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Rhythm is Gonna Get You: Inspiring Creativity and Improvisation Through Drumming in the Music Classroom

May 16, 2023 | Behavior Management, Motivation for Music Teachers, Music Teacher Activities

Did you know that May is International Drum Month?  Yep, that’s the truth. When I think of drumming, I think of beat.  In fact, I think of the all-importance of beat.  The steady beat is the most important part of the music.  I tell my kiddos that the steady beat is like a cake plate.  Without the cake plate, you can’t pick up the cake and carry it, because it would fall apart.  Imagine the MESS!! Steady beat is just like that. Without it, the song would fall apart.

Since steady beat is ALL IMPORTANT, (I know you know this), it is important to include it in every lesson, especially for our littles.  What better way to do this than with percussion instruments . . . especially drums.  This month, think about all the ways you can add your drums to different activities. I’ll give you a moment . . . (brief pause for thinking)

Have you thought a bit? How many did you come up with? I came up with more than a few. In fact, I came up with 5! Before I give you the deets, you’ll need to ask yourself a few important questions:

  • What kind of drums?

Well, it doesn’t really matter what kind of drums you have. Your kiddos will be excited about playing any kind of drums, as long as you have enough for everyone.

  • What if you don’t have drums?

Home Depot, Lowes, or sometimes even your cafeteria has giant plastic buckets. Many times you can ask them to donate a class set of bucket drums. You can also use other types of percussion instruments. Plastic plates or even paper plates will work in a pinch. Or you could even use dowels or rhythm sticks and play your floor or chairs (if you have them). None of those options strike your fancy? You can use red solo cups, a belly drum, or your lap.

  • What kind of drumsticks should you use?

There are many schools of thought here. Some music teachers say recorder cleaning sticks. Those tend to be awesome for when you don’t want to leave with a headache. Some people like rubber pencil grips. Rhythm sticks or lummi sticks can work well with bucket drums, but be sure you don’t use those for other kinds of drums. You’ll end up with tiny, rhythm stick-sized holes. I’ve also heard of music teachers using bamboo sticks from the garden center at Home Depot or dowels wrapped in tape (neon is even more fun so you can use black lights!). Amazon also carries plastic drums sticks, and my favorite, TUBZ. If you really want to get fancy, it’s fun to use light up drum sticks!

  • What if you don’t have enough drums?

That’s easy too. If you don’t have enough of the same kind of drums, mix and match. If you don’t have enough of any kind of drums, you can use other percussion instruments, the floor, belly drums, laps, or red solo cups.

Now let’s get down to the business of drumming activities. I’ve got 5 to share with you.

  1. Storybook lessons – I love to add drums to a storybook lesson when appropriate. For example, Drum Dream Girl, by Margarita Engle, is obviously perfect for adding some drumming. I like to read the story, go over the sound words (any words that make a sound in your head), and ask my students to improvise the different sounds on their drums. Pro tip: You and your students should explore many ways to play the drums before this activity.
  2. This isn’t exactly a drumming activity, but if you don’t have drums, the next best thing is drumsticks (or rhythm sticks) and chairs. I love to have my students turn their chairs around backward and use the backs as a drum. Careful though . . . make sure you emphasize bouncing softly so you don’t leave with a headache!
  3. My all-time favorite activity (after storybook lessons) is a drum circle. You can do almost anything in a drum circle. I like to use Will Smith’s activities like What’s your name or What’s your favorite color. You ask the question and they answer. Then you ask and play the question (play each syllable), and they answer and play. There are so many variations of this. What’s for dinner? What’s your favorite subject? What’s your favorite flavor (of ice cream).
  4. Another well-loved drumming activity (for my kiddos anyway) is to pull out a pop song and create a drum piece for it. I like to divide it by chorus, verse, and bridge. I create a rhythm that works for each part, and we play along with the song. Talk about a win, win! Your students get to play the drums, and you get to teach a form lesson.
  5. It’s always amazing to have your students take a walk around the classroom and discover a found instrument. Maybe they use a pencil and a chair. Maybe they find a plastic storage box and use that as a drum. Once they’ve found their “instrument”, you can do a call and response song, or you can create one. For example, you might say, “chocolate ice cream on a brownie”, and your students could respond, “Oooh that’s good!”

Are you ready to unleash the power of percussion in your music classroom and let the rhythm run wild? Drumming activities are not only educational but also a whole lot of fun. By incorporating drums, you’ll be taking your students on a musical adventure they won’t forget. So, grab those drumsticks and get ready to witness the magic unfold as your students groove, giggle, and grow into rhythm masters. Drumroll, please!

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