Musically Montessori: Celebrating The Native American Music & Dance of North America!


Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

If you haven't yet added Native American dancing & drumming to your Montessori cultural studies, you're in for a real adventure. Since, I teach music in North America, I love introducing the traditional tribal songs, chants, dancing and even drumming to the children in my groups. Also, this happens to be my family heritage!

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

My great-grandmother Ruth ("Nonnie") was Cherokee and she was one of my favorite people from my childhood. In fact, she lived until I was 14, so I think she had that Native American stamina that gave her longevity. I would stay with her every summer in her Appalachian home in the hills of Virginia. She taught me how to sew bonnets & aprons, and how to churn butter, how to slaughter a chicken and especially how to grow corn. She smoked a corn cob pipe, too! Every evening, she went out "prowling" and in the mornings we would find her pounding herbs and brewing tinctures along with baking those fresh biscuits she had prepared for our country breakfast. As our family story goes, "Nonnie" didn't live with her Cherokee family after she left her home and went down the mountain to be with our great grandfather, Forest Spangler. They had four children together and lived as share-croppers on land that was on top of a beautiful mountain miles from anyone else.

Here's one of the last photos of my Cherokee great-grandmother in her old age after she had moved down off her mountain and into Pearisburg, the town where her youngest daughter lived. She's snapping beans to go along with the cornbread in the oven.

Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

So, the children in my Montessori music classes are always delighted to hear a little about my Native American great-grandmother! 

In our weekly Montessori music class, we always do warm-ups. During our vocal warm-ups, we always include echo rhythms and this one from Frank Leto is just perfect for setting the mood for Native American music and dance. It's called "Native American Chant" and it consists of echoing the names of Native American tribes, such as Seminole and Mohican, etc. We kept the underlying steady beat by tapping our hands on our knees while we echoed the names.

You can listen and download the chant at Amazon at this link:
Native American Chant from Frank Leto's Move Your Dancing Feet Album .

Then, I explain to the little ones that the North American tribes have celebrations called "Pow Wows" where there is dancing, singing and drumming. The dancers dress in their ceremonial costumes elaborately decorated with colorful beads, ribbons and feathers.

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club 

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

I show the children photos of the shoes that the dancers wear, called moccasins. The children are interested in the colorful soft-soled shoes in the photos, and I explain that because they are soft, the dancers can feel the earth under their feet. This is important to Native American traditional dancing.

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Since we always begin our music circle with our hello song, this is a great opportunity to sing hello the Cherokee way. When I was younger I learned that "Ahn-nay" was a Cherokee greeting. However, I discovered a wonderful site for Native Cherokee sayings and I found that the everyday way of saying hello is: "Oh-Si-Yo". Here's a very short video so that you can hear the way to say hello in Cherokee. By the way, the actual word for Cherokee is "Tsalagi". 

After singing "Oh-Si-Yo" in your hello song, your children will really benefit from seeing some photos of a pow wow and especially a pow wow drum. I explain that a pow wow drum is big and is not played by just one person, but rather by many drummers.

Photo by the artists of the Dollar Photo Club

Next, I play a short excerpt from an actual recording of a pow wow drum and then the sounds of dancers singing & dancing around a pow wow drum.

Here is a good rendition of the pow wow Round Dance song from the Cree Tribe (at Round Dance.

I like to tell the children about my experiences at Pow Wows I have attended in the Klamath region of Oregon. I explain that pow wows are always held outdoors and the people camp out. If you go to a pow wow celebration, you will not only see the drumming and dancing, you will also see tipis that are set up for camping out. 

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Sometimes, young children have never seen or heard of a tipi, and so it's important to show them a nice big photo or two of tipis set up as they were in the traditional tribal villages before the 1950's.

For a wonderful movement activity to set the mood for your pow wow studies, your children will certainly enjoy this fun song: "Hop, Little Frog". Here's that link at Amazon: Hop, Little Frog from Sue Straw.

This song starts with a simple Round Dance beat on the pow wow drum, and so I show the children how to form a circle, holding hands and lifting our arms up. Then I invite them to move one foot then the other to the steady beat. For the older groups (5-7 yr olds) we actually hold hands and walk clock-wise to the steady beat. 

The next part of this song is about the little frog hopping. I tell the children that after we dance the round dance, we will drop our hands and then hop like frogs. (very popular with the little ones!) In larger groups, I think it works best to show the children how to use their strong muscles to do their "frog hopping in-place"...then they are less likely to accidentally bump into each other. Even so, be prepared for lots of hopping and giggles, too! Children really love this part. 

Then, it is back to the round dance drumming and I have the children return to holding hands and keeping the beat by stepping with their feet. 

****I usually stop this recording after the second round of round dance drumming rather than play it to the end. (It ends with another verse of "hopping, like a frog" and I think that ending with the round dance is much nicer and helps us all get back to our sitting at circle for the next activity.)

After the children have danced, seen photos, and listened to pow wow music, then it is time for them to MAKE MUSIC!

This is when I bring out my child-size pow wow drum.(called a children's "gathering drum")

If you don't already have one, I highly recommend considering purchasing a "gathering drum" that is designed for several players to play. Even, the 18 in. version (pictured above) can handle 3 children sitting around the drum and each drumming with a single felt-handled mallet. Here is that link at Amazon: Remo Gathering Drum for kids.

Gathering drums are a great way to start a music circle anytime. And, one thing I have definitely observed is that children greatly benefit from drumming together on a large drum. I have seen children adjust to the others drumming so that they begin to create a steady beat together. A wonderful way to build community and good listeners. 

The mallets for a real pow wow drum are called "beaters."  I have actually made these from a simple stick that I wrapped yarn round and round into a ball at one end and then covered with a piece of felt tied securely over the yarn.

Before the children have a turn at playing the gathering drum, I demonstrate for them. I use a nice gentle swing of my wrist and the sound is always beautiful (and loud!) 

This is where I explain to the children that when they have a turn to play the drum, they don't need to play hard because the drum is already quite loud. Instead, I have them practice holding their pretend mallet and using their strong hand muscles to bounce gently up and down. This little practice session helps children better control their drumming to prevent injuries to the drum, the mallets, or even the children by helping the children understand how to play gently and effectively.

If your budget doesn't allow even the smaller size gathering drum, you can still make 3 or 4 "beaters" and have children play on the carpet in the middle of the circle. The important aspect of this activity is keeping the steady beat with the beater and keeping that steady beat together with the other players.

Next, I tell the children that while the pow wow drummers (3 or 4 children at a time in the middle of the circle) are playing, the rest of the group will be patting their hands on their knees and chanting this Cherokee song:
"A-way-nay-nay-ya-ha-way-he-nay-yo" (repeat 4 times)

At the end of the 4 rounds, we all say "Yo-Ho!" which means "It is good" and we lift our hands and everyone stops singing and drumming all at the same time!

Then, the next group of "pow wow drummers" goes to the middle and prepares to drum while the rest of us sing.

I have always been amazed at how well even the youngest children get the hang of drumming together on the gathering drum; and the really fun part is when we all stop at the "Yo Ho!" part of the song. So many skills developing here!

I just completed my 72 page  MUSICALLY MONTESSORI Lesson Plan Activity Pack for this beautiful cultural unit, and it is NOW AVAILABLE at my TpT Store.  My subscribers will be the first to know, so watch for the email coming soon. There will be a special free gift for you, too!

$4.99 at my TpT Store. CLICK HERE TO SEE IT!

My subscribers are always the first to know, so watch for the email coming soon. There will be a special free gift for you, too!

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Thank you again for visiting my blog today. I hope you and your little ones enjoy having your own little Native American Pow Wow!

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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Outdoor Classroom: Are Your Montessori Children Missing Out On This Important Learning Environment?

TAKE A CHILD OUTDOORS AND LET THE LEARNING BEGIN! All over the world, the outdoors have long been considered a sure cure for the cranky, over-active, giggly, wiggly child who just can't seem to focus on learning activities indoors. In fact, it's a known fact that children need fresh air, sunshine, and exercise daily in order to thrive and be healthy. So, why not enhance the outdoor time for children, with lots of activities that nurture the body, the brain, the creative mind, and the inner spirit of the child?

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Sarah Zimmerman, the founder of the Fountainhead Montessori Schools in the SF East Bay Area, once told me, "You can take just about any activity  out of the Montessori classroom and into the outdoors."

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

I agree wholeheartedly, and I love to see what children come up with in the outdoor environment that they may not have discovered indoors! 

The Montessori Outdoor Classroom is not a new concept. Dr. Montessori wrote about the children's garden at the first Casa Dei Bambini in Rome established in 1908:
"In the first "Children's House" in Rome we have a vast courtyard, cultivated as a garden, where the children are free to run in the open air...which is planted on one side with trees and a branching path in the middle, and on the opposite side, has broken ground for the cultivation of plants. This last, we have divided into so many portions, reserving one for each child...While the smaller children run freely up and down the path, or rest in the shade, the possessors of the earth (children from 4 years up) are sowing or hoeing, watering or examining, the surface of the soil watching for the sprouting of plants." The Montessori Method, p. 161. 

At the Fountainhead Montessori campus in Dublin, CA, there is a Montessori-style Outdoor Classroom. The children from the Preschool and the Lower Elementary have lessons on gardening, composting, bird watching, ecology, and care of the environment twice a week with the Garden Directress, Mary Cooper. 

Mary designed this amazing Outdoor Classroom from her many years as a Montessori teacher and a seasoned gardener herself. The Outdoor Classroom doubles as a wonderful sort of nature playground, but the activities that Mary introduces are by far the children's favorites.

First, the group assembles at the Outdoor circle time area. This is where the children greet their teacher, Mary, and sing their delightful garden song. Next, she rings a small Tibetan bell for a moment of silent meditation on the peaceful and wonderful sounds of the outdoors.

Photo taken by Carolyn at the Fountainhead Montessori School in Dublin, CA

Then, Mary gives a quick demonstration of the new Outdoor Classroom Activity for the week, and the children clamor to have a turn with the newest materials. 

Photo by Carolyn 

Then, Mary dismisses the group to explore the environment, by giving each child a "necklace" to wear while they go about completing their outdoor classroom "jobs". She told me that the 2 favorite necklaces are the ones titled "Inspecting" and "Worm Composting".

Photo by Carolyn

The group of children who are "inspecting" go to the basket of sturdy magnifying glasses and proceed to carefully walk around the garden looking for little creatures to observe up close. Mary told me that lately the children have greatly enjoyed looking through magnifying glasses at the many ladybugs feeding on the aphids on some of the garden plants.

Photo by Carolyn

The children whose necklaces designate that they are to care for the worms in the worm compost bin, scurry over and lift the lid of the bin. They check to see if the worms have nice damp soil around them and plenty of veggie scraps to eat. Of course, finding worms in the rich soil of the worm composter is the fun part and this requires very gentle handling to actually pick up a worm and observe the parts of its anatomy.

Mary also leaves one of the garden beds fallow so that children who love to dig in dirt, can carry their child size spades over and dig to their heart's content. This aerates the soil in the bed and then later, this bed will get planted and a new garden bed will be left fallow for endless digging.

At one of the schools where I had an Outdoor Classroom a few years ago, we would begin our outdoor explorations with a hand-holding circle time where we sang songs and often danced!  Once or twice a week, we would all carry our chairs outside and hold our morning circle outdoors, sitting on our chairs in a circle formation.  After our circle time, the children would get the scrub brushes out and wash the chairs. Too fun!

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Okay, even when a child is simply enjoying the smell of a flower or the clouds moving in the sky, there is a sense of important learning going on. These are concrete experiences that feed the child's brain and help the mind construct the important components of a flower and the different shapes characteristic of the various formations of clouds.

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

When my own children were in their Elementary years, we homeschooled and often, very often, we took our studies outdoors under the trees. In fact, my favorite memories are of my kids climbing up a tree, finding a cozy branch, and cracking open their favorite books to read!

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

One of the things a seasoned teacher knows is that children often learn so much better when they are outdoors with their studies. Even with the Preschoolers, it is very helpful to include a pack of picture books, paper, pencils, & markers for the children who love to read, write and do their numbers when it is outdoor time!

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

I found so many lovely photos of children all over the world who were quite engrossed in their reading, writing, and arithmetic while sitting outside.

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

In Europe, there is an entire movement called "Forest Schools" and some are designed for children to create their classroom each day completely in the outdoors. The students never step inside a building!

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

As I was perusing the internet sites about the Forest School concept, I found one in my neck of the woods! 
Here's that link: 
The Berkeley Forest School.

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Here in California, we are feeling the fine Spring weather already, and the children are full of energy, wiggles and giggles! It's just a great time to take some of the classroom studies outside. Even if it's only a few sheets of paper and a pencil...there's always a child that will find a spot to continue the learning from the indoors!

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Don't miss that wonderful learning opportunity for your children to continue their reading, writing, & arithmetic outdoors...not to mention the important connections with nature.
"It has been understood...that the best means of invigorating the child is to immerse him in nature." Dr. Montessori, The Montessori Method

You might like to read more about my fantastic array of outdoor activities that children love.  Over the years, I have developed a very satisfying "curriculum" for the children in my groups in our Montessori-style Outdoor Classroom!

Click here to check out some of my past posts: Outdoor Classroom at my Blog.

Here's my Pinterest board, too! Montessori-style Outdoor Classroom.

You can also find some of my favorite products for the Montessori Outdoor Classroom at MY AMAZON STORE: HERE

My post is part of a wonderful link-up featuring Montessori style Spring Activities at the Natural Beach Living Site. There you'll find even more info and dozens of articles from Montessori bloggers all over the world! Here's that link: Spring Activity Link-up at Natural Beach Living.

I'm so happy you stopped by to read my blog today. I hope you found some useful information!

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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Musically Montessori: Do You Have 5 Reasons Why Young Children Need To Make Music?


All photos by Jeri-Jo Idarius Photography for Magical Movement Company 

If you are creating a rationale for lots of music experiences for the young child's environment, here is our collection from my recent A.M.S. Montessori Music Workshop with eight intern teachers from the MIAS Training Program in the 
San Francisco Bay Area.

Making music is universal. 
Music effects people regardless of age, gender, culture, country, intellectual skills, or physical abilities. If you can't understand the words, you can enjoy the melody! All groups of humanity make music for everyday  occurrences as well as special occasions. How many times have you heard a little child humming while s/he works on a project? And, children all over the world create songs for playing games together.

 Making music helps children develop 
social skills. 
The "social group" is one of the configurations where people make music, and these activities often require organizing, negotiating, and participating considerately. How satisfying when we accomplish this as a group. Smiling faces show us!

Making music helps children develop reading skills. 
Give a child a copy of some sheet music, and before you know it, s/he will be noticing the lines, squiggles, and of course, the words & symbols throughout the piece. Picture books in a child's environment that are actually renditions of songs, like Twinkle, Twinkle, and It's Raining, It's Pouring, are easily "read" by the child at a young age. And, music notation (the written language of music) is universal...the same everywhere!

Making music helps children develop writing skills. 
Playing rhythm instruments requires the small muscles in the hand to perform the same motions used in writing. What a delightful way for young children to strengthen the muscles required to eventually write their names (and maybe write music someday!) Here's a great article of mine on little children writing music: Little Children's Music Notation.

Making music helps children develop listening skills. 
A quality early music program incorporates focused listening activities. These not only awaken the child to the components of the music, but they also work to lengthen the child's attention span and ability to listen attentively. Dr Montessori wrote about the child's sensitive period for auditory development: 
"The development of speech takes place between the ages of two and five, the age of perception, in which the attention of the child is spontaneously turned towards external objects and his memory is particularly tenacious... At this period of life, because of the mysterious bond that links the auditory and motor channels of spoken language, it seems that auditory perceptions have (great) power..." (The Discovery of the Child, 1967, p. 246)   

Making music helps children develop a sense of community.
A musical experience involving a group accentuates so many important skills. Not only are children shown how they each fit in, they are also developing the ability to help others, and move in unison. It's all about the connection!

Making music helps children develop memory skills.
So much of music is based on patterns: rhythmic, melodic, and linguistic. The patterning and the rhyming never fail to delight children while at the same time, building the memory center of the brain!

Making music helps children develop 
self confidence.
When early music experiences are based on developmentally appropriate practices: hands-on, step-by-step progression, with lots of repetition and movement, the child senses that wonderful feeling of success! The 5 year old in the photo above was proudly showing her rhythm instrument booklet she had completed after actually having played all the instruments featured in her booklet.   

Music helps children develop creative, imaginative thinking skills.
Early childhood songs about elephants & mice, trains & planes, and even rain & wind, all stimulate the imagination and are lovely ways to incorporate learning about the elemental concepts in music. These songs not only lend themselves to dramatizing little stories, they also help children to feel the  dynamics (loud & quiet) or the tempo (fast & slow) along with pitch, and of course, the steady beat of the music.

Making music helps children 
express emotions.
How many times have we put on some music so we can rejuvenate our spirits, or celebrate our happiness, or even honor our sorrow? Music is known the world over as a tonic for a broken heart, as a way to sooth a crying baby, and as a wonderful physical exercise to let it all out! Most seasoned early childhood educators are very knowledgeable about this secret benefit of music experiences in the young child's environment.

Making music helps children develop body coordination.
Children have so much fun playing instruments, which, by the way requires eye-hand coordination along with large & small motor skills. Combining the playing of music, with dancing and singing...that requires lots of coordinating of skills all at the same time! The underlying pulse of the music makes it occur almost effortlessly.

Making music helps children develop
 self control.
Practicing stopping, all beginning at the same time, playing loudly, quietly, fast & slow...all these parts of an everyday music class for the young those important skills of inhibitory control. As we all know, these skills are not only important to play music, they are also very important for normal development in early childhood. Impulse control is part of growing up, so why not give children lots of fun experiences that challenge them in appropriate ways. The 4 year old in the photo above is practicing walking on the Montessori Line carrying a small tray with a glass of water. We decided to add the challenge of playing music that had clear stopping places in which the child is to "freeze." Of course, she loved it!

If you haven't already viewed this fantastic video, I think you're going to like what you learn! Anita Collins explores how playing an instrument benefits your brain. 

Making music helps children develop a healthy, well-developed brain.

Oops! There are a few more than 5 reasons here...and I am certain there are gazillions more, too! Just click on the MUSIC link in the header of this blog for my collection of articles about music & young children.

Also, I've just UPDATED MY WEBSITE and you'll find lots of resources (and reasons for music!) by exploring the pages there. Here's the link: Magical Movement Company.

It is always a pleasure to have you visit my blog! I would love to hear your ideas...WHAT are YOUR REASONS why young children need to make music? You can leave comments at my Facebook Page here: Magical Movement Company & Kids FB Page.

This post is part of the Montessori Monday Link-up at Deb Chitwood's site, Living Montessori Now. You'll find dozens of articles from Montessori educators worldwide. Here's the link: Montessori Monday.

If you are an admirer of young children, the arts, music, and the outdoor classroom, you might like to subscribe for my updates. You'll get my blog articles (and more!) delivered straight to your inbox. 

PLUS, for a bit longer, I am offering you my eBOOK, Musically Montessori: The First Lessons as a FREE GIFT for joining my email list.


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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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