17 June 2019

How to run creative music and planets -themed lessons for primary pupils – from music animateur Helen Woods [2 of 2]

Helen Woods is a composer and musical animateur, who has been working with primary and secondary school teachers and their pupils for 20 years, creating fun, inspiring musical projects and experiences. She shares some top tips to help you create a lesson that helps pupils learn about the Planets and explore creative music-making. Lesson One is here, read on for Lesson Two.


So, you’ve created a brilliant first lesson exploring the sounds of the planet and giving everyone a chance to make choices and work together. What about differentiation – for example, if some pupils can play an instrument?

“In lesson two, you could get them into their groups again, and ask anyone who’s learning an instrument to come to the front of the class. Get them to tell the class about their instrument and show them what sounds it can make. Each group can then decide which instruments they’d like to add to their group, and why, to help with making the sound of their planet.

“This gives the instrumentalists a chance to shine, and gives others the chance to realise that they still can make musical judgements which will be valued. They can think of themselves as the musical producers in the group if you like.”

How would you introduce Holst’s version?

“You could then listen to snippets of each suite of The Planets, and ask the children to compare their versions with Holst’s.

“Ask them if there are any similarities and differences. Then ask them, if they started the whole exercise again, is there anything from Holst’s work that they would incorporate?

“Then get into groups and try this out, again recording the lesson. This then gives you the opportunity to watch both back and compare and evaluate.”

What are the learning outcomes?

  • Recognising and naming the different planets
  • Exploring sound, becoming attuned to sound
  • Playing creatively as a small group
  • Listening to and evaluating sounds, and each other’s work
  • Following a conductor, listening, being patient, waiting their turn
  • Opportunity to link with other lessons eg making planet pictures in art, poetry for each planet, calculating size and distance in maths

Further resources:

Gustav Holst – The Planets, Full Suite – YouTube

London Philharmonic Orchestra – Holst The Planets for Key Stage 2

Cardiff Astronomical Society


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