Nearly everyone does a unit on the instruments of the orchestra, but there are as many approaches as there are music teachers. I’ve probably approached it in ten different ways in as many years within my own program. In my first years, I focused on the instruments of the orchestra, but it quickly became much more interesting to discover that instruments from many cultures can be categorized into instrument families. Now even the students who insist that anything orchestra-related is “boring” excitedly research an instrument: the most unique, the most complex, the biggest, or just one with a “funny” name. And the results speak for themselves, with much deeper inquiry and much less Wikipedia-copied content.
We began the unit by exploring some instruments: looking, poking, and plucking real, live instruments. At each instrument station, the students recorded their observations and questions. We used those to guide us in the next step: research. In addition to a pile of books, brochures, and posters, the New York Philharmonic KidZone was a helpful resource.
After the students did their own inquiry, we used some of the same questions and observations, adding and changing as we went, and off they went to research their instruments of choice. The class chose how best to share their learning, and decided on presenting a poster (second graders LOVE making posters) and a video demonstration. The posters hung on the walls all term, and I often found members of the school community stopping to check them out.
I may change it up again soon, but the students’ reflections on the process have been overwhelmingly positive, so the only change coming up will be to present it as an eBook, now that we have access to a set of iPads and Book Creator!
What have been your successes with learning about the instruments? What are some of the interesting ways your students share their learning?