Musically Montessori: Exploring the Orchestra with 3-Part Cards & More


Okay...before we do anything with these 3-Part Cards, we want to listen to some orchestra music!


One of the most important parts of the Montessori method that helps the child succeed in any activity, is beginning with concrete experiences that eventually move the child into a more abstract understanding of a concept.

From Dr Montessori:
"Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences in the environment." 

In music education, that will most likely begin with hearing live music and making live music, then listening to high quality music recordings, and eventually analyzing what makes up that music.


If you are reading this article in the summer time in your area, then you are very fortunate! Many communities all over the world feature live outdoor orchestral concerts during warm weather, that are often free and fun for families to attend together.

If you are reading this article in the winter time in your area, then you are likely to be able to take your child to an indoor orchestral concert, such as "The Nutcracker Suite," or "The Magic Flute", or  even "Swan Lake" or "Peter & the Wolf." 

So, ideally, children can attend a child-friendly orchestral concert as a wonderful hands-on introduction to The Orchestra. Then, the children have had a real experience with the sounds and excitement of a live performance of an orchestra, before exploring all the things that make up that performance.

Photo from Adobe Stock


After hearing an orchestra in person, it's time for the children to make some music of their own. 

Provide high-quality rhythm instruments that a child can easily manipulate and create her own live music. Most every young child will spontaneously tap, or shake, or scrape a rhythm instrument with great joy! I always play along side the children so that they can see how much I, too enjoy making music with them. 

Photo by JJ Idarius Photography

Some of my favorite rhythm instruments are:


Listening to orchestra music can be very engaging for young children. 

First, choose pieces that are lively and world-renowned. Famous orchestra music is famous for a reason. People though out the ages love listening to it. And, it is very likely that the children have already heard some of the most famous orchestra music, such as Beethoven's fifth!

Prepare the children by showing them how to sensitize their ears for listening. Rubbing the ears gently around the edges helps the child to focus on listening to the music.

Photo from Adobe Stock

Then, make sure the recorded music is actually orchestra instruments playing rather than synthesized instruments. Recordings of live performances are great, as well as recordings from famous orchestra groups such as the London Philharmonic Orchestra. 

My final rule of thumb is: play short excerpts for the children of no longer than one minute long!

Later, you can also play the recording as a "play-along" activity with the children playing their rhythm instruments.

Some of my favorite recordings are:


Children gain more cognitive benefits from early music experiences when the concepts in music are introduced in a playful manner. 

It is fun to listen for the part in the music when the instruments are playing loudly ("Forte") or quietly ("Piano"), or fast ("Presto") and slow ("Largo"). 

Also fun is listening for the Trumpet, or the Violin, and of course, the drums. Kettle drums are especially dynamic and fun!

My groups over the years have so enjoyed learning about the four instrument families: Brass, Strings, Woodwind, and Percussion. And, in the Montessori environment, the children can explore these instrument families in follow-up shelf works that present the families with hands-on, manipulative activities.

Recently, I have begun to produce a series of 3-Part Cards that present the Orchestra and the Instrument Families. These materials are derived from my Musically Montessori eCourse, "Instruments of the Orchestra," and I am now making the cards available at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. The first in the series is the "Introduction to the Orchestra." 

CLICK HERE to check them out:


~ After children have had experiences with listening to authentic Orchestra music (I suggest selections from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet), then you can invite them to play along with their rhythm instruments to some of the favorite selections. 

Some favorites are:

  • "The Russian Dance" is very lively and fun.
  • My children love the "Chinese Tea Dance" where the dancers pop out of the giant boxes of tea. 
  • Another favorite is "The Spanish Chocolate Dance" with the exciting castanets! 

Photo from Adobe Stock

~ Next, during Group Time, you can show children pictures of an Orchestra, the Composer of the music, (example: Tchaikovsky) and other photos such as pictures of:
  • A Musician from the Orchestra
  • Sheet music
  • Music Stand
  • Someone composing music
  • The Audience
  • The Stage
  • Performance of a ballet
  • The Conductor
  • The Conductor's baton
  • The Orchestra Pit
~ From this experience, the children can then work with the 3-Part Cards that illustrate the ideas from the above exploration of The Orchestra.

~ After working with the 3-Part Cards, the children can make their own Montessori style Booklet: "My Orchestra Book," based on the pictures from the 3-Part Cards.

1) Set up these as a "Memory Game" and play it with a small group of children

2) Use the 3-Part Cards to build the vocabulary words with the Moveable Alphabet

3) Match the cards over "long distance:" Lay out the set of control cards on the first table. Then place the working cards at another table across the room. Child fetches the matching working cards for each control card and completes the matching work at the first table.

4) Before the children enter the environment, hide the control cards around the room. Bring the children to Circle, and lay out the working cards on a rug and then find the labels and name each picture. Next, invite the children to go on a hunt to find the control cards that are hidden around the room and bring them over to match up with the working cards on the rug.

5) Play a matching game at Circle. Give each child either a Control card or a Working card. Then invite the children to find the person who has the card that matches theirs. 

Looking for more extension ideas to use Montessori 3-Part Cards?
I just received a lovely email from Katherine at "I Believe in Montessori" and she had more than a dozen ideas for having fun with 3-Part Cards.  
Join her email list here and you can check out her archive of posts, especially the one titled, "Are 3-part cards boring?"

Looking for more ideas for Montessori Music Activities? 
You can check out some of my Music Blog articles HERE.

Don't forget to check out my more than 30 free resources at my Subscribers Freebie Collection HERE!

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I am so happy to have you visit my Blog today! I hope you have gotten some ideas for lots of music fun with your group.

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