In my classroom, active music making is my number one focus. About 99% of the time. There are those other elements of music teaching and learning that don’t necessarily lend themselves to the most interactive experience. For me, teaching the instruments of the orchestra has always felt this way.
I mean, it’s pretty much rote knowledge, right? Here’s the thing, here’s what family the thing is in, here’s what the thing looks like and how the thing makes a sound. Boooorrrrriiiinnnnggg.
Lucky for me (and you!! Lucky you!!) There are some amazing resources out there that can help make this unit more enjoyable for you and your kiddos. Granted, it’s still not the most active experience, but these are some fun resources I’ve used this year for teaching the instruments of the orchestra!
The Remarkable Farkle McBride
It’s no secret that I’m an avid user of story books in my classroom. My kindergarteners know we almost always end a class by singing a story. But as the kids get older, there are a ton of amazing books that work beautifully in a music classroom. This is by far one of my top five for third grade and above.
The Remarkable Farkle McBride (<—amazon affiliate link) is always the first introduction I give my kids to the instruments of the orchestra. The story is beautiful, the text is vibrant and sophisticated, and the pictures are hilarious. I’ve never had a child loose focus while reading this story. It’s also one of the best entry points into the instrument families.
In the past, I’ve used instrument lessons as a lead up to a live orchestra performance for my students. But in case you don’t have access to a live orchestra (or, honestly, even if you do) YouTube is the most amazing thing!! (Sidenote: I think it’s still super important to find a way for kids be able to actually see and hear instruments in live performance. As in, in the same room.)
BBC Meet the Orchestra
This is the most concise video I’ve found on YouTube that introduces each instrument family. This is always my first introduction to the different instrument families before going into a more in depth discussion. The videos are pretty short, so much so that the kids often ask for a replay!!
There’s already a playlist of the BBC Meet the Orchestra created on YouTube–why re-invent the wheel? You can access it by clicking here.
How It’s Made Instrument Videos
I love these videos to integrate a little bit of science and engineering into the music classroom. I’m constantly amazed at how much the kids love watching these videos and then talking about the science behind instruments and sound production afterward. I usually pick one instrument from each family to watch and discuss.
Again, lucky for us someone has already put together a list of these videos for instruments!! Click here to watch.
**A note about YouTube: Make sure that you always, always, always watch an entire video before showing it to your kids. It’s likely that your school has some provisions in place for using internet videos in class, so be sure to follow that protocol. Safeshare might be most commonly used for watching YouTube videos in class, but I actually prefer Keep Vid. I started using it because (1) it gets rid of the ads, and (2) I don’t always have a reliable internet connection. This website allows me to download the video to my computer, then I can create my own folders on my computer or in Google Drive. Check it out if you haven’t already!
If for some reason you don’t have the resources to use YouTube in your classroom, this DVD by the Dallas Symphony is great. It’s actual footage from one of their children’s concerts, and has short clips of the full orchestra as well as the different families. It was made some time ago, but I still find that the kids are super engaged and interested!! (*sidenote: it’s always fun for me to watch because I’ve played at the Meyerson and my trumpet teacher is in the DVD!!)
Games & Puzzles
Something that never ceases to amaze me is how much my third and fourth graders absolutely adore word searches and crossword puzzles. So much so that I created these puzzles for my orchestra unit, and they were a HUGE hit.
Stations are often a big portion of my orchestra unit, since some students move at a quicker pace through different instrument explorations than others. I created this fun game for my stations! The kids love it for a preparation or review of the instruments and their families. They do tend to get a little competitive when playing, as there are a few twists to the game.
This year I was feeling burnt out on some of the things I’ve used the last couple of years for this unit. So, naturally, I headed over to Teachers Pay Teachers to check out what some of my brilliant colleagues had to offer. Here are a few of my favorite resources that I found and my kids LOVED.
- A Dab of Music Learning Instruments by Tracy King – This is PERFECT for stations or a sub. My kids loved using these worksheets. I don’t have dabbers in my classroom, so I just used crayons or colored pencils and it worked just beautifully.
- Instruments of the Orchestra Scavenger Hunt by Jena Hudson – I used this set as a pre-test and post-test for our whole orchestra unit. I love how Jena included worksheets for both instrument families and individual instruments. I total hit!
- Instruments of the Orchestra Flipbooks by Jena Hudson – I love Jena’s stuff, can you tell? These are AWESOME for some independent work and assessing kiddos’ knowledge after talking about different families. She’s included flipbooks for both individual instruments and entire families. The kids LOVED making these. Super straight forward directions and beautifully put together.
Well that wraps up this round up! I hope these resources are useful to you. Don’t forget to sign up to get your free puzzles in the Resource Library!! Until next time friends!!