I’m beginning a new series of blog posts called “Beginning to End.”  The purpose the of the posts is to discuss the process of teaching elementary music.  So often I am asked how I teach a specific concept, skill, unit or grade level.  It’s a challenging question to answer because there is so much that goes into one lesson.  Rather than try to answer a question all at once, I thought it might be fun to blog about some of the things I teach in my music classroom over the course of the year.  You’ll be able to follow along with me and my students as we journey through learning together.

I spent the bulk of my summer creating 5-part ukulele resource.  It was a year in the planning and consumed my life for six weeks as I created it.   The fun part for me is that now I am in the stage of using the resource with my own students and we’re having a blast!
The Background
Before my students ever had a ukulele in their hand, they…
  • had lots of folk tunes they could sing independently
  • had learned the different parts of the ukulele
  • had learned how to read lots of rhythm patterns (helpful when learning strumming patterns)
  • had observed how to play/care for a ukulele by the teacher (model, model, model)
  • had chosen what ukulele they were going to play (each child has one assigned to them and they play the same one each class)
Day One
The first day of ukulele is such an exciting day!  I don’t have chairs in my room, so each student uses a stool to sit upon (MARIUS stool from IKEA $4.99 each).  Then I call ukuleles by color and the students come get them.  (My ukuleles are Mahalo Painted ukuleles and I have them in 5 colors).  I tune them before class but the goal will be to have students learn how to do it.  On day one we learn
  • how to hold it
  • strum hand vs. chord hand 
  • how to count frets
  • the names of strings
  • how to strum on open chords
  • then we PLAY!
That’s a lot on day one.  My Sing & Strum  Bundle for Ukulele has lots of visuals to help students through that information.  Once we have all of that, we begin working on strumming patterns (on open strings).  To spice it up a bit, I created a variety of accompaniments on Garage Band in different styles and tempos for students to play along with.  Dr. Jill Reese (SUNY Fredonia) gave me this idea last year and I LOVE it!  In the video below, you’ll hear my students on DAY ONE strumming along to one of our accompaniments.  You can download the accompaniment here.  

All of that on Day One!  And in case you are wondering, I see my kids once every three days for 40 minutes.  I don’t waste a second of instructional time and yes, every kid has a ukulele!
Check back in the coming weeks to find out what we do next!  If you are looking for a great ukulele resource, please check out my Sing & Strum Bundle on TeachersPayTeachers!