Music and movement play an integral role in the Montessori classroom and, as such, are incorporated into daily activities. Music and movement receive the same attention in the Montessori classroom as other subjects in the curriculum, as they are considered equally important.
Music and movement are integrated into the daily life of the Montessori classroom. Children are given ample opportunity to engage in music and movement through hands-on experimentation in the prepared classroom.
Dr. Maria Montessori believed that music should play a role in every aspect of teaching in the Montessori method. Here we explore the important role played by music and movement in a Montessori classroom.
Music and movement play a role in every aspect of daily life in the Montessori classroom. If you have ever entered a Montessori classroom, you will see children moving about the space as they wish. The Montessori classroom is prepared with purpose every day so that the children can choose from numerous activities designed to aid their development.
There are many benefits associated with music and movement, which Dr. Maria Montessori understood. The role of music and movement is to encourage cognitive development and develop fine and gross motor skills while strengthening social and language skills.
Music teaches children to listen with purpose. The different notes and sequential nature that characterize music and songs help children understand sequences, which helps with their problem-solving ability.
The belief is that all children have the potential to sing in tune, play an instrument or read music when they are given the opportunity to do such things during early childhood. In a Montessori classroom, children learn music and movement by engaging their senses. The children can interact with music through hands-on experimentation. Movement can be introduced through guided music and movement activities.
Children in a Montessori classroom are exposed daily to music through materials such as the Montessori bells. Through the bells, children learn how to differentiate between sounds, which in turn helps with literacy and language development.
“There should be music in the child’s environment, just as there does exist in the child’s environment spoken speech. In the social environment the child should be considered, and music should be provided.”–Maria Montessori
Before we dive into how music is incorporated and taught in a Montessori classroom, it’s necessary to understand the role of a teacher in a Montessori environment.
According to the Montessori approach to education, children learn best through experience and sensory engagement. Music education in a Montessori classroom engages the whole child in the process. This means that the child’s ears, eyes, voice, hands, body (through movement), and soul are all involved in the learning process.
Teaching in a Montessori classroom is different than in a regular classroom environment. The role of the teacher is that of a guide. Teachers demonstrate the carefully chosen and designed activities they have prepared in their classroom for the day. The demonstration is to encourage independent learning and exploration of the materials.
The teacher introduces activities sequentially and will observe how the children interact with the materials throughout each work cycle (work means to play.) Music is treated no differently by the teacher than any other subject.
Music in a Montessori classroom can be taught in the following ways:
- Observed Introduction: The teacher models the activity silently to the children. Demonstration of an exercise or task is done without verbal instructions for the children to follow. This is so that they can interpret how to perform the action or task themselves. The Montessori method encourages children to learn their way of doing something.
- Reinforcement: Reinforcement is when the teacher routinely repeats a demonstration or sings a song several times.
The role of the teacher is to introduce materials or activities and offer support throughout the child-directed engagement of the material. The teacher is there to provide encouragement and guidance. Children learn music through hands-on experimentation, performing a song or piece, listening to music, seeing the notes written down, and learning about composers and musicians.
“It is movement that interests the child in music, and it is by movement that the very tiny child can arrive at understanding music with considerable delicacy”– Maria Montessori
Dr. Montessori stressed the importance of movement. Children learn how to move in response to their environment from the time they learn to crawl and walk. Dr. Montessori believed children learn when they move, mainly because movement stimulates different sections of the brain than when a child is passively listening.
In a Montessori classroom, children can move about the environment without asking permission. Children can walk around and choose which materials they want to work with. Children can choose where they would like to sit, whether on the floor or at a table. The children can choose who they would like to socialize with.
The activities or work students can engage in always involve movement. This is because Dr. Montessori believed that learning occurs through movement. This link between movement and learning is why music plays an integral role in childhood development.
The Montessori method offers many great music and movement activities that help children learn. The activities encourage the development of fine and gross motor skills, creativity, and expression and aids cognitive development.
Here are some materials and music and movement activities a child can engage with in a Montessori classroom:
- The Montessori Bells: The Montessori bells are a set of 26 bells in two groups of 13 – the control set and the work set. The bells are a fantastic material! The bells have a different octave, and each set has a different colored base. With the bells, children learn to distinguish between the different tones. This, in turn, helps children differentiate between the sounds of spoken words, known as phonetics. Activities include making sounds with the bells, pairing the bells, and playing scales with the bells.
- Walking the Line: This is when children walk along a line, usually taped to the floor, to music. Walking the line teaches children balance, coordination and how to control their movements.
- Musical Instrument Identification: In this activity, children choose a musical instrument to hold to see what sound it makes. They then name the instrument.
- Dancing with Silk Scarves: This is a fun way to develop fine motor skills! The children each pick up a silk scarf and dance with it to classical music.
Maria Montessori developed five principles for educating children using the Montessori Method. These principles are the absorbent mind, respect for the child, sensitive periods, auto education, and the prepared environment.
These principles mean that each child works in an environment prepared by the teacher to promote independence and learning through sensory engagement. Learning occurs in a calm environment designed to ensure the children of the classroom are introduced to work and materials that support development during specific sensitive periods.
Dr. Maria Montessori observed the sensitive period for musical education to be between 3 and 6 years old. That is not to say, however, that those children below or above this age should not engage in musical education or activities!
Music plays a central role in Montessori education because it has many positive effects on a child’s development. Music teaches children to express themselves and their feelings nonverbally. Music helps with cognitive development, promotes spatial awareness, and improves language, reading, and writing skills.
Music helps children learn because when they play an instrument or move while listening to music, more than one sense is engaged. The sensitive periods must be used to their full potential. Children must be presented with numerous musical materials and be able to repeat the activities to promote development.
Dr. Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori Method, believed that all children have the potential to learn. Dr. Montessori recognized that music is a fundamental spiritual need for humans, which is why humans in every culture create music.
Dr. Montessori observed that the traditional method of education may not suit every child and, therefore, not help them reach their full potential
“We tend to think that the realm of music is the privileged area of some happy few. Experience has taught us, however, that if offered the right kind of education from a very early age onwards, anyone is capable of entering the realm of music. Not everyone has the talent to practice music at an artistic level, or create new work, but everyone can reach a stage where they can enjoy it.”-Maria Montessori, The Montessori Approach to Music, p. 1
Dr. Montessori believed that music should permeate almost every aspect of the Montessori teaching method because of the benefits she observed. The Montessori classroom environment should be prepared with purposeful scheduling to ensure that each child is provided with the opportunity to develop their music skills.
You can read more about how Montessori teaches music here.