A drum can be powerful. I love drums! Although not a drummer (well, in my heart I think I am), I sure can beat on one. How much fun would it be to bring the intensity and enjoyment that so many people have with drums into the classroom? Here are some great ideas you can use in your classroom with just one drum.
First Things First
What kind of drum? I guess we should first discuss this. A hand drum is probably best and they come in all shapes and sizes. You may have a small toy drum kicking around somewhere or you might invest in (or own) a big, beautiful drum. Either way, a hand drum takes up relatively little space in your room. Also consider borrowing an old drum from the music teacher in your school. He or she may have one you can use for the year or until you get your own.
Where do I keep my drum? Be careful NOT to use your drum as a side table. It is not for holding papers to correct. Instead keep it in a place where it is waiting to be played. If you have a rug area, keep it there. If not, keep it by your desk or in a corner of the room where it will not be ignored. Many drums are beautifully crafted, so consider placing it in a spot where it can be admired as a piece of living art as well as something that will be used.
What if kids want to play the drum? Hmmm… I bet you can hear me exclaiming, “Great! Let them!” But remember, I’m a practical teacher too. I know that drumming isn’t something that can happen at all hours of your day. So, when you are discussing classroom expectations or introducing the drum to your students, be sure you discuss appropriate use and appropriate times to use it. However, you do need to remember that a drum has energy and many of your students will feel the pull to play the drum, so allow for that.
What if I don’t know how to play? Go with it. You can certainly do this. Use your own innate sense of rhythm that we all have and/or take a couple of lessons from a drum teacher, friend or your music teacher. A quick impromptu lesson may be all you need. Here’s a quick video lesson on hand drums and very basic drumming technique.
A drum can be best used in the classroom for classroom management, movement breaks and community building.
Music is the great community builder and whenever you use music in your room, you are making connections with your students and they are making them with one another. Consider having weekly or monthly drum or percussion circles where the leader or teacher plays an ostinato (a rhythmic pattern that is repeated from the beginning to the end of the piece) and the other students add in their own sounds using small percussion instruments, clapping or other body percussion (slaps, taps, etc.)
A drum can be a great tool for classroom management as well. You can use the technique of call and response to get students’ attention and help get them focused and ready to work. Simply drum out four beats of rhythm and wait for the students to repeat it back to you. Continue to drum out and listen for a response until all students are participating and where they need to be. I once used this technique with 100+ fourth graders. It was amazing how it got them energized and focused all at once.
Finally, all students need movement breaks throughout the day. Use your drum to lead this as well. Take two to ten minutes to have students get up and move their bodies to what you drum. You can drum something with rhythm and have students move freely through their personal or general space, or you can play a variety of sounds on your drum and have students mimic the sound with their bodies. Experiment with different dynamics and techniques by tapping, rubbing, striking and scratching the head of the drum to keep things interesting.
For more explanation and demonstration of these ideas watch this video of classroom ideas with a drum.
It is my sincerest hope that you keep a drum in your classroom and try some of these ideas with your students. Be sure to let us know how it goes or if you have other ideas to share!
As requested by some teachers, I have uploaded a drumming track created by a group of teachers who took my music int course. Please use this track in your classroom to keep an ostinato for students to play/tap along with: creating community, focus, relaxation, transitions, anxiety/stress release. This is meant to be used by a group of students or for one student who needs it. Please comment with ideas and ways you plan to use this track!