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Telling tales

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By John Stringer — educational consultant and former teacher

Making simple tuned percussion instruments; using instruments to tell a story

You will need

A copy of The Giant’s Lighthouse sheet; tuned percussion instruments (eg glockenspiel, xylophone, metallophone); different types of beaters; various sizes of flowerpots; milk bottles filled with water to different levels (will require supervision); plastic/metal tubes; tissue boxes and elastic bands.

What to do

Ask the children to experiment with the different tuned instruments. What makes them different from untuned percussion instruments?

Stand at the front of the class with a xylophone held vertically. Hit the lowest (largest) bar and move up the scale, showing how the notes get higher. Can the children suggest which bars to hit to play the song Three Blind Mice?

Provide the children with a range of materials to make their own tuned percussion instruments. Ideas include:

  • striking (or blowing across) milk bottles filled with different levels of water;
  • hanging plastic/metal tubes of different lengths (to create a tubular bells effect);
  • stretching different-sized elastic bands across a tissue box (to make a simple guitar).

Ask individuals to demonstrate their instruments. Which materials/designs produce the best range of sounds? As in the previous activity, ask the children to think about each type of instrument – what do the sounds remind them of? For example, the flowerpots may sound like someone going down a set of stairs, the tubular bells could sound like a magic spell, and so on.

Now work in groups and give every member of each group the same kind of instrument (shakers, scrapers, tissue-box guitars etc).

Read together The Giant’s Lighthouse poem. Ask the children to suggest which instruments could represent each sound. Now re-read the story with the children providing the appropriate sound effects at the right moments.


Mix up the groups, so that each one has a range of instruments, and ask the children to devise their own tune to play to the rest of the class.

sea and rocks image



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