West African Drumming for Elementary Classroom Teachers

4 Min Read  •  Music

Recently, our school had a West African drummer join us as an artist in residence for a week. Since I helped secure this great opportunity for our students, I wanted to ensure it connected to what was happening in our regular elementary classrooms. Rather than have one or two isolated experiences with our guest. I wanted to share a resource guide with our teachers, but I knew they were swamped with work. Plus, many had no experience in arts integration. In order to give them something useful, it needed to be a resource that required little to no preparation. Also, it had to tie into skills/standards they already addressed, rather than one more thing to add to their day. (Of course, all of those things can occur through arts integration, but in the time allotted, I didn’t have time to thoroughly share that information.)

I compiled my resources below. It is certainly not all inclusive. There is SO much more out there, but if you’re a music teacher teaching a unit on West African drumming, you could easily hand this guide to an elementary classrooms teacher to spark some academic connections. Keep in mind, this was not designed as an arts integrated unit. Instead, it’s a list of resources elementary classrooms teachers can pick and choose depending on their time and need. It worked at my school – many teachers utilized the resources, and the students participated in a meaningful, arts and culture infused experience!

West African Drumming Supplementary Resources for Elementary Classrooms Teachers:

Before drumming instruction:


Other activities for some time before or after drumming instruction:

 Language Arts:

Social Studies/ Math/ Movement

  • Relating times on a clock to African dance movement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIPEVHGjdP4&feature=share This clip is fabulous example of arts integration and would be appropriate for all of our grades!!
  • Students follow the movements of the leader in this 9-minute video. It could be done in two parts if the students get tired. J There is a live djembe player in this clip as well.
    • Disclaimer: There are some traditional movements that involve shimmying and some hip action. Depending on your class, you may need to have a conversation about this being the origin of these dance moves that we see in pop culture. Although they may seem uncomfortable moving this way, in African culture the human body is celebrated through that movement. (They don’t think of it as suggestive.)
  • If your class liked that video clip, here’s another shorter, but more challenging, one. It teaches the students a traditional W. African dance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3W-YIoW8Bw

Integration seeds:

Language Arts– African drumming tells a story. We can identify narrative story elements.

Math– Patterns, precision, counting

Culture– Background information on West Africa, how drumming is an integral part of the culture, how African drumming/movement is the origin of much of our popular music/dance today.

And more!

Here is a printer-friendly version of the document: West African Drumming Supplementary Resources for Elementary Classrooms Teachers

What resources would you add to the list? There are so many incredible connections between content areas and West African drumming. Comment below- I’d love to read your ideas!