Introduction to the Orchestra

Appropriate for grades 3 or 4

Student Learning Objectives:

·       Students will be able to visually identify illustrations of instruments of the orchestra after listening to the book Meet the Orchestra.

·       Students will be able to aurally associate pictures of instruments with their sounds while listening to a performance of ³Peter and the Wolf² coupled with a Power Point slide show.

·       Students will be able to work together in groups to identify the instruments in the orchestra using both names and pictures.

·       Students will be able to differentiate between musical families and categorize the instruments appropriately in a chart.

·       Students will be able to explain why they organized their charts as they did in a presentation to the class.





·       Computer/Projector and Meet the Orchestra Power Point presentation (with recordings of Gershwin¹s ³American in Paris² and Prokofeiv¹s ³Peter and the Wolf²).

·       ³Meet the Orchestra² book

·       Books about instruments and instrument families

·       Chart paper

·       Markers

·       Pictures of the instruments/names of the instruments


Anticipatory Set:

            This lesson will begin right when the students enter the classroom. The Power Point presentation will be queued up and ready to begin and an ³American in Paris² will be playing. The students¹ attention should be diverted to the music as they are getting to their seats, and I will remind them to be quiet and respectful while listening to the music if there is excessive talking or noise. Students will be able move in and around the seats if they feel like it, as long as they do not talk or disturb their neighbors. After a few minutes, I will ask the students if they know what kind of ensemble it performing this piece of music. Even though this piece is technically being played by a ³philharmonic² orchestra, but I am just looking for students to say orchestra. If other answers, such as band or even chorus come up, I would tell them no (but good guess), and that in today¹s lesson we¹re going to learn what makes an orchestral piece.



            Following the Anticipatory Set, I will read the students a book called ³Meet the Orchestra,² which is a colorful account of the instruments in the orchestra. It tells the students about the four families of instruments, and describes each orchestral instrument by family. It also gives descriptions of the sounds that the instruments make, which could be a good reference point for some students.

            After reading the book we will have a brief discussion (with questions listed on the Power Point presentation) about some of things the students learned about the instruments, and also generate some questions about what else they want to learn about the orchestra. When our discussion is over, students will be invited to get up and stretch out for a few seconds, and then find a place in the room to sit by themselves, relax, but be able to see the Power Point projection for the next part of the lesson.

            This part of the class is where the students will be able to hear some of the instruments in the orchestra, and have another reference point (aural) in identifying the instruments. Using the Power Point, I will give the students a short background of Prokofeiv¹s ³Peter and the Wolf,² and then play a recording of the piece along with the presentation which has the pictures of the instruments appear as they are introduced in the piece. This should take about 15 minutes.


Check for Understanding:

            Following the piece, the students should break down into groups of 4 or 5 (randomly determined ahead of time), and then report to one of the workstations created around the room. At the workstations will be cut out pictures of instruments, the names of the instruments, some markers, and two pieces of chart paper. On the Point Presentation will be the written instructions of the task the students must complete, and there will be a resources station set up in the classroom with reference station if the students need it.

            The task is to have the groups work together to construct a chart of the families of instruments. Their first task is to identify the four families we talked about earlier in the class, and make column headings on the chart paper (two families per page). Next, the students should take the pictures and the names and put them in the appropriate headings. Finally, the students should come up with two characteristics for each instrument family. This is something we didn¹t spend too much time talking about, so I am looking for the students to stretch a bit to come up with some characteristics.

            The students may not complete this project by the time the class ends. If this is case, I will assess how far the students have progressed and wrap and review what we have done to that point. If they do finish, the final activity will be to compile a class chart.

As a final activity, we will create a class synthesis chart. In the interest of time, I will be the one actually making the chart, but all of the input will come from students. We will go through the same steps that they did in creating their group charts, and I will go around the room asking for input on all aspects from all the groups. As each group provides information, the class will have to come to consensus that each entry is in the right spot. Mistakes are fine, and will provide for great moments for the students to teach each other. The ³mistaken² group will tell the class why the put in the instrument where they did, and then other groups will have a chance to give their reasons why they put that instrument where they did. If there are big problems (e.g. ALL the students think that the clarinet is part of the percussion section), I will intervene and try to remedy the situation.


            Students will share some of the new concepts and ideas that they learned in class today, as well as some of things they liked and disliked, and their reasons for their opinions.



            The next class I would use Sibelius¹s ³Instruments² program, particularly so they could see how the instruments are seated in the orchestra, and also to show them how the orchestra has changed since it was first ³invented² several centuries ago.