Reply To: Following "smoke and mirrors" teacher

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With older students, I wonder if you could find songs that they might be more interested in playing, rather than the elementary songs. I can imagine kids labeling those as “baby songs” and feeling degraded because they are much older. (Even though that’s their appropriate playing ability). In my opinion, those books are written for 8-10 year olds. Middle schoolers can be quick to make a judgement. Maybe you could make a list of folk songs and have the students vote on which ones they would like to study so it’s their choice.

I’d pull rhythm exercises from an outside source and make that one large topic to teach. From the very beginning, teach how to tap/clap/count, how to write in counts, time signatures, etc. All the very basics. You can easily have kids play rhythms on their instruments as a start for fingerings and then later transfer them to rhythms on the staff. Scales are great for rhythm exercises too. Rhythm Master is a great website with printable rhythm exercises and games.

I know the Rubank books don’t have the pretty colors and pictures, but I like to use them with my older beginners in private lessons. I explain that the book doesn’t have Mary Had A Little Lamb, but it has exercises to help learn the instrument quickly.

I totally agree with Fisher about finding 1 1/2 pieces of the band. My advanced elementary school is doing Pirates of the Carribbean (arr. Michael Sweeney) and they love it! It might be a little easy for your students, but then you’ll be able to really solidify the musical concepts and hopefully keep them interested! Find the gimicky pieces that your students will be excited to learn! I believe that the level of difficulty shouldn’t determine whether or not a piece is appropriate to play-some lower graded pieces can be quite difficult to play musically!