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Montessori Monday: The Montessori Bells
The Montessori classrooms is filled with materials which are both wonder-ful and didactic, introducing specific, precise concepts but doing so in an elegant presentation. The Montessori Bells are a perfect example of this balance between grace and practicality, making concrete and self-correcting experiences with auditory discrimination and the diatonic scale.
The Bells include a series of individual, simple bells, each on its own platform and representing one of the tones from an octave starting with "c." A second series serves for matching, and a third series includes all the sharps and flats on the scale. Like other Montessori materials, each bell isolates the "concept" of the note it represents. The bells are identical to the user in all ways except the tones they create when struck, a phenomenon accomplished through varying depths to the metal only visible from below.
In the initial presentation, children learn to care for the bells. This is important! They are some of the most expensive materials in the classroom and, if damaged, will not create the same beautiful tones. Once the child is able to carry, clean and manage the movement of the bells, they are taught how to strike the bells to create a clear, resonant tone, then to match the bells in pairs, then to order them in the sequence of the octave, then to play simple tunes and, eventually, to adjust them mathematically to transpose the series into different keys.
The bells are housed within the Sensorial curriculum, an acknowledgement that the mastery of the bells requires specific auditory development. But, in practice, the bells rise above any one area of the classroom, including elements of mathematics and proportions, practical life, language and, yes, sound, as children explore them. Their pure, simple tones spread through the classroom and are often the inspiration for moments of quiet or attentiveness as children at work with other lessons hear the bells ringing.
The Montessori Bells are available to children throughout the early childhood classroom and into the elementary classrooms and beyond. Young children are fascinated by the ability to create these beautiful tones. Older children are engaged by notation and composition. And whatever the class level, the community of learners is strengthened by the collective experience of hearing the bells whenever they are played. The Montessori Bells support the development of the individual child while fostering the harmony (pun intended!) of children around them.