Learn About Drumming By Dawn W. Dubbs

This 4-year-old kept everyone dancing!

This 4-year-old kept everyone dancing!

Learning Materials

  • African drums
  • Beads
  • Cardboard
  • Colored construction paper
  • Fabric pieces
  • Markers, crayons, colored pencils
  • Recycled items (clean, safe) such as empty boxes, plastic containers
  • Sticks
  • Yarn, string, raffia, ribbon

Books to Read With Children

  • Abiyoyo: Based on a South African Lullaby and Folk Story by Pete Seeger
  • Jungle Drums by Graeme Base
  • Sosu’s Call by Meshack Asare
  • The Leopard’s Drum: An Asante Tale From West Africa by Jessica Souhami.

Arts Experiences

Listen to drummers. Invite drummers and drum makers in your community to demonstrate their drumming and drum making skills. Ask them to explain how drums were used in the past to communicate with far-away neighbors. Request that they demonstrate how drums may be decorated with symbols that have personal meaning. Follow up with a group thank-you letter to the visitors.

Move to drums. Ask: How would your footsteps—walking, skipping, galloping, running—sound on drums? Have children move to the sound of drums. Slow beat-walk. Faster beat-run. Fastest beat-gallop. Create a drum dance.

Create drums. Children make and decorate their own drums using clean recycled containers. Create patterns on the drums with construction paper shapes, markers, crayons, and colored pencils. Use sticks as drum sticks.

Sing! If possible, read the story and play a recording of “Abiyoyo” (the music is in the back of the book). Teach children the song. Add instruments, such as drums and rattles, while singing. Pete Seeger’s performance of “Abiyoyo” is also on U-Tube.

Compare and contrast sounds. Describe and discuss loud and soft sounds. Play loud and soft drum rhythms. Ask children to show what they hear by using large movements (arms outstretched?) for loud sounds and small movements (toe touching?) for soft  sounds.

Invent rhythms. Beat name rhythms (syllables) on tables or floors—Ab-i-yo-yo, Lou-is-a. Count the drum beats for each name and arrange children in name groups of 1 drum beat, 2 drum beats, or 3 drum beats.

Echo rhythms. Beat out simple, traditional children’s song/nursery rhyme rhythms, such as “The Wheels on the Bus” or “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” Ask children to echo the rhythms. Beat out a rhythm and challenge children to figure out what rhyme it is.

Repeat rhythms. Play Follow the Leader with rhythm. Teachers or children tap out a rhythm pattern and children repeat.

Call and response. After comparing the way people communicate today with the way drums were used to communicate in the past, create simple call and response conversations: Good morning.Response: Good morning. How are you? Response: I am happy!

Enjoy books! Read Jungle Drums to learn about the smallest wart hog in Africa and his magic drums. Look carefully at the illustrations to see how jungle animals change when drums are played. Discuss how we can all be happy with how we look and what we have. The humor and creativity of this book appeal to adults and children alike!

Read Sosu’s Call to find out how a boy with disabilities saves his whole village by using his drum to warn them of approaching flood waters. Discuss ways that young children can be good neighbors who support everyone in their villages.

When children beat the drum, the bus jumps — a physics experiment with vibration.

When children beat the drum, the bus jumps — a physics experiment with vibration.

Explore the physics of sound. Observe how little pebbles or other items dance when placed on a beaten drum. Compare that vibration to how a humming or aah sound feels when felt with fingers on the neck.

Explore objects outdoors to find what items make satisfying drum sounds. Discuss and compare what the children find to create drumming sounds.

What Children Learn

  • Literacy. Children hear stories, sing songs, recite rhymes, verbally compare and contrast experiences, write a group thank you letter, and learn new vocabulary.
  • Math. Children count, sort, and match rhythms. Children create patterns based on drum rhythms with letters, numbers, sticks, and construction paper shapes.
  • Social studies. Children meet local performers and artists and learn the history of African drumming.
  • Science. Children observe the effects of vibration, experience vibrations they create in their throats, and explore outdoors to find effective drumming surfaces.
  • Social skills. Children discuss ways to be helpful to their neighbors and work together to create drum dances and drum call-and-response conversations.

Curriculum Connections

  • Construction & Creativity (math, social studies, free play, art/traditional crafts, music, Rwandan culture)
  • Investigation Outdoors (science/environment, active play, nature)
  • Literacy & Imagination (storytelling, books, rhymes, journals, write, pretend play, experience stories, history, listening)