Movement is a great way for kids to experience music – not only is it enjoyable, it burns lots of energy. Moving to music helps kids internalize concepts like rhythm and tempo; it also gives them body awareness and increases coordination and large motor skills.
Dancing is an obvious way to move to music. There are two main ways to do this: moving to music freely, or learning specific steps to a dance. I think it’s good for kids to do both.
For freeform dancing, play any tune with a good beat and let them go crazy. Or you can do something as a group like “plate dancing”. I was introduced to plate dancing in my Montessori training, and it is so fun (but exhausting). Basically you give everyone two paper plates, then put on some music and make up a dance to it, using the plates as props. The kids love it. Colored scarves would work well for this too.
Learning specific steps to dances can be more of a challenge. At the last school where I worked, we would actually hire a dance teacher to help the older kids prepare for our annual music and dance performance. One year they learned Irish dancing, and the next year it was Russian dancing. Not all schools can afford this, but ask around. There are often parents with experience in different kinds of dance.
There’s a fantastic company that makes CDs with music from around the world. Many of these songs can easily be turned into dances appropriate to that country or culture. My personal favorite is World Playground – I’ve practically worn out this CD, I’ve used it so much. The company is called Putamayo Kids and they have all sorts of CDs available.
Kids love square dancing, and it’s easy to teach and learn. I have a CD called Square Dancing Made Easy that’s come in handy many times over the years. I highly recommend it. The CD insert explains the different steps, and the songs contain the calls, so you really can’t go wrong.
Many schools or homeschool co-ops like to put on a musical each year. This is a great way to combine singing, dancing, and acting. While it is a lot of work, I think it’s enriching for the kids. Other ways to combine music and movement include bouncing balls in time to music – let them find as many ways as possible to bounce, throw, and catch the ball in a way that keeps the beat.
While this doesn’t involve music per se, putting on a play can be music-related. In one memorable instance, I had the upper elementary kids (9-12) divide into small groups and each write a play about the life of a famous composer. We did this over a couple of weeks, as they needed time to write and rehearse.
When they were finished, they performed their plays for the preschool and lower elementary kids. Amusing flourishes included pianos made of people (one for the bench, one for the keyboard). Much laughter resulted whenever the “piano” would make a snide comment. They had a a great time, and learned about the composers in a real and interesting way.
Montessori for Everyone Music Series:
Music in Montessori 1: What are the Benefits?
Music in Montessori 2: Rhythm Activities
Music in Montessori 3: Learning About Pitch
Music in Montessori 4: Musical Instruments and the Symphony Orchestra
Music in Montessori 5: Music Theory
Music in Montessori 6: Movement and Drama