Lesson Plan: All in the Family, Which family do you want to join?

Written By: Heather Oppegard
Grade Level: 3-5

Time Allotment

5-6 30 minute class periods, recommended to cover one instrument family per week or teach this plan over a long period of time.


Students will explore musical instruments and instrument families by learning how they are played, how sound is produced, what characterizes each instrument family (what the instruments in each family have in common), and then share preferences of which instrument they would choose to play if given the opportunity.

Lesson Plan - All_In_The_Family.pdf

Subject Matter

Music, can adapt to include some history and science.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to name the musical instrument families, label or sort various instruments into their families, recall what each family member has in common, explain how each produces sound, and evaluate which instrument they can relate to or would like to play given the opportunity.

Media Components - Video/Web

Minnesota Legacy Musical Concepts


Computer, projector, copies of instrument sort and survey (1 per student), signs: brass, percussion, woodwinds and strings. Make a playlist or have available segments of different instruments playing. Many music series will have such an option on the series CD’s. Option: index cards, four per student.

Teacher Preparation

bookmark site, preview videos, copy sort and survey sheets. Make instrument signs and gather music for listening or make a playlist.

Introductory Activities

  1. Let’s brainstorm! How many musical instruments can you name? (List answers on the board.)
  2. Now lets talk about families. A member of each family in real life has some things in common. Can you name some things that you and your family members have in common? (possible answers: similar hair/eye color, same last name, live together, etc.) Do you think that any of the instruments we listed have anything in common that make them family? How are they related? Can we categorize them into different families? What factors can we look at to help us decide how to group them? (what each instrument is made of, how sound is produced, etc.)
  3. Let’s get into groups and see if we can sort this list into four families: brass, strings, woodwinds and percussion. Keep sheet for revising as more information is learned.
  4. Have students answer the beginning survey question.

Learning Activities

  1. With their sorting list and survey sheet in hand,students watch musical concepts videos on screen using computer and projector.
  2. Students can fill out and/or revise while viewing videos. Watch videos in desired order and as class time allows over the span of a few class periods.
  3. Summarize and discuss what was learned at end of each class session.

Culminating Activity

  1. Fill out final questions on survey sheet.
  2. Share and discuss final preferences and reasons.
  3. Play activity: Four corners Make four signs: Brass, Woodwinds, Strings, Percussion and place a sign in each corner of the room. Play some sample audio versions of different instruments of the orchestra playing. Have students move to the corner with the family label of the instrument they are hearing. Another way to show their learning would be for the students to label four index cards with the instrument family names. When they hear the particular instrument, they hold up the family name card for the teacher to observe.
  4. Play computer games on an interactive white board as a group or kids can pair off to play games in a lab setting. Music Quizzes Choose any from the list “Quizzes-Instruments”.

Cross-Curricular Activity

History: learn the history and origins of different instruments, ex: hunting horns-French horn, flutes carved from wood, etc. some of which is covered in the videos. Science: learn in more detail how the sound is produced in various instruments. Create a string instrument using a box and rubber bands. Fill a container with rice for a shaker. Tape wax paper to one end of a paper tube to make a kazoo. Beat on various containers for drums. Blow in rubber tubing and a funnel for a horn.

Community Connections

Invite musicians to demonstrate instruments. Attend a concert.