Further Materials

The Bells and Musical Activities


Material Description:

Two series of bells in duplicate from Middle C to High C.  One complete set is mounted on brown stands, the other set on white stands are the tones and the sharps and flats on black stands.  They stand on a keyboard marked with back and white spaces (corresponding to the keys of a piano) on which the brown bells are placed.  A mallet and dampener. Keep black bells and their brown equivalents on a lower shelf while the initial exercises with the diatonic scale are being given.

The bells


The bells are kept in the classroom with the sensorial materials.  They are not ‘musical material’, but are for the discrimination of sound.   Montessori discriminates between the use of three types of sound in the classroom, she distinguishes music as ‘harmonious noise’, the bells indirectly prepare the child for later study with musical activities and instruments but they are here considered as sensorial materials only.

  • Silence e.g. the Silence lesson
  • the human speaking voice e.g. the three-period lesson
  • noises e.g. the sound boxes
  • Music e.g. the bells and musical activities


They stand on a board marked with back and white spaces (corresponding to the keys of a piano) on which the brown bells are placed (Middle C- C, Db -D etc)


  • Introduction (with a small group of children)
  • Have the children sit around the bell table
  • Strike each bell in turn, hum the note or sing it, going up and down the scale (refrain from using the names of the notes)
  • To add interest sing a vowel, a child’s name or short phrase “Good morn ing”
  • Go to the table and hold the bell by the stem with your right hand, support the underneath with your left, bring one bell to the table with the mallet and dampener
  • Hold the mallet by the upper part of the handle, let it swing like a pendulum between the thumb and index finger and strike the bell on its rim or edge.  Show how to stop the sound with the dampener.  Invite the child to have a turn.
  • Presentation (pairing with three pairs of bells)
  • Go to the bell table and choose three pairs of contrasting brown bells
  • Bring the brown bells forward and mix them
  • Strike any white bell, which corresponds to the space left by the moved brown bell, then use the dampener
  • Strike any brown one, listen to find the pair and apply the dampener, either return to it’s pair or if the wrong brown bell was selected isolate it from circulation.  Listen again to the control white bell and strike another brown till the pair is found
  • Move the isolated brown bells back into circulation and continue to pair the other two white bells

Note: always use the dampener before striking a new sound and move only the bells with brown stands


  • Add more bells, gradually until all are paired
  • Grading
  • Mix all the brown bells on the bell table
  • Grade by striking them to find the lowest note (Middle C)
  • Place it on the left side of the table
  • Continue to find the next lowest (D), isolating higher notes, and place it by Middle C
  • Play Middle C and D in succession to as a Control
  • Recirculate higher notes and continue looking for the next lowest until all are graded and High C is reached
  • Finally, strike all the bells up and down the scale, the bells can be struck paired with the white ones to act as a further Control
  • Naming the Notes
  • Choose two brown bells with contrasting notes
  • Bring them to the child’s table
  • Strike one and sing the name of the note
  • Proceed with the Three Period Lesson, singing the name of each note


The names of the notes, awareness of high and low will develop spontaneously

Criteria of Perfection (Control of Error):

  • In the child’s ability to discriminate notes

Direct Aim:

  • The discrimination of notes

Age at Presentation:

Three and a half to five years

Musical Activities with the Bells

Activity 1


  • Invite eight children who have sufficient experience pairing  and grading the bells
  • Let each child hold one brown bell and strike it
  • Strike any white bell and ask which child thinks, from memory, she is holding the one which matches to the white one struck
  • This child strikes her bell to see if the pair are identical

Note: If there are less children than eight, use fewer, contrasting, bells.  To enhance the auditory memory and increase the interest, recite a poem or sing a song between listening to their own bells and chiming to pair

Activity 2


  • Invite sixteen children, let each child take one brown or one white bell and listen to it
  • When they have all heard their bell, form two rows, one with brown bells, one with white ones
  • Ask a child to strike her white bell and ask which child with a brown bell thinks, from memory, she is holding the one which identically pairs to hers
  • This child strikes her bell to see if the pair are identical, the two children with identical bells stand together
  • When all the bells have been paired the pairs of children devise a tune to be repeatedly played and once they have practised the walk in their pair striking the bell.
Playing games to pair the bells.

Note: The final exercise exposes children to the variety of rhythms available and requires co-operation in planning, decision making and performance

  • Other, younger children can be their audience
  • Carefully replace the bells back in order

Activity 3


  • Invite eight children to take one brown bell at random
  • They play the first bell and the subsequent ones are compared to it, the children deciding if they are ‘higher’ or ‘lower’
  • Once the children make a decision the ones who have played their bells stand in a line, forming the scale
  • When the scale is complete ask a child who can play a tune to do so.
  • This child strikes her bell to see if the pair are identical

Note: The children have further experience of using the scale, that by combining these few notes many tunes can be made and notice that sometimes the some notes are played more often than others

Activity 4


Using music to express feelings


  • Form two rows of children with bells
  • Hold a short ‘Question and Answer’ session between the two groups where one child asks a question and another replies


The names of the notes are known from pairing, awareness of high and low will develop spontaneously

Age at Presentation:

Four and a half to five years


This is a sensorial approach to bells, to help the child refine the auditory sense by becoming aware of sound and rhythm and to refine the voice.

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