Beacon Lesson Plan Library

What Is My Family Name?

Tisa Craig
Polk County Schools


Can you hear with your ears what you have seen performed? In this lesson students listen to selected solo instruments and place the instrument in its correct family of instruments. Students also identify from listening examples: orchestra, band, vocal solo, and choral performance.


The student identifies instruments and their `families` (e.g., violin as a string instrument; flute as a woodwind) and performance groups (e.g., band, chorus, or string quartet).


-A class set of pencils.
-A class set of assessments (see associated file)
-White board, chalkboard, or overhead projector and appropriate marker
-Selected recordings of instruments representative of each family of instruments, vocal soloist, bands, string quartets, and orchestras
-Appropriate electronic device for playing recordings
-Picture posters of musical instruments (optional)
-Autoharps, keyboards (optional)
-Student music books


Prior to Day 1:
1. Select recordings of solo instruments from each family of instruments, i.e. strings, brass, percussion, wind, keyboard (optional) and the appropriate electronic device to play recordings, i.e. cassette player, CD player, record player.
2. If available, set out picture posters of instruments.
3. Make student music books easily accessible and set out autoharps and keyboards if available.
4. Write Family of Human Beings on the board.

Prior to Day 2:
1. Make enough copies of the assessments (see Associated File) for every student to have one.
2. Sharpen and set out pencils for every student.
3. Set out recordings used last week and the appropriate electronic device for playing the recordings.
4. Select and make readily accessible, recordings of a vocal soloist, choir, string quartet, orchestra, and band and the appropriate electronic device to play recordings.

Prior to Day 3:
1. Select a recording of a choral reading and set out recordings used last week with the appropriate electronic device on which to play recordings.
3. Sharpen and set out pencils and have Assessment 2 (which may be on the reverse of Assessment 1) ready to distribute.


Day 1:
1. Ask students to brainstorm characteristics of a human being. Write the suggested characteristics under the heading: Family of Human Beings written on a whiteboard, chalkboard, or overhead projector. (Has the ability to think, 2 arms, 2 legs, etc.)

2. Inform students that musical instruments are also grouped into families by their construction, sounds produced, and ways the sounds are made.

3. Ask students to name instrument families they may already know. Once all four families have been named, ask students to decide whether they wish to add keyboard as a fifth family or place the piano in the percussion family because keys are struck, or into the strings family because strings vibrate to produce the sound.

4. Once students have decided whether they want four or five groups, direct them to count off by 4 or 5. Assign all the number ones the string family, twos brass, threes wind, fours percussion, and (optional) fives keyboard and ask them to form their groups around the room and be seated once they have formed their groups.

5. Direct students to select at least five instruments from the package of posters, pictured in music books, or actual instruments in the classroom that belong in their assigned family. Allow about 10 minutes for this.

6. Next, ask each group to present to the class the instruments they found. Before moving to the next group, ask the class if they agree that all instruments fit in the family. Discuss why or why not.

7. Then, play a recording of instruments of the family represented.

8. Continue presentations, discussion, and listening until all families have been presented.

9. Tell students that the next time they come to class they will be asked to identify instruments and their corresponding families from listening.

Day 2:

1. Review the last lesson on instruments and their families.

2. Distribute answer sheet (Associated File) and pencils.

3. Make sure students understand the directions for this assessment.

4. Play recorded examples for each student to complete the assessment.

5. Play a recording of a choir singing while collecting papers and pencils.

6. Once materials have been collected, turn off the recording and ask students if what they just heard was vocal or instrumental. (vocal) Then ask if it was solo or ensemble. Ask what they would call the group they just heard (a choir). Give students the name of (ensemble) the choir they just heard singing.

7. Now, play a recording of a band playing. Follow the same line of questioning as before.

8. Play recordings of a string quartet then a soloist and after each recording is played, follow the same line of questioning as in procedure 6.

9. Tell students the next time they come to class they will be asked to identify soloists, ensembles, both vocal and instrumental from listening to recorded selections.

Day 3:

1. As students enter class and are seated, play a recording of a symphony orchestra. If there is a local symphony, play one of their recorded pieces.

2. Ask a student volunteer to go to the whiteboard on which is written INSTRUMENTAL, VOCAL and ORCHESTRA, BAND. Direct the student to decide whether the selection played was instrumental or vocal and draw a circle around the word. (Instrumental) How did the student arrive at that answer? Now ask whether an orchestra or a band played the piece and draw a circle around his/her choice. Ask what distinguishing factors helped the student reach this conclusion? Finally, ask the volunteer if this is his/her final answer. Then ask the class if they concur. Thank the student for volunteering.

3. Tell students they will be assessed on their ability to identify solo, ensemble, vocal, and instrumental pieces by listening to them.

4. Distribute student answer sheets and pencils.

5. Read aloud the directions and clarify any questions as to how we will complete the Sample item.

6. Next, play a recording of a choral reading. Ask students to mark their answers in the Sample row. Ask students if the sample was Vocal or Instrumental (Vocal) People use their vocal folds when speaking so, yes, the answer is vocal. Then ask under what group heading they marked an X. (Choir) Yes, it could not be a solo because there was more than one voice. Bands, orchestras, and string quartets all use musical instruments, so the answer is Choir. In fact, we musicians call what you just heard a Choral Reading.

7. Play recordings so students may complete Assessment 2.

8. Collect answer sheets and pencils.

9. Tell students they will receive feedback on their answer sheets next time they come to class.


This formative assessment is in two parts: INSTRUMENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES and WHAT DO YOU HEAR? These assessments may be copied from the associated file and have complete directions. Since this assessment is best for aural learners, some students may not be successful in identifying the instrument and/or performance group. Those students will be given individual assessment using posters depicting the instrument and will be expected to name the instrument and to which family it belongs. The second assessment will be handled in a like manner, displaying a picture and asking the student to identify the performance group and whether the group is vocal or instrumental.

Attached Files

Use this document for Assessments 1 and 2.     File Extension: pdf

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