Are you looking for fun and effective orchestra classroom ideas?
When developing young musicians in the orchestra classroom, teachers need to always teach with posture in mind. Developing balanced posture is needed for acquiring good tone and techniques later on.
In my beginning orchestra classroom, I am very strict about posture development. We also have a lot of fun while doing posture games and activities to help the beginning orchestra students. Here are some examples of beginning orchestra activities.
Before you go on reading make sure you also check our post Star Wars Beginning Orchestra Classroom Activities which also offers ideas for making posture work in the beginning orchestra classroom fun!
Beginning Orchestra Posture Tips
These particular games and activities are mostly about the left hand and developing good left hand posture. Not to worry because bow hold posts are coming on the site soon! When working in a larger group, having students play with good left hand is quite challenging.
As we know keeping the violin and viola wrist straight is a challenge when developing young students. Next two activities are devoted to that.
Straight Wrist Game-Don’t Touch My Hand
The students are asked to play a passage without touching the teachers hand (picture below). There is no other way to do this but by keeping a straight wrsit. I usually model this game using one student vollunteer. We practice it one day without the bow. This way we isolate the left hand only.
Then the whole class is expected to do it on all of their pieces. Different students are assigned to be the teacher by checking fixing their peers wrists. When practiced consistently this activity has proved very effective with my orchestra students. The kids also love it and have fun with it!
Cello Left Hand Wrist- Rubber Band Game
Most often your cello students would either hiper extend their elbow. That creates a “dip” and tension on the wrist. Approaching this by working with the wrist and thumb is a good idea. I will have other posts devoted to the thumb but let’s look at the cello wrist now.
Very often you will see your cellos playing with a wrist bent like the picture below. In this case the wrist is bent in which makes the elbow too low and the fingers away from the strings. The thumb and all fingers are out of place.
In my classroom I talk a lot about round wrist. Instead of starting on the thumb and fingers I am approaching the left hand first from the wrist. I have noticed that when they are able to round their wrist, their thumb and elbow also fall in place.
To provide a visual I use rubber bands to show that the elbow and fingers need to “hang” from the rubber band. This is how the rubber band game was created. If a student has a bent wrist, either the teacher or a peer needs to come up and “pull up” on the rubber band.
Fixing Left Hand Fingers for Violin and Viola
The Smily Face Orchestra Game
Have you seen this type of violin left hand before?
I think we all have at one point of our career. The problem is that when the left hand gets into thing locked position, it is very difficult to work with. The student will not be able to develop good intonation, note accuracy or technique. It is also very difficult to fix.
I have worked with many students in my own program and as clinician to different schools and music camps. Here is a proven activity to fix left hand posture. In some situations I have worked with students who are very locked. I have noticed that I need a visual that will make quick changes. So here it is – draw a smily face on the nail of the students. Have them position their finger so the face is “smiling back at them”. The ensures that the finger is on the tip. It also provides a fun visual that the students want to follow and practice.
Related: Violin Shop Resource
How to Develop Orchestra Lesson Plans Around These Activities and Games
- Have a “violin” or “cello” day. While one section is working on a posture, the kids from the other section are assigned to be helpers.
- Use some of the games as bell ringer activities. As the students are waiting for the second bell, they could be doing a silent partner activity checking their posture. This would be a great way to reinforce good posture. You can read more tips on planning orchestra bell ringer activities here.
- Schedule posture orchestra activities in between the pieces being played. For example the orchestra class can start with a warm up, do a posture activity, play their current piece, do one more posture activity, etc.
- If you have one student who is in private lessons or doing better-assign them to be a “posture police” during the posture games.
- When having students work in groups, it is very important to assign specific “roles” for the students. They need to know exactly what they need to be doing in order to avoid getting off track. For example one week one group of students can be the “teachers”. The next week they switch. Or the students who have proved that they know their pieces can be rewarded by being “teacher helpers”. Then the teacher would give them very specific instructions on how to work with the rest of the students and how to make sure everyone stays on track. You can read more on focusing student attention while playing games here.
- Insist on good posture and make it part of student’s grading. At the same time provide an element of fun. One example for that is I do a Star Wars rubric where we pick a posture element and the students try to reach the “Jedi Master” category. You can read more about it this orchestra post. scroll down to the Star Wars Unit points of that post.
And Last, Have fun in Your Beginning Orchestra Classroom
teaching beginning orchestra students can be quite challenging but also fun and rewarding. I am working with quite a few new teachers at the University of New Mexico at the moment. We are discussing ideas on better applications in the orchestra classroom. If you have any questions or if I can be of help about anything else, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment. I will be happy to help if I can.