amazon Books 

The following book is a lovely and very appropriate picture book from Grace Lin that I love sharing with the children during this time of the year.

Thanking the Moon
This book is available from Amazon at this link: Thanking the Moon at Amazon Books

Another exquisite celebration that is lovely to participate in is the Japanese Floating Lantern Ceremony. This happens at the end of the "Obon" season in Japan, during late summer and early Autumn. My grandchildren are Japanese-American and we have been fortunate to attend the fantastic Floating Lantern Ceremony on the North Shore of O'Ahu in the Hawaiian Islands. Our favorite Buddhist temple on the North Shore is located near one of the most beautiful Floating Lantern Ceremonies that happens in Hawaii during the late summer.

Photos by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

The participants in this festival order (beforehand) beautiful lanterns made of rice paper that are imprinted with their deceased loved ones' names. When the moon comes up, everyone lights the small candle inside their lantern and carries it down to the sea to launch it! This symbolizes the cycle of life and releases the spirits of the loved ones in peace and love.

We started the evening, by arriving at the beach location in the late afternoon so we could enjoy the last light of the day frolicking in the waves.   

Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

As the evening arrives, people begin gathering for the singing, dancing and feasting that happens at the nearby temple. 

Bon Dance in Hawaii during Obon season. Photo from Hawaii

Everyone is warmly invited to dance the "Bon Dance" and all ages are seen dancing around in the circle to the lively Japanese music being played. When the full moon begins to rise, all gather their lanterns for the short walk to the shore to send them out to sea.

Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

This traditional Japanese floating lantern ceremony was recently repurposed as the Shinnyo Lantern Floating Ceremony for World Peace to celebrate the International Day of Peace and the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. The lanterns were floated in the pool at Lincoln Center in New York City. 
Here's the link for more information and a video about this important event that took place on September 20th, 2015 Be A Light For

Floating Lanterns at the Paul Milstein Reflecting Pool at Hearst Plaza, Lincoln Center
Photo by Christina von Messing for Shinnyo-en

Children in a Montessori classroom often have a "peace table"  and this little floating lantern ceremony to honor world peace could be incorporated into the activities in the classroom that center around the peace curriculum. In the past, I have created little "memory papers" for children as a sort of individualized floating lantern activity. You can get rice paper at the art store and I have cut sheets in half so that each child has a small piece of rice paper. (Parchment paper is a good substitute as well) Then, each child draws or writes something about a loved one who has passed away. These loved ones are often grandparents or even beloved pets that the children have lost in their lives. 

Next, you can set up a bowl of water in which the child can float his/her "memory paper" and sing a little song or simply whisper the loved one's name as the rice paper floats. You can set up a small decorative metal container nearby for holding the damp "memory papers" after the child is done. There are lots of these containers in Autumn colors at Michaels and the Dollar Store at this time of year.  Later, the memory papers can be taken to the compost for completing the cycle. 

This little children's ceremony can be re-purposed to go along with the recent Floating Ceremony for World Peace by inviting the children to write or draw something about world peace. Some children have told me that world peace is being kind to the homeless people on the street. Others have talked about not wasting water so that everyone can have enough. It's amazing what these little ones come up with for activities that involve their ideas about world peace. One child told me that he wanted to grow flowers for world peace... just lovely little hearts these children have!

You could also substitute fresh flower petals to float in the water and the child can sing a song or talk about world peace while the flower petals float.

Floating Lantern Ceremony during the full moon on the 
North Shore in Hawaii (2011) 
Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

I honored to have this post listed as part of the Montessori Monday Link-up at Living Montessori Now. You can find lost more Montessori articles from bloggers all over the world posting there! Here's that link: Living Montessori Now Montessori Mondays Link Up.

Thank you very much for visiting my Blog and reading this article. I hope you have found as much joy in the cycle of the seasons as I have in sharing these ideas with you. I love your comments, so please feel free to leave one in the section below!

Advertising Disclosure: Magical Movement Company may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website. Thanks for your support!

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"Caps For Sale" Montessori Style Drama Activity & Much More!


All photos in this post are by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company unless otherwise indicated.

This is an enchanting story of a peddler who takes an afternoon nap under a tree and wakes to find his wares (caps!) have been confiscated by a bunch of monkeys. The monkeys are wearing his caps and having a wonderful time hanging from the branches of the tree, while the peddler is becoming quite frustrated with those funny monkeys who happen to copy everything he does!

This book is available at this link: Caps For Sale at Amazon Books

Children have loved this story for generations and it is truly one of the greats in developing reading skills in young children. The drama between the peddler and the monkeys has that hallmark repetitive chant that so captures children's keen skills for memorization.

The peddler's repetitive demand:
"You, monkeys, you...give me back my caps!"
And, the playful monkey's chanting back:
"Tz... Tz... Tz... Tz....!" 
All adds up to a very easy way for children to interact with the story by chiming in on these repeating phrases!

I found this adorable version of the story on youtube and it shows how fun this story is for acting out in a little dramatic performance.

As you can see from my photo at the beginning of this post, our Montessori Preschool classroom had lots of fun acting out this drama (year after after group!)

My collection of grey, brown, blue and red caps (and one checked cap) came from the thrift store. But, I have also asked parents to contribute caps and that is always fun for the families! 

Go thrifting and grab a copy of the book from the library or the Amazon bookstore and you've got a great unit for your classroom studies. 

Our children have performed this little story outside under an actual tree (Outdoor Classroom!) and also indoors with our giant classroom felt "tree" that the children decorated with handmade leaves. You can see more about this activity at my posts here: The Art of Leaves, A Montessori Childhood Favorite! and here:Outdoor Classroom: The Importance of Drama

For our little performance, we attached leaves of autumn colors that the children had constructed using the insets from the Montessori Botany cabinet. We even hung some leaves from the ceiling to add to the atmosphere of our little stage area for the story. The children got very "arty" with their creations for this darling backdrop. One year, they decided to color the leaves with beautiful water colors and those leaves were gorgeous! 

To extend the learning, the typical Montessori educator will be adding related activities to the various shelves in the classroom. Of course, you can set up an Art tray for the children to create the leaves for the tree backdrop. 

For another shelf work, I decided to create a challenging fine motor manipulative activity after I got this fabulous idea from Leslie, a colleague of mine, a few years ago. 

This "Caps for Sale Activity" was on our Language shelf, but it could easily be placed in the Math or Sensorial area of your classroom since it covers so many areas of skills development! I have included this book in Cultural Studies (Slobodkina was Russian and the story definitely has that European flavor!) and Art History (Ms Slobodkina was part of the American Abstract Artists group.) You can read more about the author at this link: Wikipedia.Esphyr Slobodkina.

The materials I gathered for this work are available at Amazon, but you could also make your activity with objects you may already have in your environment.

I started with a WOODEN "JEWELRY TREE" that I found on sale many years ago in the warehouse at the Lakeshore Outlet near my home. But, I did find something comparable on Amazon at a fairly reasonable price. 

Here's the link for this version of a tree for our story: Wooden Jewelry Tree from Amazon.

You could also make your "tree" by placing a large branched twig (from nature) in a sturdy pot filled with sand or dirt.

Here's another idea for a tree that is made of wire and may be a little easier to attach the monkeys to the branches. The wire might just poke little fingers, so caution is in order depending on the age and development of your children. 

Here's the link for the wire tree:Wire Jewelry Tree at Amazon.

Next, I found a PLAYMOBILE ACTION FIGURE in my pirate collection and set him up as the "peddler" for the work. He had a peg leg, but his mustache was what made him look like the peddler from the story and the kids really liked him! 

Here's the link for the pirate figures at Amazon: Play mobile Pirate Set:

The next thing you will need are some math manipulatives that nest on top of each other and fit the head of the play mobile character just like a hat! 

These are called STACKING COUNTERS and there are 500 of them in 10 different colors! You only need the four colors in the story, but these are very useful in lots of other counting and color matching activities. I made a "checked cap" by drawing checkered lines with a fine sharpie pen on one of the white counters. This was perfect for the peddlers own checked cap in the story. 

Stacking Counters are available at Amazon at this link: Math Manipulatives Stacking Counters.

The final thing you need for this work is a BARREL OF MONKEYS! 

They are also available from Amazon: Barrel of Monkeys at Amazon

This activity was wildly popular with the older children (4 yrs and up) because it was very challenging and very satisfying! First of all, stacking the hats on the peddler is a bit tricky, and then hanging the monkeys from the branches of the trees is even more tricky. But placing the hats in the hands of the monkeys is the biggest challenge of all! 

I always include a copy of the book on the tray with this work so that the child can refer to the actual story as they create the little scene with these fun manipulatives. 

Of course, we can't have a unit on "Caps For Sale" without the song, "Monkey See, Monkey Do!" There are many versions of this song, but my favorite is the one from Kindermusik International. Here's that link at the iTunes store: Monkey See, Monkey Do Children's Song.

This is a delightful song that can be introduced at music circle as a really fun movement activity. Later, you can include the song in your little drama presentation. The children can sing the song while the peddler waves his finger, stamps his feet, and throws down his hat! 

After all, that is the idea behind Slobodkina's story to begin with, isn't it?!

Thanks for visiting my blog and I certainly hope that you enjoyed this post as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you! I love to hear you ideas, so please don't hesitate to leave a comment if you like.

Advertising Disclosure: Magical Movement Company may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website. Thanks for your support!
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The Art of Leaves: A Montessori Childhood Favorite!


Public domain photo of "Leaves" cutout by Henri Matisse

Matisse is always an inspiration for me and so I love to display some of his cutouts for the children to be inspired, too! The one pictured above is a fun exploration of leaf cutouts and yes! it inspired the children to trace and cut out leaves to place on our giant felt "tree" in our Montessori classroom.

The Montessori Botany cabinet is a classic puzzle activity that also gives children the opportunity to scientifically identify, categorize, pin-poke, cut out, color, paint, and even create books of leaf shapes!
Photo of Montessori Leaf cabinet from Alison Montessori

You can learn more about the classic Montessori lessons with the Botany/ Leaf Cabinet by clicking this link:Leaf Cabinet at Wikisori. 

You might also like my recent post about my experience with drawing Japanese Basil by using the obovate inset from this cabinet. Here's the link to that post:Artfully Outdoorsy Montessori: Realistic leaf drawing from the Botany Cabinet. 

The 4 yr old pictured here, decided to make his own leaf shapes and they were very intricate! After he finished drawing & cutting them out, he took them to the giant "tree" and attached them to some of the "branches."

We made our giant tree by first covering a large wooden frame with felt cloth and stapling the felt to the frame. Then the children painted various shades of brown on large sheets of art paper (the kind that comes in rolls from the art store). 

After the paint dried, we cut out the roots, trunk and branches of the "tree." I attached these to the felt construction with a staple gun. Finally, we hung the creation securely on the wall and the children decorated the tree throughout the seasons of the year. 

We kept a small step stool and a basket of tacks nearby so that the children could hang their own leaves on the tree wherever they liked!


For the everyday arts of Practical Life in the Montessori classroom, there are little cleaning baskets available for the children to dust & even wash the leaves of the plants in the classroom. Some of these house plants are actually trees!

You really can't observe the changes in the leaves at this time of year without bringing up the categories of trees whose leaves change color and fall off (deciduous) and trees who keep their green leaves all year (evergreen).

I made a simple chart with the headings: Deciduous & Evergreen. Then, I collected various miniature models of trees, artificial silk leaves, acorns, etc. (lots of these can be found at Michael's Craft Stores) and set these up in a basket for the children to categorize.

The next extension for this categorizing activity is a rubber stamp activity with 6 stamps, three that represent deciduous trees and three that represent evergreen trees. (the rubber stamps were from Michael's, too) 

There are also lovely puzzles available that show the deciduous tree first with its leaves intact, and then after removing the top puzzle layer, the child discovers the bare branches underneath!

Seasonally, I like to change the table cloth selections at the snack table, and the children have a lot of fun deciding which Autumn pattern cloth they want to set up on the table for the day. You can also change the selection of artificial flowers that the children place in the vase in the middle of the table. It's nice to add some fall colored flowers and twigs!

One year, a family in my program brought me this lovely creation that they had made with handmade glittery paper and a silk Autumn leaf. I still have it and that was 22 years ago!

We absolutely can not forget RAKING LEAVES...great fun with a child-size rake!

I was inspired to write this post because I wanted to link up with this wonderful link up extravaganza of Montessori Autumn leaf articles at this lovely website:Natural Beach Living: Awesome Fall Leaf Activities. There are over 100 posts from Montessori bloggers all over the world! 

I hope you enjoy exploring Autumn leaves with your little ones. Please feel free to leave a comment below. I love hearing your ideas! 

Advertising Disclosure: Magical Movement Company may be compensated in exchange for featured placement of certain sponsored products and services, or your clicking on links posted on this website. Thanks for your support!
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