The Percussion Family: A Unit on the Instruments of the Classical Orchestra

The Percussion Family: A Unit on the Instruments of the Classical Orchestra
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This is the 5th lesson in the Instruments of the Classical Orchestra unit Plan for 5th grade.

LESSON 5: The Percussion Family

Duration: Forty minutes

Rationale: The purpose of this lesson is to provide students with information about the percussion family and its characteristics as well as its main members (drums and marimba) and all of the auxiliary percussion as well. The students will be gathering information from a Music software program called Sibelius Instruments.

Objectives: Students/learners will:

  • Identify the main percussive instruments: the snare drum, bass drum, marimba, cymbals, timpani and chimes.
  • Identify some of the auxiliary instruments such as the triangle, castanets, gong, maracas, claves, guiro, wood block, tambourine, cow bell, etc.
  • Identify and recognize various types of mallets and which instrument they are used for.
  • Listen to sounds of the various percussive instruments.
  • Explore Sibelius Instruments for information on the percussion family.

National Standards: For the National Music and Technology standards, click here.



  • A percussion instrument for class demonstration (i.e. snare drum and/or claves)
  • Worksheet on the Percussion Family via Microsoft Word
  • Large overhead screen
  • Student laptops with appropriate software installed
  • InFocus machine
  • Teacher laptop or PC
  • CD player and CD of the International Drum Corp. Music

Class Organization: Students will start on the carpet area for the instrument demonstration. They then will go to their desks/tables and will be on their individual laptops. The teacher will be at the front of the class for demonstration but will come around to the students as well. The teacher will be using the InFocus machine in the front of the classroom for the guided activity.


  • The teacher will have all of the students sit on the carpet area (in chairs if necessary) in a semi-circle.
  • The teacher will then review with the students some of the characteristics of the percussion family and show them pictures of each of the instruments in the family. The students will be asked to try to identify the instrument shown.
  • The teacher will then get out a snare drum (or any kind of drum), a xylophone (with mallets) and an auxiliary percussion instrument (claves, tambourine, etc.) for demonstration. The teacher will show the students how to play percussive instruments and what they are made out of. The teacher will also briefly discuss what mallets are and made out of.
  • The students will then pass these instruments around for the students to try.
  • They teacher will then have the students go to their laptops and open Sibelius Instruments from the desktop. Students will then click on the “instruments” button and then click on the “percussion” button. The teacher will then lead the class in a guided discussion on the various percussion instruments.
  • The students will then click on the “mallets” link near the top of the percussion page for information on the different types of mallets. Again, the teacher will lead this discussion using the InFocus machine to direct the students through the pages.
  • The students will listen to examples of each of the instruments as well as that of a drum and bugle corp. and the types of drums, etc. it entails.
  • The students will then complete a percussion worksheet/document saved in Microsoft Word by utilizing the Sibelius program.
  • The students will then print the worksheet to hand in to the teacher.
  • As an option, the teacher can play the International Drum Corp. CD for the students while they work.

Assessment: Students will be assessed on their ability to complete the percussion worksheet/document and will also be assessed informally on their participation by means of a participation rubric.



Sibelius Instruments-2007

Published by Avid Technology, Inc.

This post is part of the series: Instrument Families of the Orchestra

This is a great unit plan that will get your 5th grade Music students better acquainted with the various types of musical instruments of the orchestra. There are several lessons that incorporate technology as well. Enjoy!

  1. Instruments of the Orchestra Unit Plan and First Lesson
  2. Instruments of the Orchestra: The String Family
  3. Instruments of the Orchestra: The Woodwind Family
  4. The Instruments of the Orchestra: The Brass Family
  5. Instruments of the Classical Orchestra: The Percussion Family