29 March, 2018
What I've learned about teaching ukulele

What I've learned about teaching ukulele

This year, I've embarked on a new journey: teaching ukulele! I've really enjoyed it, so in today's post, I'm sharing what I've learned my first year of ukulele.

What I've learned about teaching ukulele: includes tips about ukulele brands, storage, teaching tips, and more for your music lessons!

You don't have to spend a ton of money on ukuleles
Initially, I thought about purchasing ukuleles for every single student in my classroom. Once I realized the amount I had to work with, though, I decided I could buy for half of the class and have students work in pairs. This has worked pretty well for my students--more on that in a bit--and it helped me start ukulele without a ton of money!
I bought the Kala Waterman ukuleles for my classroom. I heard lots of great things about them, and was very pleased with the purchase. The ukuleles (which you can purchase here) are currently only $39.99 each. I did have to tune them consistently every day for a few weeks before the tuning stuck; after that, I still had to tune them but not as often.

You don't have to spend a ton of money on ukulele storage
I've seen many creative ways to store ukuleles (see this blog post by Shelley from Pitch Publications with many ideas.) The storage idea I came up with was effective and cheap: magazine boxes from IKEA! Here is what they look like in my room:

If you want students to have a specific ukulele, you could add numbers to the boxes.

You don't have to teach tuning right away
I struggled at first with how I would teach tuning, but then I decided that I could think of it like a band instrument: we don't need to teach tuning immediately to a beginning trumpet player, so the same could hold true for ukulele. Once the students are more familiar, then we can dig into tuning. In the meantime, I've been telling students to not touch the tuning pegs. To tune, I've been using this ukulele tuner (click the picture to see it on Amazon):

I lucked out that Amazon accidentally sent 15 ukulele tuners to the PTO at my school a few years ago...so they gave them to me for free! (It was like Christmas!) Next year, I plan on teaching my 5th graders (who have been playing in 4th grade) how to tune, using the tuners.

Kids can teach each other
As I stated above, my students are currently paired up when learning ukulele. Although it's taken me longer to get through my ukulele curriculum--since they have to switch--I have enjoyed having students teach each other. For example, when the first student in the pair is learning the C major chord, I'll circulate the room to make sure all students are putting their finger down on the correct finger and fret, but when the second child gets a turn, I tell the first child to help their partner. This cuts down on the time I need to circulate, and I love that the students are helping and teaching each other!

You can be just a few steps ahead of your students
When I first decided to teach ukulele, I maybe knew one chord, so I knew I had some work to do! Just like when I've taught band instruments that aren't my main instrument or when I taught strings, I've been keeping a few steps ahead of the students. As long as you can model a good sound and know your chords well, you don't need to be amazing at it. I would like to spend more time this summer so that I can be even further ahead of students, but for now, it has worked well. What's really nice about teaching myself, then turning around and teaching them, is that I understand the common mistakes they will make because I've made them too!

The kids LOVE them...and so do I!
I've been teaching recorders for years, and as a trumpet player, I do love how well recorder can train students to learn fingerings and tonguing, as well as read from the treble clef staff. However, in an effort to gain relevance to their lives and to the music they hear every day, I wanted to try ukulele. I have loved the experience, and so have they! The instrument is accessible--small enough for their hands (and for mine!) With only four strings instead of six like on the guitar, it's easier, yet if kids wanted to learn guitar later, they would have gained many skills on ukulele that will help them be successful on guitar. The kids are so excited to play, and I am too!

If you're wanting to teach ukulele but would like a curriculum to guide you, I have this set in my store which has been very helpful not only to teach my students but to learn how to play myself!

What have you learned about ukulele? Feel free to comment below, and happy playing and teaching!

25 March, 2018
Hogs in the Cornfield

Hogs in the Cornfield

Today, I'm sharing one of favorite songs for upper elementary: "Hogs in the cornfield."

I learned this song while in Kodály Level II at Capital University, with Bruce Swank. Here's the notation; it can also be found in An American Methodology.

Hogs in the cornfield: A fun song for your music lessons, for tika-ti and high do!

The song is great for several concepts. It's great for tika-ti, especially since it has some unique patterns in it. Melodically, it works really well for high do! 

As far as games go, I originally learned this game for it:
Students stand in two lines, facing partners; you can name one line “1” and one line “2.” After they sing the song, they play tug of war by holding hands in a crossed position and pulling. The first person to step over the line loses and stands behind the winner. The game continues until all students who wanted turn have had one, and then you declare a winning team based on which side has more students. 

 A few years ago, I learned this game from Jenna Mabee, my former colleague, which is now the game I play:

Students find a group of four and face a partner. At the end of the song, students pound their fist as saying "rock, paper, scissors." On "shoot," they either show rock, paper, or scissors. Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, and paper beats rock. Whoever wins finds a new person to play, and whoever loses sits down. If there is a tie, students keep going until the tie is broken. The game keeps going with students singing, then playing, until one person wins!

The students LOVE this game, and the song is a fun way to practice tika-ti and high do!

Pin this if you want to refer to this post later:

Hogs in the cornfield: A fun song for your elementary music lessons, for tika-ti and high do!

Looking for more ideas for tika-ti or high do? Check out these sets:


Happy teaching!

04 March, 2018
2, 4, 6, 8: A fun chant for your first and second graders!

2, 4, 6, 8: A fun chant for your first and second graders!

Today I'm writing with one of my favorite chants for the music room, "2, 4, 6, 8."

2, 4, 6, 8: A chant for music class. Blog post includes notation, ostinati, extension activities, and more for your elementary music lessons!

You may have heard of the chant: "2, 4, 6, 8/ Who do we appreciate?" This one is a bit different! It goes like this:

Now you may be thinking...okay, great...but what's the game? This is one of the few that I have in my music room that I don't have a game for. Now, I could do some research to find one (and feel free to comment below if you do a game with it) or I could make a game up...but I like to have a few songs and chants that just don't have a game. ("Miss White" and "Kookaburra," for example, are two that I'm fine not playing a game for!) Kids need to know that not EVERY single piece of music has a game, and besides, this one can be used to improve partwork skills!

Years ago, I made up these two ostinati to go with the chant:

To teach the ostinati, I first make sure that students know the chant well. Then, I have them say the chant while I say the first ostinato. They figure out that I'm saying something different, and they identify the words and motions, then they try! At this point, you can also teach/ review the term "ostinato," which I simply define as "a repeated pattern."

In the next lesson, you could review the chant and the first ostinato, then teach the second ostinato, much like you taught the first ostinato! I love how the second ostinato is just a little different than the third line of the chant...it really makes them listen!

Wondering what all of this might sound like together? Here they are, starting with the chant, then adding in each ostinato.

The first time I teach all three parts with my students, their eyes light up with excitement! It's such a great way to work on partwork skills and get them ready to eventually sing and/or play in harmony!

You could also have the students:
  • Try in a round
  • Make up their own ostinato
  • Add instruments to the ostinati
And of course, I love to use it to prepare or practice ta and ti-ti. It has some common ta and ti-ti patterns in it, but then the rhythm of the third phrase is a bit uncommon (ti-ti ta ta ta), so it's great for practice!

Looking for more materials for ta and ti-ti? I just posted these set of lesson plans, which includes four 35-minute lesson plans and 11 mini-lessons, for a total of 15 lessons, all focused on ta and ti-ti. The set is editable, and also includes materials, songs and chants, and overview, and more!

Hope your students enjoy this fun chant as much as mine do! Happy teaching!

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