Activity for ‘The Wooden Drum’

The Wooden Drum

by Vivaliatama Elesoni Talagi

In a traditional Samoan village, the old wooden drum has many voices. Every Sunday morning it beats to call the people to church.  It also beats when someone has died, and a different beat announces feast time, or prayer time. When the old drum becomes old and damaged, it is replaced with a new shiny bell, but it was just not the same as that old wooden drum. This is a story about tradition and the workings of a Pacific Island community. This book was recommended for the collection because it shows the importance of Samoan tradition: “It’s important for Pacific children to know where their roots are and to have a better understanding and appreciation of their heritage.”


 (The Arts/ Technology)

Curriculum Level

1 & 2 (see curriculum links at the end of the activity)

NZC Key Competencies

  • thinking
  • using language, symbols and text
  • relating to others
  • participating and contributing
  • managing self


 In this activity, children explore Pacific Island drumming traditions. They make their own drums, and use them to create their own rhythms based on Pasifika styles.

1. After reading the story, talk about the ideas presented. Ask children if they have ever seen a Pacific Island drum, or heard drumming. Share experiences.

2. If possible, invite to the school a community member [to visit the school] who has access to, and can play Pacific Island drums.

3. Look on YouTube for examples of Pacific Island drumming. Here are some good examples:

  • Festival of Pacific Arts 2008: Cook Island Drum Beat:

  • Drums of Rarotonga: Traditional Log Drum

  • Log drummer:

  • South Pacific Log Drumming Ensemble:

4. Talk about the different kinds of drums that can be seen, and what they are made of.

5. Organise children into pairs or small groups, and explain that they are going to make their own “drum” to play. They need to plan and design the drum that they are going to make.

Allow children access to resources available, to help them with their planning.

You could either:

  • use natural resources from the environment, like the wooden drum in the story. Children could be provided with these resources, or they could go outside and hunt for them themselves;
  • allow children to use other non-natural resources, e.g., plastic, cardboard tubes, rubber etc…

Here are some links to images of drums made by children:

6. Children will then need time to make their drums.

7. When drums are made, go back to YouTube clips and this time, focus on the rhythms that are being produced. Allow children time to practice and experiment making these rhythms on their own drums. Talk about changes in tempo (speed), and the differences between a beat and a rhythm.

8. Allow children time to create and practice their own rhythms to perform to the class. Encourage them to try and imitate some of the rhythms they have heard on the YouTube clips.

  • At Level 2, children may be able to write down their rhythms, using conventional or unconventional musical notation.


  • internet access
  • natural materials for drum making – wooden logs or sticks, rocks etc…
  • non-natural materials for drum making – kitchen items such as pots and pans, wooden spoons, cardboard tubes, metal tins, rubber, paper etc…
  • paint (optional)

Curriculum Links

The ArtsMusic: Sound Arts

  • explore and share ideas about music from a range of sound environments and recognise that music serves a variety of purposes and functions in their lives and in their communities (Level 1 & 2)
  • explore how sound is made as they listen and respond to the elements of music: beat, rhythm, pitch, tempo, dynamics, and tone colour (Level 1)
  • explore and express sounds and musical ideas, drawing on personal experience, listening, and imagination (Level 1)
  • share music-making with others (Level 1 & 2)
  • respond to live and recorded music (Level 1 & 2)
  • explore and identify how sound is made and changed, as they listen and respond to the elements of music and structural devices (Level 2)
  • improvise, explore and express musical ideas, drawing on personal experience, listening and imagination (Level 2)


Technological Practice

Planning for practice

  • outline a general plan to support the development of an outcome, identifying appropriate steps and resources (Level 1)
  • develop a plan that identifies the key stages and the resources required to complete an outcome (Level 2)

Brief development

  • describe the outcome they are developing and identify the attributes it should have, taking account of the need or opportunity and the resources available (Level 1)
  • explain the outcome they are developing and describe the attributes it should have, taking account of the need or opportunity and the resources available (Level 2)

Outcome development and evaluation

  • investigate a context to communicate potential outcomes. Evaluate these against attributes; select and develop an outcome in keeping with the identified attributes (Level 1)
  • investigate a context to develop ideas for potential outcomes. Evaluate these against the identified attributes; select and develop an outcome. Evaluate the outcome in terms of the need or opportunity (Level 2)

Other Ideas

  • talking and writing about changing society (Social Science/ English)
  • talking and writing about traditions (Social Science/ English)