Students often need to learn about that guy at the front of the orchestra who waves his hands. What is he there for? and why on earth does he get paid so much money?
You can show the students the basic beat patterns for conducting, and have them practice using pencils or drinking straws as a baton You can play a game where you have one student conduct a pattern and the others have to identify it Don’t forget to show the students the beat patterns at different tempi (fast, medium and slow).
Dynamics are indicated by the size of the conducting gestures: large gestures = loud, small gestures = piano. You can practice this by conducting a pattern and having the students count the beats out loud, getting softer or louder as you change your movements.
Articulation is also indicated by the conductor. Smooth, Flowing Movement indicates Legato, while Sharp, sudden gestures indicate staccato. Show the students these articulations and allow students to have a go at them.
Conductors also do a lot to convey the mood or emotion in the music. Ask selected students to convey a particular emotion (e.g., happy, sad, angry, enjoyable, tender, etc.) while conducting a beat pattern. Can the other students guess what emotion is being conveyed?
Listen to pieces of music and have students conduct along with them. Folk songs or other familiar melodies could be a good place to start. To practice two beat in bar time, use a march; for triple time, use a waltz; for quadruple time, use any of a large variety of music.
Have the students watch a video of a conductor conducting an orchestra. Ask them if they can see the beat patterns and techniques for dynamics, articulation, and expression? Can students identify the various orchestral families and instruments?
These are all ideas that students can use to learn about the conductor in the orchestra. There is a complete lesson plan on this subject in Our Printable Music Lesson Plans Series