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A Lesson in Drumming Touches on Essential Life Skills

JFK drummers

At first glance, a room full of second graders playing drums may seem like complete chaos. It’s loud and the students’ little bodies are all in as they pound the drums with enthusiasm. The whole scene looks and sounds wild, with arms flailing and an eruption of noise. But, examining more closely, the room is actually bursting with a tightly organized chaos that is nothing short of impressive.

John F. Kennedy Elementary School music teacher Christine Kayler led a class of second graders in a drumming lesson recently that included essential life skills like perseverance, adaptability, and communication.

First, small groups of students were chosen and directed to find a drum to sit at — with the warning that the much-coveted Native American drum could only fit six students. Once all students had moved to a drum, adapting to a new space and an instrument that may or may not have been their first pick, Kayler led them in an exercise in which they had to follow her signals to start and stop playing. This allowed them to drum their hearts out, but meant they had to pay careful attention to the signs she was communicating.

Students were also given a chance to “conduct” the group, making the signs to play and stop and trying desperately to make things a little tricky for their classmates.

When the drummers lost control and did not follow the conductor’s directions, Kayler said “That was not quite right. Let’s try it again.” Her drummers would then repeat the exercise, persevering until they were able to follow the directions of the conductor.

Students also practiced reading and playing music flashcards Kayler held up.

“Read it, make a plan, and play it,” Kayler told the group. The students did just that, playing with everything they had while more or less staying in the confines of the notes communicated to them.

The result was an enjoyable, messy learning experience that taught students as much about life as it did about music.JFK second graders practice drumming