Recorders: a staple in most American elementary music curriculums. I have fond memories of sitting on my elementary school stage learning how to play Mary Had a Little Lamb, so bringing something like this to Guatemala was special to me. When I accepted the position at The School of Hope, I told myself that this was something I had to implement.

One of my 6th grade students practicing.

For the past month my students from 3rd grade to 6th grade have been learning how to play the recorders. Since I only teach Music twice a week, I have only had 8 lessons with them. So far, I have been impressed with the progress they have made in such a short amount of time. In the previous quarter, we learned how to read the treble clef using bells and floor activities. Before the introduction of the treble clef, they learned how to analyze different rhythms. Now, students are applying prior knowledge in order to read new sheet music. I have been impressed with my 3rd grade and 6th grade classes. In both of those classes, when they get new sheet music, the first thing they do is attempt to sight read it. While the tempo and rhythm may be a little off, the notes they play are spot on. I am very proud of their progress so far, and I’m looking forward to teaching/playing more advanced music.

As for curriculum, we are following “Recorder Karate,” a program that uses colored “belts” to gain experience. Each belt features one song and a new skill to further comprehend sheet music. For example, for the Purple Belt (which is what my 6th graders are working on), they are learning the new note “E” and practicing how to play eighth notes, to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The 3rd graders are working towards their orange belts, which introduces the note “C” as well as eighth notes for the first time using the song, “Cobbler, Cobbler.” Differentiation for each student is encouraged with this program. Students move at their own pace in order to receive the next belt. For students who need a further challenge I can push them to work on a different song with a higher difficulty while I work individually with students who are struggling.

3rd grade students gearing up to perform.

I have also used the program to develop performance skills with the students. In order for a student to advance to a new belt color, the student must perform for the class. We have had conversations about what performing means, how one acts when performing for an audience, and appropriate behavior as a member of an audience. So far, the students have learned and informed me that they should not laugh while they are on stage or at other students on stage, they should listen to the conductor and the other students around them, and finally that they should clap when a group of students is done performing.

Recently, I’ve noticed that many of my fourth grade students take home their recorders in order to practice more! I have a couple of rules with home practicing: first, they have to bring back the recorder the next day, and second, I am not going to replace lost/broken/stolen recorders if it happens outside of my classroom. I love using this program in order to teach personal responsibility, and I have been impressed with their diligence. Every student who has taken one home has brought it back the next day in prime condition. I am thankful that they are taking this portion of the class seriously.

So far, I am pleased with the students progress and their eagerness to learn. I am looking forward to giving the students more challenging music as well as listening to them play more challenging songs. Be on the look out for a video of them playing the Star Wars Theme. It’s going to be great!


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