Monday, February 16, 2015

Teaching the Orchestra

Teaching the orchestra is not as hard as it may sound.  One of the best ways I've found to teach it as a tutor, is to make an orchestra board for the six week segment.  The board is also great to keep up at home with my own child during the week.  I am just getting ready to update my board for the current cycle, so I thought I'd share with you how I made it and what I put on my board, along with some additional teaching ideas for the classroom and at home.

Materials for an Orchestra Board

  • Science Board 
  • Guided listening sheets for each music piece you will be playing (you can get these on CC Connected)
  • Guided listening instruction sheet
  • Timeline with composers on it
  • Vocabulary words you will be covering
  • Orchestra sections with photos for each family 
  • Puzzle of the orchestra
If you are tutoring, then you will need to have the following book to play each selected week's music:

If you go to this website Music Families, then you can click on The Orchestra (Several) link and then the Orchestra Instruments Families link and it will take you to a Power Point document that you can select and print the various instrument family slides to add to your science board.

Create an orchestra puzzle and laminate it.  I copied mine, then laminated it and cut it up, storing it inside my little envelope on the board.  I made a small copy for a "key".  Have the kids practice putting the puzzle together as they understand how the orchestra is set up.  

If you want to add a timeline and/or composer photos then here are a few sights with ideas for downloads to do just that.  You do have to join the website to have download access for some of them.  You can find composers Here and blank timelines Here or Here.

Basically put on your board whatever will help you to introduce the orchestra to the kids and teach through the six weeks.  It's meant to be a visual way to help the kids and yourself, stay on track.  I usually just replace the two side boards of information and change out my composer photos, for the current cycle, from year to year.

Additional Classroom Helps:

(I've used this every year!)
PDF Booklet - there are additional worksheets and hand outs you can utilize from this great site as well.

Orchestra puppets (from the Foundations Curriculum Guide pg. 194).  Just copy them and then affix them to popsicle sticks.  I laminated mine to make them more durable.  You can also find colorful ones online if you would rather.  

I also have plenty of games and resources pinned on my Pinterest page Here if you want ideas for the classroom to play.

To end our six week period, I have the kids make instruments.  There are a lots of crafty, easy ways to make instruments from recycled materials in your home.  My Pinterest page has plenty of ideas as well.  They can be listening to the three pieces from this segment, as they work on their instruments.

During this six week period, you can also play a review game orchestra style.  You are the conductor and use a pointer to randomly cue the children to say the memory work one at a time, having them stop and pick up mid recitation, as you conduct.  It can be pretty fun and funny for the kids.  I've also done this with the timeline during new grammar, as well.  

I have also found that reading a book if it's short enough and brings to life a particular composer or the orchestra as a whole, is really engaging for the kids and they enjoy it.  Here are some of my favorites I've used over the years:


Ideas at Home

The above books listed are great to read at home if not in the classroom.  A great lap book for the series is a fun interactive way to study the orchestra, and I have some pinned on my Pinterest page.  Take a field trip to hear the orchestra live.

As well as some interactive online games are:

 App for the iPad

I hope you enjoy the Orchestra!


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you for the encouragement! It's appreciated! :)

  2. Thank you so much for posting this. Last year was my first to teach orchestra to our CC group. It failed miserably! Now I know this year will be better! Thank you for sharing!!

    1. I'm so glad that this will bless you and making tutoring easier this year! It's always hard to tackle things we aren't necessarily feeling super competent in, but we too can learn alongside our children. I'm sure this year will be super! Blessings - Colleen

  3. Hi There!

    Where would I find the Guided Listening Sheets on C3. I've searched with no luck. Do you know who they were uploaded by?

    Thank you so much!

    1. I made my board three years ago. I've just uploaded a document to this post that has Guided Listening sheet. However, I just looked on C3 and what I found that could be used to create a board were; Musical Family Guide by sheriellis, Orchestra by Sh1Mcdonald, along with an upload from alitiabrown's Intro to Orchestra Powerpoint, all have the Orchestra families with photos. Also CC C3 Composer Cards by lorigreene could be used for composers/info. discarbunch has all the flowcharts for listening for each Composer. Orchestra booklet by suzirsmith could be used in class for the kids! Hope that helps! :)

  4. This is a great tool! I am teaching my daughter the violin this year and I would love to employ this tactic!! Thanks!

    1. Kay - Thank you for stopping by. I'm so glad that this concept will be helpful to you for your daughter's violin. That's terrific! Blessings-Colleen

  5. We will be starting the orchestra tomorrow! We have a lady on our campus who knows all about that kind of stuff (college degree, has directed children's orchestras and stuff like that) so she will be leading our campus all together for fine arts these last 6 weeks. I'm looking forward to seeing how she decides to present it all! Your ideas look great! We made boards like that for the artists for the last 6 weeks. I thought it was helpful.

    1. That's a great idea! We had someone do our Artists one year. Always great when there's a person with expertise on campus. Thanks for stopping by! Blessings - Colleen