Teaching Ideas

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-3

  • Drums are special because they make sounds and music that people can sing or dance to. Look closely at the Senufo drum. What makes this drum even more special than usual? It has legs and it is really big! Count how many legs the drum has. How many legs do you have? How many legs does a bird have? How many legs does a snake have?
  • How does a drum communicate or send a message? Drums in parades tell our feet when to move and tell us how to keep rhythm so that a large group of people can all walk together at the same time. Have a mock parade and keep the beat by substituting clapping  for a drum beat. Can your drum beat tell your friends when to speed up or slow down?
  • Drums also can be used to get our attention because they are so loud. If available, watch a clip of a marching band performing and pay special attention to the drums.
  • Have the students make the sound of a drum by tapping on their legs or on the ground to make the noise. Tap fast and slow to get the sense of different rhythms. Have the students stand up for this activity, and get them to stand like the drum is standing. Have them use their feet or stomachs to make the sound of a drum, doing it fast and slow.
  • Sing a song to the students about the drum:
    I have feet but I don't have arms
    I can dance, I can move
    I make noises
    Boom, boom, boom
    Repeat the song a few times and have the students say and move feet in time with the last line.
  • Read The Leopard's Drum by Jessica Souhami (Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2006). Connect the book to the artwork by talking about the big drum in the story and comparing it to the Senufo Drum.

  • The Senufo play drums at most of their ceremonies. Do you know what a ceremony is? Can you name some ceremonies that we have in America? What kind of things happen at these ceremonies?

  • The Senufo also have contests where the drum is played similar to the way we play music during football and basketball games. How many of you have been to a game where music is played? What did music add to that experience?

For Grades 4-12

  • What is this object? What is it used for?
  • The Senufo peoples who live in the Ivory Coast of Africa made this drum. How and where do we use drums in the United States?
  • Consider the decoration of musical instruments. Why might someone make an instrument covered with carvings? The carvings on this drum are meant to convey some of the cultural history of the Senufo peoples. How might decorations like those found on this drum impact how someone perceives a musical performance?
  • Why might art museums display musical instruments like this drum? Does placing one in an art museum influence how we view, experience, and understand it? If so, how? Do you consider this instrument a work of art? Why or why not?
  • This drum was used for many different purposes. Imagine how the sound of the drum might change depending on the user and his or her intention.
  • Music is a tool for communication and public address in the Senufo society. Consider the function of music in your own life. Does music always have a “use” to the person or society that creates it?

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • Make a collection of five, quick sketches of details and patterns that you see on this drum. Discuss your sketches and the images that you see on this drum with classmates. What words would you use to describe the images you see?
  • The Dallas Museum of Art’s collection includes many works of art that relate to music and instruments. Some of the works have religious and ceremonial connections, while others are secular. Some are two-dimensional, while others are sculptural. Compare the Drum with the following artworks: Richard Lindner’s Rock Rock (1968.14), a painting of a rock and roll star; Starry Crown by John Biggers (1989.13), which is named after a traditional African American spiritual; Leadbelly (1950.91), a portrait of an important singer; the Side blown horn from the Mende peoples (1994.198.McD); and The Guitarist by Pablo Picasso (1987.371). Write a comparative essay or creative short story, which incorporates at least two of these DMA works of art.
  • Consider how the sound of different rhythms might communicate different messages or ideas. Make a drum using recycled materials, or simply use a desk. Then, pound on the drum in a way that communicates a specific message (such as “gather around” or “today is a beautiful day”). Have some friends listen. Without telling them what message you are trying to convey, have them listen and write down what they think your rhythm is trying to say. Then, compare their answers with your message.
  • Review the function and meaning of this Senufo drum with particular focus on its various uses. Music is used for ceremonial purposes in many different cultures and religions around the world. Research another musical instrument or tradition and compare it with the Senufo drum. Create a presentation of your findings and share it with classmates.
  • With a group, brainstorm a list of important occasions, events, or experiences at your school that you feel should be celebrated. Select one thing on the list and further discuss its importance with classmates. Then, design a drum with symbolism which conveys key information about this important thing at your school. Write a brief paragraph about the significance of the drum. Compare and contrast your drum design with designs created by other class members.