What kinds of activities are appropriate for a
Teachers should include activities that encourage children to
focus on specific attributes of instruments, such as size, the
material of the instrument, and the way the sound is produced.
A long-range plan allows for children to explore each of these
aspects in a variety of ways over the course of the year. For exam-
ple, children might begin by comparing the sound of two sizes of
wood blocks. Next they might experiment with two sizes of trian-
gles. As the year progresses, children could continue to explore
the effect of size on sound by comparing various sizes of instru-
ments or materials: drums, chimes, water glasses, xylophones,
even flower pots or brake drums!
How long are the activities left out?
Children need repeated opportunities to return to instruments in
order to construct musical knowledge. Therefore, each activity is
usually left out for two to three weeks. Small changes or additions
to the area may be made during this time, such as the addition of
a third size of the same instrument or a different type of beater.
What musical concepts can young children construct?
Children can construct knowledge about pitch, dynamics, tim-
bre, and tempo.
Pitchrefers to how high or low a sound is. It is affected by
the size of the vibrating body. Small instruments are higher in
pitch than large instruments. The labels highand lowrefer to the
number of vibrations per second; thus, a high sound indicates a
high number of vibrations per second compared to a low sound.
Children typically reverse these labels because they are perceptu-
ally bound. Since instruments with a low pitch are larger than
instruments with a high pitch, they extend higher into the air and
are often given a “high” label by children. Teachers can model the
Dynamicsindicates the volume of a sound (loud or soft). It is
affected not only by the amount of force applied to an instru-
ment, but also the material of the instrument and the tool used to
play it. For example, a drum beater made of wood creates a
louder sound than one made of soft felt. Children sometimes con-
fuse the labels loud and high, so if they hear a sound that is both
low and loud, they may call it high. Teachers can help by clarify-
ing the terminology whenever appropriate.