From The Montessori Music Room: Is It A Steady Beat?


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Over the years, I have greatly enjoyed exploring the all-important musical concept of steady beat with young children. I consider keeping a steady beat a real challenge for little ones and building skills in this area is an ongoing process in early music lessons. 

Movement, through dance and creative drama play, is one of the first experiences that I offer children to develop an understanding of steady beat. In fact, with all musical experiences involving young children, MOVEMENT IS ALWAYS THE BEGINNING. Little ones just seem to move effortlessly when they hear music, especially when that music has a strong steady beat. Dance music necessarily has a strong underlying steady beat and is almost always irresistible for young children.

Photos by Jeri-Jo Idarius from Magical Movement Company archives

Recently, our Montessori Preschool Music Classes have been filled with activities featuring music that has a steady beat and also recordings of sounds with no steady beat.

Montessori style card materials in my downloadable lesson plan activities pack, 
Musically Montessori: Is It A Steady Beat?

Exploring these opposites is fun for the children and gives them more and more experience with recognizing the underlying pulse (steady beat!) of music. If you are a reader of my Blog  then you know that I use the wonderful early childhood music curriculum from Bushfire Press, Music Room, and those first lessons that present the concept of steady beat to the children have been very engaging and full of fun!

Not only have we enjoyed moving like robots to the steady beat of the "Robot Dance", we have also had a hilarious time moving like pecking chickens, and popcorn popping, and even a cat scampering across the keys on a piano... sounds with no steady beat

You can offer a wonderful set of steady beat activities to your preschool children with my Lesson Plan Download Packet, Musically Montessori: Is It A Steady Beat?  available from my brand new TPT Store! Just click here to check it out: TPT Store Magical Movement Company

As a Montessori educator, I truly believe that young children learn through movement. In fact, I named my business: Magical Movement Company! 

In 1949, Dr. Montessori wrote:
"It is high time that movement came to be regarded from a new point of view in educational theory. Especially in childhood, we misunderstand its nature, and a number of mistaken ideas make us think of it as something less noble than it actually is. As a part of school life, which gives priority to the intellect, the role of movement has always been sadly neglected. When accepted there at all, it has only been under the heading of "exercise," "physical education" or "games." But this is to overlook its close connection with the developing mind." from The Absorbent Mind, p. 136

A strong steady beat just makes you want to move. And, children will! Through the kinds of movement activities I have described above, steady beat will become more & more a part of the young child's developing musical abilities. 

Montessori children love CARD MATERIALS that they can manipulate, order and categorize. After playing some engaging movement & listening games with these steady beat/ no steady beat cards and also a set of "command cards"  that I made for this lesson, the children were easily recognizing steady beat when they heard it!

Montessori style card materials in my downloadable lesson plan activities pack, 

After the children have enjoyed a music circle featuring steady beat, you can place the "Command Cards" and the "Category Cards" in the environment for children to explore during individualized work time. 

Here are some fun MP3 MUSIC SELECTIONS you can download for your group to LISTEN to, MOVE to, and PLAY along with at your circle lesson:

Robot Dancing: Robot.
Marching: March of the Toreadors by Georges Bizet
Dance Party: Do the Locomotion

Popcorn Popping: Hollywood Sound Effects Popcorn Popping 
Chickens Clucking & Pecking:Chickens in a Barnyard
Something like a cat on piano keys: Toy Piano Piece by John Cage

After the children have had experiences with freely moving to a steady beat and no steady beat, it's fun to try PLAYING RHYTHM INSTRUMENTS to accompany recordings of music with a steady beat and sounds with no steady beat! The children were laughing with glee at their attempts to play along with no steady's challenging and silly at the same time!

We've been having music class each week for a while, and so our group is now enjoying a CHOICE OF FOUR FAMILIAR INSTRUMENTS that they have played often. I set the instruments out in baskets and each child gets to choose which instrument s/he wants to play for that day. 

If your group is new to instrument playing, rather than giving them a choice of instruments, I would stick to the same instrument for each child. (ex: maracas) and preferably an instrument that is played with both hands (ex: rhythm sticks). This means you will need a set for each child AND the teachers at the circle. (ex: 26 pairs of maracas for a group of 24 children and 2 teachers) 

We always begin by resting the instruments until all the children have theirs so that the children can practice being considerate musicians. Next, the children watch for me (the teacher/"conductor") to give them the signal to start playing and then everybody proceeds to play free form in their favorite way! You can read more about my music teaching techniques at this post: 13 Secrets to a Successful, Engaging, Fun Music Class for Preschoolers.  

Since the children have practiced rhythm echoes in our warm up activities over the months, they have gained skills in reciting beat phrases in unison. So, when we move to our next activity, I invite the children to play one of our rhythm patterns together. There's our steady beat in operation!
Before you know it, we have a lovely little "band" playing right in our own classroom.

Next, you can play some of the above mp3 music selections (from the movement activities) and this time play along with the instruments! 

It's also fun to play while singing the children's favorite familiar songs. You can change it up some by substituting "counting out" the steady beat instead of singing the words. For example, if you sing Twinkle Twinkle, count out the beat, and play rhythm sticks as well, it would be sung this way by singing/counting 1-2-3-4 over and over while tapping the rhythm sticks on each number.

(not sung: Twin kle, twin kle)
   (sing:)       1     2     3    4
   (play:)    tap  tap  tap  tap

(not sung:  Lit   tle   star ...)
   (sing:)       1     2     3    4
   (play:)    tap  tap  tap  tap

So, the song would go: "1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4"

It's also fun for children to sing this familiar song with funny sounds, like squeek-squeek-squeek-squeek (mouse) or 
mew-mew-mew-mew ( kitten)...Playing along with a rhythm instrument helps the child really hear the steady beat since the silly words are insignificant to the song and the children will be more focused on counting out the steady beat.

Early experiences MAKING MUSIC are guaranteed to give  children the foundation for developing a "LOVE OF MUSIC" on into their adult lives. And, who knows where that love of music may take the child!

Above photos are by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Thank you for stopping by to read my Blog and I hope you and your group enjoy these activities and have fun keeping that steady beat!

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