Recently, after a long day in the classroom, I was sitting in an afternoon training at work and the question was posed, “How often are your students talking to each other?” My answer was simply, “All day, everyday!” Every teacher knows that all it takes is one or two talkers in your classroom. The point of the question was how often are we letting students talk about what they are learning. But, it got me thinking about noise in the classroom and how providing activities that create noise can help keep a class quiet when they need to be. That following weekend, I attended a conference session titled “Healing Rhythms: Using Rhythmic Recreation to Meet Trauma-Related Needs of the Adoptive Child” by David Drum and Sabrina Clark. Immediately after, I began to calculate how I could combine my idea of structured noise and the drums. Check out how my students reading rhythm, recall, and math sense improved!

Reading Rhythm

You won’t find a bigger advocate for the need of explicit phonemic awareness and phonics instruction in the classroom, but we can’t ignore the other areas of reading in younger grades. We must find engaging ways to address comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency, and my drum set fits the bill for fluency.

Fluency is the rhythm of reading, and what better way to teach reading rhythm than with the drums! I start out by sitting with my drum in front of the class. Then I have them clap back the rhythm that I play. Begin with two or three beats and we work up to six or seven beats. Then, go over the rules of the drums before I get the drums out. We divide into groups of four and students go to the front of the carpet to work on fluency. The rest of the class claps along to keep them working on the same skill as the drummers.

What Happens Next

When each new group comes up, I set the timer on my phone for 30 seconds and say, “Go for it!” They get to play as fast and as loud as they want until my phone timer goes off. I use my timer for lots of things throughout the year. My class knows when they hear the timer they say, “Put your hands in the air like you are on a cooking show!” It works beautifully because they all get to say one more thing, their hands are in the air, and they are ready for directions.

I start by saying a sentence about each child in the group of four. Then, the class has to repeat the sentence with the same cadence that I used. I make sure that some sentences are short and some are longer to allow them to hear how to chunk phrases.

Then, I read a page or two from a book that matches our weekly theme. After I ask the class to drum or clap selected sentences. I don’t want them to repeat every sentence, but they listen very attentively to every sentence waiting for me say, “Let’s drum and clap that last sentence because I like the rhythm of it!” Kids then switch out sitting at the drums and we start the routine over.

After a few times of fluency practice with the drums, I start really hearing some of my kids trying to read more fluently. Of course, I let them know when they get a book that is on their instructional level not to worry about the fluency. They can work on the fluency by going back and re-reading the sentence once they decode all the words.

Call and Response

I love my call and response line. I call, “Get it right!”, and the class responds, “Get it tight!” Then we are ready to walk! I also love my call and response for after directions. I call “Get it?”, and the class responds, “Got it!”. Then I finish with “Gooooood!”, and they start working. About mid-year this year, I realized that my Guided Reading small groups needed something, but so much language was already happening that I needed something different. Those small group minutes are so precious that I need something quick so that we aren’t wasting any time. Again, my drums are the perfect solution. For this, I just put one drum behind my table that I can pull out during Guided Reading groups. When I play a rhythm, the group claps back the rhythm and then their hands and voices get quiet. The great thing is I had introduced the idea in my fluency practice activity so the group caught on quickly and it worked like a charm.

Math Sense

I love having my students use all their senses to learn. During math, I noticed some of my class continued to struggle with recognizing the addition and subtraction symbol. I tried a couple of previous teaching strategies that some of my students had picked up on. Some including, circling the symbol or having out a crayon for them to color the symbol with before they start the problem. Finally, I realized I needed a manipulative on the table to help the students look for the number sentence symbol. While students completed mixed practice pages, I would put a drum on the tables and allowed them to strike the drum when they spotted an addition sign. I let the class know that they were adding noise one problem at a time by hitting the drum one time for each addition problem. The kids also loved not hitting the drum at their table when they solved a subtraction problem because we were taking away the noise. One hit for each addition problem really helped them pay attention to the mixed problem sheets that they get as part of our math curriculum.

As an early elementary classroom teacher, I advocate for my children to use their imagination every day. Coming up with ways to incorporate structured noise in my classroom is a way for me to use my imagination. Although, I have a higher tolerance for noise than other teachers, I would never survive just setting the drums out. Yet, incorporating them into lessons to teach various skills, or as a call and response may help you find the rhythm of your classroom.

Want to try drums in your early elementary classroom? Check them out here: