When my second graders arrived for music on Monday, they were shown a FedEx envelope with an urgent message from the St Louis Symphony conductor, maestro David Robertson. It was terrible news that the entire orchestra had come down with the flu (it was flu season at our school) and Maestro Robertson needed help hiring new orchestra members for the upcoming Saturday concert. He sent along the orchestra seating plan with how many instrument players he needed in each section and said to be sure and audition each player before hiring them. My 2nd Graders Hired St Louis Symphony Orchestra and you’re not going to believe what they learned in the process.
2nd Graders Hired St Louis Symphony Orchestra
I divided the children into small groups of 3-4 and chose “The Boss” of the orchestra. I purposefully chose my quiet students who needed a chance to shine as a leader. The boss was responsible for hiring and firing to get just the right players for the orchestra. He/she assigned tasks for each member of the team, such as, “I need four french horns, “I need one more second violin,” etc. Once the team had enough players, they had to decide on placement in the orchestra. They could study the seating plan, but when I walked by, had to give a reason for placing players in a certain position. “Why would you want trumpets in the back?” “Why are strings on both sides?” “Why is there only one piccolo?” “How do you tell the difference between a cello and a double bass?”
When my 2nd Graders Hired the St Louis Symphony Orchestra, hiring eventually boiled down to whether the player could stand up on the job or not! You’ll understand once you view the video! Below the video is a slideshow of pictures in case you want to see the pieces up close.
2nd Graders Hired the St Louis Symphony Orchestra Slideshow
Building the Orchestra Pieces
The St Louis Symphony Orchestra pieces come from their website here. What a wonderful gift to our students!! If you want to make these orchestral pieces, copy the entire 14 page PDF for each team of students; that’s enough to make up one full orchestra. I made seven(7) sets while sitting by the warm fire during the winter evenings. Having enough sets for 21 students was my goal. From my experience, teams of 3 work best on this activity.
To create the orchestra, copy the PDF, color the individual pieces, laminate them, cut them apart, and build a standing unit. You may come up a better idea of how to make the pieces stand up and hold up under repeated play, but my solution was to attach the pieces to a small piece of foam, like the foam that goes under furniture legs when the carpet gets cleaned, or small leftover pieces of the 8’x4′ foam insulation boards from Lowes or Home Depot.
Extra Effort Needed
I used white gaffer’s tape to attached the sides and bottom pieces to the foam. Any tape will do, but gaffer’s tape is easy to tear and has no sticky parts to gunk up over time. Plus, the white tape blended in with the pieces so well. On some of the pieces, I even tried to glue a paper clip to the bottom to get them to stand up without falling. Because I wanted to make something that could be thrown on the floor, handled by children, and tossed back in the storage box, going to all the extra effort/trouble was just part of the process. The black velcro, by the way, was for a first grade activity on the bulletin board where Ss had to sort instruments and place them in correct family groups.
I store all of the pieces in a large clear container box and bring them out just for this awesome activity. The kids absolutely love the challenge of building an orchestra and manipulating the instruments makes it all the better. How many other times would a little 2nd grade boy talk about needing 4 french horns, two flutes and violas?
Using Our Technology Tools to Record Learning
Students used the pens on the SMARTBoard to highlight each group of instruments. They moved freely around the room to complete the task and definitely owned the learning throughout this activity. The final task was “Show what you know” using their iPads.
Students took pictures of their completed orchestra and then used Seesaw to draw and record what they learned. Several examples were heard during the video collage. Once these videos were uploaded on Seesaw, the parents were totally blown away. “We got to hire (and fire) the orchestra today!” was the talk of the town for a while.
Presentation is Everything!!
This was part of a larger unit on the orchestra and for the first time, my students ended up grasping that individual players make up sections and sections make up families in the orchestra. Maybe they’ve always understood that, but by building the orchestra from the ground up and using technology to record what they learned, it was a completely different experience for both students and teacher.
Presentation is everything!! Hooking the students right when I greeted them at the door with the FedEx package and plea for help from Maestro Robertson set up the adventure perfectly. There were no behavior management problems at all. It was magical…corny, but true!! I see these orchestral pieces being used by others on Pinterest… and wonder how it’s going with them? Have you made a set yet?
A problem and a story that created curiosity led to …..
How would you finish the sentence?