I is for Instrument (music theme) Lesson Plan

For our letter "I" theme, we talked about music and instruments. This was one of my favorite units. We started the unit by giving the kids a closer look at the different instruments we have in our home: a piano, a violin, a clarinet, and a ukulele.  My husband plays the violin, so I enlisted his help for this unit. I loved watching my husband show his sons the parts of a violin and help them draw the bow across the strings to make sounds. My boys loved trying to blow into my old clarinet and strum the strings of my ukulele. They were very excited when I lifted up the lid of the piano and let them watch the strings vibrate as I played some songs for them.

Learning the Letter
One thing we always do when we are learning a new sound and letter is try to brainstorm together some words that start with the new sound. Sometimes we have to be creative--the letter I was tricky for them, but the kids were excited when we thought of words like "icky" and "itchy." I even encourage them to come up with any word even if it isn't a real word. They always think it is funny to make up new words. Either way, they are still practicing the sound of the letter!  We also practiced writing the letter in chalk outside on our back patio. The "I'" was an easy one to learn--just a straight line with a dot. I usually focus most on writing the lower-case letters since that is what my kids will have the most contact with as they are reading.

The Books We Read
We checked out some books from the non-fiction section that showed pictures of different instruments and instrument families. We also read the following books:

Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin (Aladdin Picture Books) by Lloyd Moss and Marjorie Priceman
This book starts with just one instrument, then another is added, and another, until there is a full chamber group. The illustrations and rhymes are a lot of fun.

This is one of those books I remembered my mother reading to me as a child. So I checked it out from the library and read it to my own kids during our instrument week. It focuses more on the musicians themselves than on the instruments, but it is a fun book.

Carnival of the Animals: Classical Music for Kids  by Barrie Carson Turner and Sue Williams
This was much more than just a "book." It was a perfect way to experience and learn to enjoy classical music. My boys loved it. The book comes with a CD of Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saƫns. Each set of pages corresponds to one of the songs on the CD. It explains a little about the instruments producing the sounds and what sounds to listen for. As we read the book and listened to the music, we also acted out parts of the story, pretending to be the various animals as we danced around.

Art History
I showed my kids some Picasso paintings that featured instruments (i.e., The Three Musicians  and Mandolin and Guitar. I had them search to see if they could find the instruments in the paintings. I told them about the style of Cubism and explained that Picasso liked to paint things in a different way. I then drew a "cubist" train picture with sidewalk chalk and showed my boys how it was different and blocky, but still a train. Then, they did their own chalk art.  My oldest son gets easily frustrated when his drawings don't look just right, so I tried to remind him that it's good if his art looks different. The important thing is to have fun!

Music History
We enjoyed learning about different musicians through the Starfall website.  The Classics for Kids website was also a great resource for us. It has clips of music from different composers and different instruments, as well as games and lesson plans. We also practiced sorting instruments into instrument families using some pictures from this free printable. Another fun way to introduce instruments is through the Peter and the Wolf story. I showed my kids the classic Disney version of Peter and the Wolf during our unit.

We made a few different homemade instruments to create our own band. First, we made toilet paper roll shakers. We decorated toilet paper rolls and filled them with rocks, beans, pasta, and whatever else my kids could come up with. Then we taped them shut and shook them!

We also made these rubber band banjos. Our paper plates weren't sturdy enough for our rubber bands, so I had my kids decorate construction paper which we then taped to one of their old plastic dinner plates.  We attached a paper-towel-tube handle because we didn't have any paint sticks on hand. (Though the handle was a bit flimsy, so I recommend a paint stick if you have one. I know the paint section of our local hardware store will give us free paint sticks upon request). The boys had a blast jammin' away. 

I found this grand piano sandwich on Pinterest that is so cute. I was not that ambitious though! I made things simple by just cutting our snacks for the week into the shapes of music notes. It worked for my kids J

Songs and Games
Of course, lots of music was naturally incorporated into our lessons about different instruments. But one kids' song that we have in our anthology is "The Instrument Song" (or The Orchestra song).  It has different parts that can be sung to represent different instruments.  (We have a piano version of this song in this music book that we own.)

And we also played a Montessori-inspired sound matching game. I put different objects (i.e., nuts and bolts, Legos, buttons, rice, etc.) into brown paper bags--two bags with each type of object--and had my sons shake the bags to listen and see if they could guess which bags had matching objects. The brown bags didn't work quite as well as  containers for this game as plastic eggs or film canisters might have, because the rustling of the brown paper affected the sound. However, it was nice that the bags were big enough to put larger objects in. The boys loved this game, and after we initially played the game, the kids kept wanting to play it their own way. They filled bags with trains and all sorts of toys to match by sound. 

And that concluded our instrument unit. For more "I is for Instrument ideas, go check out my board on Pinterest! 

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