Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Woodwind Family

I have mentioned before that I have been doing a unit on Woodwind Instruments with my 2nd graders but I thought I would create a post that compiles all of the resources I have been using for this unit.

I like to use the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's website for recordings.  They have done a great job of recording each instrument playing Twinkle, Twinkle and an orchestral excerpt.

Some of the images of the instruments on DSO's site are great examples but others run on the small side; even when projected onto the screen in my classroom.  In these instances, I use my Peter and the Wolf signs.  I made these a few years ago for a fun Peter and the Wolf lesson and I can easily project the name and image of the instrument from my doc cam.

I give my students an experience with a famous piece for each instrument we learn about.  For the oboe, we listened to the Afternoon of a Faun, the bassoon Peer Gynt, etc.  I display a picture of the composer on the screen with their name and the name of the famous piece.  Depending on the instrument and piece, we may also do a listening/movement activity.

Students take notes on each instrument and the famous piece it is featured in.  Here are some images of their notes.

They aren't anything fancy but they help the kids keep the information organized.  I think the part that has been the most impactful is drawing the instruments.  I make sure to emphasize some of the physical features of the instruments like the bocal on the bassoon, the difference in bell size of the clarinet and the oboe to help them distinguish between the instruments.  My kids have been easily able to discuss the differences when we played our review game.

Our notes only take about 5-8 minutes at the beginning of the lesson.  These sheets have a backside with more boxes to take notes on other instruments.  I leave drawing the instruments for when we have extra time.  Some lessons there may not be anytime to draw instruments but other days they may have time to draw 2.  It just depends on the class and the day and sometimes my mood!  :)

Another thing I like to do when I have extra time is play videos of the instruments we are learning about.  I posted these videos in October.  If you have an oboe or clarinet video you like, please share it in the comment section of this post.

There are a lot of things I don't mind getting behind on because I know I can catch up.  But, when I have a sub one thing that I do let them teach is the instrument.  I have them read from "The Story of the Orchestra" by Robert Levine.  There is great information and pictures in this book.  It's not just great for a sub, I like to read from it as well!

It's the end of the first quarter, so we have been playing Jeopardy as a review.  My kids LOVE this!  It only takes about 20 minutes to play, so it doesn't take up my whole lesson.  It has definitely been worthwhile to take the time and play the game before moving onto the next instrument family.  I found my Jeopardy template on Powerpoint Games website.  There are a few things I'm not crazy about, like the text colors and size, but for a free template it works!  The template on their site is blank, so you could use it to create a review game for any concept you are working on.

Each team gets a sound effect instrument (use 3 different timbres).  The team to buzz in first gets to answer the question (I don't care if they answer in the form of a question).  If they answer correctly, they get the points.  If not, the other teams can steal.  If no one gets the answer correct, then no one gets the points.

I play in 3 teams because of my seating arrangement.  After each question the instrument is passed to the next team member so that everyone gets a chance to represent their team.  After buzzing in I give the team a few seconds to discuss their answer.  For the listening examples, I make them wait to buzz in until I have given them a thumbs up or stopped the recording.  If you don't specify, no one will be able to hear because the kids will be buzzing in.

-Try and provide as many real examples as you can.  I brought in my flute and it gave my kids a much better perspective when it came to the size and shape of the instrument.  Videos are also great for this.
-Buy a few reeds.  I have examples of clarinet and bassoon reeds and I'm hoping to collet others.
-Provide multiple listening examples.  The more the kids hear these instruments the better.

This 9 weeks we will be working on our next instrument family.  Here is a preview:


  1. What a great post with lots of ideas! Thanks! I need to make some instrument pictures like you did for Peter and the Wolf. I agree is a wonderful site. Life sure was different in the music room before the Internet came along!

    1. Thanks. :) I'll see if I can find my Peter and the Wolf files. I looked yesterday when I was writing the post but I couldn't seem to locate them. If I find them, I will post them!


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