When I first started teaching drums I had really no idea what I was doing or what I could do to make things better. In my district there are two sets of "the world drums" that travel around from school to school. We just don't have the budget for each school to have a full set. So, when I do get the drums I try and make the most of it. We only have them for about two weeks at a time and I love to schedule them for the first two weeks back from winter break. It's a great activity to get kids back in the swing and excited about making music again. It's also great because kids are a little sluggish after the break and it takes them a little bit to readjust. The drums act like a shot of adrenaline to get them going and keep them excited.
So, here are some ideas. Click on the image to enlarge and get a better view!
Classroom Setup -- Formation Matters!
Speaking of formation, the Remo 100 series drums come in 3 basic sizes 10", 12" and 14". I try and set them up so that the drums alternate in size. The might be set up in a row like this: 10", 12", 14", 12", djembe, 12" etc. This mimics the setup that Artie Almeida uses in her "Mallet Madness" books. When they're set like this I can have kids rotate one chair and they're immediately at a different drum and have to adjust what they do. Kids love rotating and they love the chance to try something new. Setting the drums up in an alternating fashion like this helps to make rotation so much more meaningful.
Demonstration and visuals
This reminds me, less words and more visuals. Don't tell them, just show them. I start out my drum circle classes by getting students on the drums and then using ONLY nonverbal directions to show them what I want. I snap to get attention. I scan the room to make sure they're all watching I stomp my feet on the floor to show them the place where their feet should be. I hold up my hands and show them what my hand looks like when it's going to hit the drum. I point to myself and give an example and then point to them with an "echo me" expression. Take out words and try just using nonverbal communication. It's fun for you and fun for them and speeds up the process.
Stay clean -- stay healthy!
Give yourself options!
I have so much fun teaching with drums! I hope that this post gave you a few ideas for how to set your classroom and some things you can do to make the flow of teaching a drum unit a little easier. I'd love your suggestions and comments on what other things I can do to make drumming more fun and productive. There's always more to learn!