Singing With The Montessori Bells: Fun Musical Pitch Games for Preschoolers!

INTRODUCING YOUNG CHILDREN TO MUSICAL PITCH CAN BE MORE CHALLENGING THAN YOU MIGHT THINK, BUT LUCKILY THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THE MONTESSORI BELLS ARE FOR!


Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

In music, the concepts of high and low are some of the most important elements, of course. The pitch indicates exactly how high or how low a sound is and it's how the melody goes! Sometimes, for young children, the pitch is a little difficult to distinguish. How can we expect children to sing or play in tune if we haven't given them some concrete experiences with correctly tuned instruments (including the teacher's voice)?


SENSORY LEARNING
In the Montessori music curriculum, the beautiful Brass Bells are categorized as part of the Sensorial Materials.



Dr. Montessori designed the Brass Bells to be precisely tuned so that the sensitive ears of the young child hear the true pitch. These bells are designed for "pitch training." You can learn more about the classic lessons for the Montessori Bells at this link: Info Montessori Sensorial Sense Bells, and see a video here:  Montessori Training Advanced Lesson with the Bells. 

One of the very first lessons with the Bells is striking one and listening to the lovely ring it makes. Just strictly the very sensorial experience of hearing a very beautiful sound!


FOCUSED LISTENING & MATCHING PITCH
Soon, the child is invited to strike a bell, dampen the sound of a bell, and later even hum the tone it makes. The wonderful Bells have a control set (a second octave) and so the children can move on to "Matching Pitch" Activities. The children love exploring the activities with the Montessori Bells and I have seen children work both individually and collaboratively, with a musician's respectful handling of his/her instrument. Because these Bells are so wonderful and designed especially for children, I think the children are very motivated to care for them as they do with all the Montessori materials available to them. 

So, if you are fortunate enough to have a set of Montessori Bells in your learning environment, you can use them for locating the pitch for starting any song that you and the children will be singing!

It is most enjoyable for a child to go and strike the bell that is best for starting off the pitch for any of the songs that are sung at circle time, from the greeting song to the calendar song to the continents song and more!

In the beginning,it's best to guide the child by asking, "Will you please strike the low C bell?" (or the D or E bell...whichever you as the teacher decide ahead of time will be a singable pitch for the song). However, as the children gain experience, you can leave the choice of which bell to strike, up to the child and then experiment with which pitch is easy for the children as they sing. This can lead to questions like, "Did you all think that was a high pitch for the song? A little too high or just right?"


Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

Once again, exploring pitch is another one of those music activities where comparisons help the child understand a little better. The Montessori Bells span one octave starting with the middle C from the piano: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C' . So, there are two "C"s, one that is lower and one that is higher.


"AM I HIGH OR AM I LOW" GAME
The Bells are perfectly suited for a very fun group (or individual) activity game: "Am I High or Am I Low?" You would choose 2 of the brown-based bells to strike in this game and each time you play a bell the group decides whether it is the higher bell or the lower bell. I suggest choosing the D bell and the B bell, since these are in a wide enough pitch distance to more easily hear the difference. As the teacher, you would give the children the vocabulary (Low and High) first before presenting the game.

  • Strike the D bell, hum the pitch, and then say, "This is low." (It's nice to invite the children to hum the tone along with you.)
  • Strike the B bell, hum the pitch, and then say, "This is high." 
  • Then say, "Let's play the High & Low Game. I'm going to strike one of the bells, then I will ask 'Is it high or is it low?', and you can tell me what you think."
  • Later, a child can be the one to strike one of the bells. You can add to the challenge and fun by rearranging the two bells before striking (so that they are mixed up) or by having the children close their eyes while you play.
  • You can also invite the children to listen to recordings of sounds as a variation of this high & low listening game.
These sound recordings can be very fun for the children. You can even have them raise their arms in the air if the sound is high and touch the floor if the sounds are low. You can read more about this at my past post here: High & Low Sounds Game. 


HIGH & LOW SOUNDS GAME

Here are some mp3 downloads you might like for your own High & Low Sounds Game:
Birds Chirping (high): Bird Calls Sound Effects.
Dog Barking (low): Dog Sound Effects.
Mouse Squeaking (high): Hollywood Sound Effects.
Frog Croaking (low): Bull Frog Sound Effects.
Sirens (high): Fire Siren Sound Effects.
Power Mower (low): Yard Mower Sound Effects.
Piccolo Instrument (high): Piccolo Sound Effects.
Tuba Instrument (low): Tuba Sound Effects.

OTHER TUNED PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS
If you don't have Montessori Bells, other tuned percussion instruments will work just fine. I always choose high quality instruments that will have a true tone. 

You can also use a pitch pipe for giving the children the starting pitch for the upcoming song. These are often used by choir directors and are small, true to pitch, and very handy! Here's that link: C-C Pitch Pipe.


VIDEO DEMO 
You can hear my little demo version of the High & Low Game from my favorite Preschool Music Curriculum, Music Room from Bushfire Press in my video here: Youtube Hi & Low Game from Magical Movement Company.

You'll find another blog post with video demo using an Orff Xylophone at this link: Another High & Low Activity with Xylophone.  In these lessons you will hear me singing the question in a simple little tune from the Music Room Curriculum, rather than asking the children in my speaking voice.


EDUCATIONAL DOWNLOADS
I am very excited to offer my educational downloads at my new T.P.T. Store and the one featuring the concept of High and Low in music has some fun printables for the High & Low Balloon Notes Singing Game. You can view them by clicking here: Musically Montessori: First Pitch Lessons.


Great to have you visiting my Blog today and I hope your got some ideas for more high & low music activities with your own group. 

This article is part of the Montessori Monday link up at Living Montessori Now. You can enjoy lots of articles there from Montessori educators from all over the world. Click the link above!



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