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This DIY instrument sorting puzzle is incredibly easy, involving a trip to the dollar store and a permanent marker. Though I’m using the example of instrument family sorting, you can use these puzzles for all sorts of music concepts. I’ll be sharing exactly how I made these puzzles in my post, along with a free download that’ll help you get started on your own puzzle games.


  • Bulletin Board Puzzle Decor
    • I got mine from the Dollar Tree. Beware grabbing just any old paper puzzle, they’re not all created equally. I learned this the hard way when I grabbed some wooden puzzle templates from a craft store only to find that the pieces didn’t actually fit together!
  • Permanent Marker
  • Clipart (to create image-based puzzles)


  • The puzzles are made of thick paper, but I would suggest only using them in centers where they’ll get less use. You could also laminate them if you’re willing to cut around all of the puzzle pieces after lamination.
  • Make sure you also create sets that are image-based, not just text. Students can choose which works best for them.
  • Because these puzzles are self-correcting (see image below), you can use as many sets as you want, but you’ll need at least two in order to make it a game for your students. For reference, three puzzles come in each package.


I started by writing the name of an instrument family on the back side of one of the puzzles. Then, I flipped them over and wrote the names of instruments from those families on the lines provided.

For the image-based puzzles, you can print out tiny clipart of different instruments, then tape them on using packing tape. I used packing tape because it’s wide and covers all of the clipart easily.


  • Have students flip the pieces so that they’re white side (front side) faces down.
    • If the game has recently been played, make sure they mix the pieces around.
  • Students should then begin to piece the puzzles together by groups.
  • When they’re finished, they can flip the pieces to see if they guess correctly.


This puzzle activity is meant as a formative assessment after students have explored the different instrument families. I was thinking of my Instruments of the West Resource when creating these puzzles. It’s an interactive presentation where students can explore the sounds and parts of each instrument and its family. As with most of my interactive presentations, it’s student-centered and doesn’t require teacher guidance, so they can move and explore at their own pace. You can find the presentation HERE.

I took notes while brainstorming ideas for more puzzles, and I’d like to share it with you. Here’s the Google Doc that includes all the ideas I’ve thought of (so far) that can be used with these puzzles. Obviously these ideas only work when paired with multiple puzzles, so you’ll have to expand on my ideas to create a usable puzzle activity. To download the Google Doc, click HERE, then click “Copy”. Once you have your own copy, you can add to it and edit all you want!