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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Music Idea File



Idea File:

Traditional Instruments

Cluck Old Hen/I Had a Rooster

Students identify and research the origins of traditional folk instruments and present their research to the class in a creative way.


"Cluck Old Hen" and "I had a Rooster"

Teaching Concepts:

  • Traditional musicians perform using a variety of instruments that help give traditional music a distinctive sound.
  • Researching the origins of traditional folk instruments can help students better understand and appreciate various cultures.

Academic Content

  • Music: elements/structures of music (timbre, instrument families)
  • Music: purposes of music (ceremonial, recreational, artistic expression)
  • Music and Social Studies: Appalachian and African-American cultures

Lesson Idea

Additional Resources: “Shady Grove” by Jean Ritchie, “Bushy Tail” by Malcolm Dalglish, “Gospel Train” by Rhonda and Sparky Rucker, “Foo Boo Woo Boo John” by Mike Seeger, “Spoons” by Malcolm Dalglish, and “The Hound Dog Song” by the Gray Eagle Band

View: The performances. While they watch, have students list the traditional instruments used by the musicians.

Research: Have the class research the history of each instrument. Where did it originate? Who where the first people to play it? Has the instrument changed? What were the purposes of the songs in which it was featured? Which instrument family does it belong to?

Create: Have students come up with a creative way to present their research (examples: posters, PowerPoint® presentations, instrument demonstrations, performances, etc.).

Expand: In some of the programs, the artists talk about the instruments they play and how to play them. Ask whether any students in your class have instruments they could bring in and demonstrate. Invite local traditional musicians to come into your class to introduce the instruments they play and how they play them.

Author: Sara O’Keefe


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