First year recorder program- where to start?
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February 1, 2013 at 10:14 pm #19777
I’m teaching elementary music for the first time this year at a school that hasn’t taught music in the past. I’ve been using a primarily Kodaly approach with all classes, and am preparing to use recorder. I’m wondering if it’s appropriate to introduce recorder for grades 3-5? What method books are the most effective? Recorders? Do your students have books to take home and practice? Thanks for any suggestions you have!February 2, 2013 at 8:18 am #19778
I teach recorders in 3rd grade as a precursor to band instruments in 4th grade. I tried a new approach this year and have loved it so far. Usually the recorder unit starts in January and they learn a song for the spring concert. This year I started in October (but maybe 3 or 4 times a month only) and got all the annoying basics out of the way. Rest/playing position, air, fingers, G A B, reading music… The students used my classroom recorders and I taught them notes myself. There is a GREAT recorder practice SMARTBoard lesson by Allison Shapiro called Rockin’ Recorder that has short etudes with background tracks. The kids LOVE it! When we came back in January, I continued the unit the way we always do. The parents send in money to buy a recorder and book (Recorder Express) and the kids were super energized to get playing music! Because they already knew GAB, they can play the first 10 pages in the book, including a lot of songs that are familiar.
Our class meets twice a week and I have the kids bring in their book (with signed practice sheet) and recorder on Wednesday. It stays over night in my room, and then on Thursday after class they take it home again. I’ve never had more than 1 or 2 students forget their instrument on Wednesday (partly because their classroom teacher is AWESOME with writing it in the homework book on Tuesday) but I have some extra recorders in my room. I keep recorders of who forgot what and when because it is part of their second semester grade.
Its not in my curriculum to continue recorders in 4th or 5th grade but I’m thinking of reprising it in 4th grade this year because I’m having a hard time getting them excited about anything else.February 3, 2013 at 12:52 am #19786
How exciting that you get to start a fresh recorder program!!! I know this can also be a daunting task when it is also your first year teaching elementary music, but the fundamentals of teaching the recorder are the same as if you are teaching band or orchestra classes. Spiraling the curriculum is key; setting a solid foundation with good tone and tonguing, then adding reading rhythms and then melody will give the students a good basis from which to launch future instrumental endeavours.
Fourth grade is the year our district introduces the recorders to students, but I personally learned in third grade. Regardless of what age is starting the recorder, the process I use is the same. Personally, I require my students to know the names of the pitches prior to playing the instrument. Students can order recorders through the school, but I also have a classroom set as needed. Our district purchased seven entire classroom sets that are all different colors that are checked out through our department secretary if a school needs them. When deciding what brand of recorder to purchase, one should also consider how much parents in your school would be willing to spend. While some schools have parents who can afford $5 easily, there are others where that is too much. Over the years I have used a variety from Yamaha to LMI to Peripole to Suzuki. Some of my fellow music teachers have purchased the colored ones to get the buy-in for the students to practice more. Some order based on the tone of the recorder and some simply shop around for the most inexpensive brand. It really depends on your school and the restrictions (or lack thereof) of your situation.
Starting the recorder is so exciting as the kids are quite focused on that first day. I have to give credit for this next paragraph to my lead teacher up in Fargo, North Dakota who was phenomenal and taught me the best process for introducing the recorder to students. I start by doing the “Statue of Liberty” and have the students pretend they are the statue holding their recorder with the bottom of the instrument in their right hand. I mirror them while they are doing this and I am checking that everyone is holding it properly with good posture. Then we do “windshield wipers” and “back scratchers” all holding it in their right hand. This is a fun game but it also helps to make sure they learn that the right hand is always on bottom and the left hand goes on top. Then I explain to them that the fipple is going to go on their chin (this is the curved piece on the mouthpiece). They take the recorder (their right hand still at the bottom) and place the fipple on their chin. Then I have them hold their left hand up and swear “I promise to keep my left hand on top. I know that someday I might play the flute…the clarinet…or the saxaphone and I will need to have my left hand on top to play the keys with my pinkies. If I do not keep my left hand on top…” I make this all very dramatic and the kids laugh but they realize that it is important. Most students will want to put their right hand on top since they are “righties.” Then take the left hand and find the thumb hole and the first hole in front and cover both of those. I am constantly checking students. Then I go into blowing on a spoon of hot soup…we don’t want to blow the soup off so it has to be really slow air. I discuss embouchure and the apex of the tongue for tonguing. It is important for me to not dumb things down for students, instead expect the most out of them and they rise to the challenge. Plus, they love these big words and the complexity of playing an instrument.
Then we blow for the first time. We work on tone and then we work on tonguing. Having the students echo me on the note of B with various rhythms. I show them on the board what note we are playing and they tell me the letter name. They will say a rhythm we have done in class “ta-ta-titi-ta” or something else (I have LOTS of rhythm cards for this purpose)–this articulation helps them get ready for tonguing on instruments. Just because we have an instrument in hand doesn’t mean we forget all we have learned up to this point. Then after saying the rhythm with the recorder on their chin, we put the instrument up with a B fingering and play the instrument–trying not to overblow. Then adding A…and so on until you have all three pitches of B-A-G. That is where I start.
Regardless of which age you start, you can design your lessons from easy folk tunes like “Hot Cross Buns” and then just flip the melody “upside down” and play “G-A-B.” It will sound a bit funny, but the kids think it’s pretty clever. Have students look for patterns to make it easier to learn. “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Long Legged Sailor” and so many more have easy BAG melodies that you have a good supply of free material if you have the means to print music on a program such as “Finale” or “Sebelius.” A teacher in our district actually compiled a ton of folk music with the progression of B-A-G to adding the note of E and so on. Again, there are quite a variety of recorder books out there for you to check out. You might consider calling a publishing company and asking for some sample books or ordering one or two so you can decide what will work for you based on your budget.
At any rate, I wish you the best of luck in this adventure! As I said earlier, how exciting!April 26, 2013 at 4:37 pm #23276
What a great resource this board has been – thanks everyone for your responses above!
I have been teaching 4-8 instrumental music for the past four years, and will be taking over the 2-3 grade general music classes next year for the first time at this site. The current teacher (who will still be on site next year) does a unit using song flutes for about three months of the 3rd grade curriculum, and I feel pretty strongly about switching over to recorders instead of song flutes next year. The current teacher, who will still be at the school in a decreased role next year, and I just had a long conversation about song flutes vs. recorder. Does anyone else have experience or opinions about one as opposed to the other?
I am Orff trained and have done work with recorder at previous school sites – I think they sound much more musical and are a recognized instrument in their own right. There are more books and repertoire, I have a lot of my own material, and there are lots of recordings recorder ensembles I could share with my class. I’m not convinced that the larger instrument will be a problem for 3rd graders, especially since I will wait to start until probably late October.
My colleague feels passionately that the raised holes (as opposed to holes flush with the instrument) and the smaller size make things easier for the kids to play. I just can’t help but think that they look, sound, and feel like cheap whistles from a toy store – and notice that some of the kids really treat them that way.
I would love to add more voices to this debate before I make my decision regarding curriculum for next year!October 1, 2013 at 3:36 pm #29738
I have been teaching recorders for a long time. Building their music vocabulary/literacy in K-2 is essential before you put the recorders in their hands. I use colored recorders from Macie Music, along with neck straps and books from Ed Sueta. The colors help me differentiate instruction and hear small groups perform…”Just the RED recorders play, BLUE do hand motions, GREEN sing! ” it’s great! They have a practice chart in the front of the book that I created. I have used the idea of recorder karate with tying colored yarn around the bottom of the recorders, which they LOVE, but I use my own songs. The Recorder Karate songs are great for older grades (I find). We add percussion, xylophones, singing and movement to most of our songs. Take what you teach in class and turn it into a concert. Or invite parents to come to music class for a day and participate!!! Neckstraps are THE BEST invention ever!October 2, 2013 at 9:19 am #29789
My recorder class is pretty simple. We don’t have books, or fancy recorders. The recorders I buy for the kids are the brand Tudor. I get them in bulk from music is elementary. At the end of the school year the 3rd graders take them home and keep them. They are provided their first recorder but if they break it they must buy another. Just make sure that the kids understand the rules of having an instrument in their hands. My most important rule is not playing unless the teacher tells you to. If a student plays out of turn I simply walk over and hold out my hand. They are taught from day one that if they play when they are not suppose to then it is taken away for a period of time. I go through the basic rhythms and play games with those. I call the game One Winner. The teacher plays a rhythm on the recorder and then the student echo’s. We do warm up’s where everyone echo’s back and then we play the game. Once I have about 5 students left in the game they come up to the front of the room and we continue to play until there is only one winner left. Students feel really good about themselves if they get to the front of the room. I also teach them notes G-D. Depending on the class level sometimes I teach E. In addition, I do what is called Recorder Karate (there is an actual book for this). More than less, they receive belt colors (to be placed on their bell) for playing certain songs. The first belt (white) is for passing their instrument parts test. The yellow belt is for passing Mary Had a Little Lamb. Each belt color has a more difficult song. Some kids love it and some kids could care less. That is why I make it optional. I take the last 3-4 minutes and do testing if there is time and then the kids come in on morning recess (15 minutes) and test with me by themselves if they don’t feel comfortable doing it in front of the entire class. Hope this helps!
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