Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Watch Your Conductor Like a Hawk

Roberto Gonzalez-Trigo
Miami-Dade County Schools


Stop students from burying their heads in the music and their eyes away from the conductor. This lesson uses a music sheet to isolate the musical elements of tempo, balance, and blend while having the students focus their eyes on the teacher.


The student performs on classroom instruments (independently and in groups) and responds to tempo, balance, and blend cues of a conductor.


-CD Player
-CD of classical music with dramatic musical elements (tempo/dynamics/etc.)
-A class set of tambourines
-One table-top music stand per student (optional)


1. Print out the rhythmic notation sheet (See Associated File).
2 Make photocopies for each student.
3. Place a tambourine and a table top music stand (optional) on each student's desk.
4. Print out one copy of Assessments (See Associated File).


1. Before the students arrive, have a CD player ready with a classical music selection of your choice. Make sure your selection has wide and obvious ranges of musical elements. For example, you may choose Beethoven’s 5th Symphony which has obvious dynamic contrasts right at the beginning of the piece.

2. Welcome the students and without saying another word, play the CD and conduct a few measures of the piece for them.

3. Once this presentation is complete, stop the CD and ask the students to name what your hand gestures were showing while the music was playing. Write their findings on the board and have a discussion about the findings.

4. Introduce/review the term “conductor,” and tell the students that at the end of the lesson one of them will be a “guest conductor” for the day. If desired, you may say that only the best student who is on task and behaves well will be the conductor. This will help in classroom management throughout the lesson.

5. Ask the students to look on their desks where they should each find a tambourine and a piece of music.

6. Review proper tambourine playing technique.

7. Set a standard metronome at 90 bpm. Play through the piece once directing students to touch the notes on their music sheets while the song is being played.

8. Play the piece once more having students tap the beat on the palms of their hands.

9. Play along as a class until the students have a strong grasp of the music.

10. Teach the concepts of tempo, accelerando and ritardando by writing the terms and their definitions on the board first. You can compare the term accelerando to a car speeding up thus “accelerating” the music. Demonstrate on the tambourine how an accelerando and ritardando should sound.

11. Conduct a simple 4 pattern and have the students snap their fingers to each of the beats.

12. Ask the students to pick up their instruments and have them keep their eyes on the conductor - like a hawk - while they play through the piece. Incorporate an accelerando and ritardando.

13. Teach the concepts of blend and balance by writing the terms and their definitions on the board first. You can give an example of the term balance with a simple real world math problem: If a consumer has 3 cans of tuna and another consumer has 20 cans of tuna, are they balanced? You can then describe how in music ensemble performers must balance their volumes with each other.

14. Demonstrate an unbalanced performance with two students playing the same simple rhythm together on tambourines; one plays loudly and the other plays softly. Ask the students if they believe the sound was balanced. Discuss students' answers. Now, instruct both tambourine players playing the same rhythm again, to play at a medium level. Ask the class if what they just heard was balanced. Discuss their answers.

15. Show the students your interpretation as a conductor of a balance and blend gesture.

16. Repeat step 12 but now incorporate blend and balance.

17. At this point, you may choose one student to come up and serve as guest conductor. Have 3-4 students at a time play the piece while following the conductor's gestures. Remind the student conductor that he/she may use any or all of the musical elements introduced/reviewed in the lesson, but that there should be only one element in the conducting pattern. In other words, an accelarando and piano should not be conducted in the same pattern.

18. While these small groups of students play under the direction of a student conductor, assess them using the checklist found in the associated file.

19. To close the lesson, review the concepts learned. (Conductor, tempo, accelerando, ritardando, blend and balance).


This is a formative assessment. An assessment sheet is provided in the associated file.
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