I had a brainwave this week: I was planning a lesson for year 5 and 6 on the instruments of the orchestra, and wanted to show them a video recording of Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” that I have acquired somewhere along the way.
The brainwave was not that I used the recording, but that I showed it to the children WITH THE SOUND MUTED to begin with. This happened purely by chance; when I was checking that my copy of the recording would run I turned the sound off so as not to disturb everyone else in the room. I noticed how much easier it was to focus on the appearance of the instruments without the added dimension of sound.
In the lesson, I first explained about the structure of the piece, and then showed just the first section (main theme) with the sound off, talking over the images to name the families of instruments, and the individual instruments as they appeared on screen. I then went back to the beginning, turned the volume back on, and played it all the way through. The children were fascinated by the different instruments; the sounds the instruments made, and the varied appearance of them all.
To my surprise, they watched and listened attentively for the whole piece. We followed it up with questions and comments about the instruments and the music.
This lesson was in preparation for a visit to a concert at a local musical secondary school. It will have failed a lot of the requirements for a “proper” music lesson, as there was no movement, no music-making, no singing. However it was a first experience of seeing and hearing a classical orchestra for many of the children, and left them all buzzing with interest.
I have found a copy of the recording I used here, on TeacherTube; http://teachertube.com/viewVideo.php?video_id=46663&title=Instruments_of_the_Orchestra_Part_2