What I came up with was four teams named after the four instrument families. Each kid of every class I had would be assigned to either brass, woodwinds, strings, or percussion and would stay with that family all year long. At the beginning of the year I would sit down and do some intensive planning as I separated kids into the four families. I was careful to put high achieving and low achieving and behavior issues in each group so that not one group was higher achieving or filled with problems. If there ever was a reason that I had one student who had extra special issues, would need the most help, or might cause problems I made sure to put them in percussion. That way, no matter what class I had, I knew that I would need to check in on percussion the most. This also helped in case I had paras in the room. I knew that they could hang out with percussion and also (when I prepped for programs) I knew where to put that family so that the paras could easily stand next to them and help them out. For the first week spend a good deal of time learning who was in our family, what the family name represented, and playing games with other family members. We did things to help them identify what their family looked like and who other members were. This prep work has been well worth it!
This system also helps me out with classroom management and makes little things a little easier. When we line up I can say something like, “Percussion may line up first, then brass..” and it gives me an orderly and quick way to line up. Or I might say, “whichever family has the harp in it may line up first, then the family that has the recorder in it…” Of course this way I always have one family that will tell me that “you always call us last!” Often I’ll say something like, “well I’m calling the quietest family first…” and often that will quiet them down and make them reassess how they’re doing. I don’t know if it’s true that I tend to say one family more than another, but I found a way around that. Each week I post a “family of the week” and that family changes on a four week rotation so that at least once in every four weeks a family will not be last but will be first, for sure!
I have four big posters in my room displaying the four families that I made. I took some foam core and covered it with colored fabric and then added names and several recognizable members of each family. I made sure to match the colors of the posters with the original colors of the instrument family posters that you have been able to buy from catalogs. I’m not sure who makes ‘em, but the instrument family posters have been around forever and I think that my school’s copy is from 1960. So I color coded my homemade posters to match so that if I hang or display the catalog printed posters they’ll match color with family.
This totally links up with the Bulletin Board Idea that I use for the beginning of the year. Check it out HERE!
All in all, this has made my life a lot easier. Classroom management has simplified, and as if that’s not enough, kids are internalizing the content. Now, when my third graders get to the unit on instrument families it takes a lot less to teach them. After that it gives them a chance for almost constant reinforcement of the concepts. Yes, it takes some prep time at the beginning of the year, but after that, life is GREAT!