Musically Montessori:#5 Focused Listening And The Classic "Silence Game"!

Her story of discovering how much children enjoyed the challenge of making their bodies very still & quiet is another testament to the genius of Montessori! You can read an account of Dr. Montessori's spontaneous discovery of the "Silence Game" at my post here: Musically Montessori #4: Listening Games Galore!

***©Carolyn Lucento 2015. You are warmly welcome to use any of the ideas I have posted here, however, the content & photos are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without my permission.

This is the fifth article in my series: "Musically Montessori, A Sequential Curriculum for Everyday Music." You can read the previous articles here.

LESSON TITLE: “The Silence Game”

  • Concentration
  • Body Coordination
  • Auditory Discrimination
  • Understanding how to sit very still & listen  
  • Open space for group activities

1. PREPARE: I usually plan to introduce this activity a few weeks/months into the school year after the children have had some experience with more active listening games. (see the lessons from Musical Montessori #4 here)

2. EXPLANATION: The idea is that everyone sits on the floor or in chairs with both feet touching the floor and makes their body very still and quiet. Remain in this quiet (“Silence”) for a minute or so.

3. MODEL: I like to model to the children how to sit with their backbones straight, either in “lotus” position (from Yoga) or in their little chairs with both feet flat on the floor. I show them how to (1) lower, and (2) close their eyes for better concentration while keeping the silence. I also show them how to (1) fold hands in the lap, and (2) rest hands on the knees. 

4. SAY: “Let’s get our bodies ready for an activity called ‘The Silence Game’.  In this game, we practice being very still and quiet…not making a sound. Then, we will all be in the Silence! Do you think you can make your body get very still and quiet? Not make any sound? It takes strong muscles to control your body that way!”

5. REQUEST: Then, I ask that the children sit around in a circle formation and get ready to become very still…not moving and not speaking!

6. SHOW: I show the children how to wiggle around a bit to
               get into a comfortable sitting position, then
               straighten the back and lengthen the neck.  

                  Then I say, “Next, we’ll put our hands in our 
                  laps or on our knees whichever you choose.” 
                  (Here is when I place my hands in the position I 

                  Then I say, “Now, let’s lower or close our
                  eyes. You can choose.”

                  I take a long quiet inhale to center myself. (The
                  children usually hear this and follow suit)

                  I continue by saying in a quiet voice: “I am 
                  going to count to 3 and when I get to 3, we
                  will all go into the Silence.”

                  I proceed to count to 3 slowly and quietly.

                  Maintain the Silence for as long as you feel is
                  appropriate for the children at the level they
                  are at. I usually start out with just about half a
                  minute! I listen for signs of the children
                  becoming restless and I begin going out of the 
                          Silence before they really start wiggling and
                  making noise.

                  I say in a medium voice: “I am going to count
                  backwards from 3 down to 1. When I get to 1
                  we will come out of the Silence."

                  Then, I count 3-2-1 in a calm and neutral
                  manner and open my eyes to smile at all the
7. INVITE: (THIS MAY BE DONE NOW OR AT ANOTHER CIRCLE A FEW DAYS LATER) After we have all come out of the Silence, I say, “You all were so still and quiet! Now I am going to the corner of the classroom and whisper each person's name to come over and stand quietly beside me. Do you think you all can keep the silence again while I do that?" 

8. SHELF WORK: I have not always set up a shelf work for the Silence Game, however, you could easily do this. Create and laminate a card that is placed in a basket on the music/movement shelf that has the word “Silence” printed on it. The child can then choose the basket from the shelf and take it to a place in the environment where it is nice to sit and practice the Silence.

Child Size Tibetan Singing Bowl

 ~  Light a candle to begin the Silence Game. The children might want to watch the flame during the Silence.  
 ~  Strike a sweet sounding bell (Ex: Montessori Brass Bell or a Tibetan Prayer Bowl) to begin the Silence Game.
 ~ Set up a table for a stationary work where the child can practice the Silence Game. The Table can have beautiful objects from nature, a small battery operated candle, a special & beautiful rug or cloth to set up for the game, a soft bell or prayer bowl, a little “silent” timer (the kind with sand inside) or any number of other “prompts” for creating an atmosphere for the game. 
 ~ Set up a Silence Game basket for the shelf with a beautiful, small rug and any objects for the Silence Game inside the basket. The child can choose this work and carry the basket to set up anywhere in the environment to play the game.
~ Tell the children that you are going to open a window before they practice the Silence Game. Then, you can ask the children to report what they might have heard while they were in the Silence. Children have told me they heard the wind, or a bird flapping, or even the buzz of a bumble bee!

LESSON TITLE: “Freeze When the Music Stops”

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

  • Concentration
  • Body Coordination
  • Auditory Discrimination 
  • Open space for movement
  • CD of Freeze Dance Music
1. PREPARE: It’s good to listen to a few selections of Freeze Dance music for children, and choose one that is appropriate for your group. (Click here to read about: my favorite Freeze Dance) 

2. EXPLANATION: The idea is that everyone dances/moves around when the music is playing and then everyone stops moving when the music stops.

3. MODEL: It’s good to model to the children how to “freeze” by demonstrating how to move in a dance motion and then stopping the motion and remaining still for about 15 seconds. 

4. SAY: “Let’s play the ‘Freeze Game’.  We’re going to listen to some music and dance around to the beat we hear. Then, the music will stop and that is when we use our strong muscles to stop our dancing and make our bodies really still—freeze! We stay still until we hear the music start to play again. Then we dance around  until the music stops again. Then what do we do? Freeze!”
5. REQUEST: I ask the children to stand and get ready for our Freeze Dance. 

6. SHOW: I put the cd of Freeze Dance music on and show 
               the children how to dance & move to the music.

                  When the music stops, then I dramatically STOP
                   in whatever position I happen to be in.

                   I show the children how to NOT move or speak
                   during the whole time the music has stopped.
                   Just hold that position! 

                   When the music starts up again, I dance once

                   This continues until the end of the song.

7. INVITE: After the Freeze Dance, the children all sit back down at the circle, and I say, “You can practice the ‘Freeze’ motion whenever you like during work time to practice controlling your body by using your strong muscles.”

8. SHELF WORK: I have not always set up a shelf work for the Freeze Game, however, you could easily do this. Create and laminate a card that is placed in a basket on the music/movement shelf that has the word “Freeze” printed on it. Two children can play the game. The first child  moves/dances around and the other child holds up the Freeze card. When the card is held up, the first child stops and freezes in place. Then, the children trade places.

 ~  Set up hoops on the floor around the room and when the music stops, everyone must find a hoop and stand inside it .  
 ~  Play music of your choice and then blow a whistle to indicate when the children should Freeze. The music continues to play, but the children stop moving (and then start back up) when the whistle is played. This is a bit more challenging since the music doesn’t actually stop playing during the game. The whistle indicates when to stop & then start moving again!
 ~ Play the Freeze Game with a drum. Teacher plays a beat on the drum and then when s/he stops playing, the children freeze! Later a child can play the drum for the others to dance/move or to freeze!

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

LESSON TITLE: “Focused Listening”

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

  • Concentration
  • Body Coordination
  • Auditory Discrimination 
  • Open space for group time
  • CD of music that features a music concept (ex: Beethoven’s 5th for concepts of Loud & Quiet)

1. PREPARE: Listen to several cds and decide upon which one to play for the children. Choose music selections that illustrate the music concept within the first few seconds of the song.  The selection should be no longer than one minute for the children to be able to focus well. 

2. EXPLANATION: The idea is that everyone sits very still and listens to the music on the CD for the purpose of discovering the music concept and to develop focused listening skills. 

3. MODEL: I begin by modeling for the children how to prepare the body for sitting still, the ears for listening carefully, and how to avert the eyes to aid in concentrating on the sounds. 

4. SAY: “Let’s play a listening game.  I want you to see how still you can sit and we will listen to some music on my CD. This music is from a composer named Ludwig Von Beethoven. Let’s see what you think about this music. I think you will like it very much!”
5. REQUEST: Then, I ask the children to use their strong muscles to sit very still and not make any noise. 

6. SHOW: I show the children how to prepare their ears for listening by rubbing them gently around the edges. (Like giving our ears a little massage!)

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

                  Then, I remind them to make their bodies very
                  still and I sit very still myself. 

                   I show them that I am going to play the cd and 
                   then we will hear the music! 

                   Then, I turn on the cd and play the selection of

                   I continue to rub my ears gently and avert my
                   eyes during the sound selections on the cd

7. INVITE: After the listening game, I always comment about the fact that the children were able to listen for a whole minute! Then it’s fun to have a little discussion about what the qualities of the music were (ex: “The music started out quiet and then got loud!”)

8. SHELF WORK: You can set up a “listening center” with headphones and a cd or iPod player as an individual activity in an area of the environment that has few distractions. You can include the cd selection from this activity for the child to have more experience with focused listening.

 ~  Use this activity for each music lesson in which you are planning to introduce a new concept   
 ~  Play music that features the particular instruments in the families of the Orchestra that you are featuring. (ex: Woodwinds, Brass, Percussion or Strings)
 ~  Play music for this activity that features music from the continent/countries you are featuring in your Cultural Studies

I am so glad that you are reading this article from my blog and I hope you have gotten some inspiration for cultivating The Silence and Focused Listening with your children! Watch for my next article in this series: "Warm-Up Exercises  for Singing & Playing Instruments."

 Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Did you know that the Montessori Sensitive Period for developing listening skills is between birth and 5 yrs?

I am so excited to be part of the wonderful link-up at Living Montessori Now, Montessori Monday. There are lots more great posts from Montessori sites for you to read there!

And, don't miss the next post in this series: Musically Montessori #6, with lessons on warm-ups for the hands and the voice, echo rhythms and how to teach the children a new song! You can have my blog articles delivered right to your inbox by clicking here to subscribe: Magical Movement Company Subscribe for Updates

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