Third grade received their recorders this week along with a new folder to be used solely for their recorder materials. This folder can go home with their recorder for practice. I ask them to keep their regular music folder at school, so they’ll always have what they need on music day.
We began with basic rules:
1. Do not play unless instructed to play.
2. Stop immediately when asked to stop.
3. Left hand on top, right hand at the bottom.
4. Practice (at least) 5 minutes per night. (For now. The amount of time will increase as their music grows more difficult.)
While demonstrating what I want them to do, I asked the students to hold their recorders at the bottom with their right hand, so that they were looking at the side with only one hole. Then they were to place their left thumb over the hole and press firmly, as they brought the recorder down to where they could see the front, always keeping that thumb planted firmly over the thumb hole. I then instructed them to place their index finger over the top hole. I was really pleased when I asked them if they could remember from playing their arm recorders the name of the note they were fingering. They all answered, “B!” (Thanks Elissa!) I asked them to breathe, not blow into the recorder, and demonstrated what it should sound like. As they played a continuous B I walked around, listening to each one, adjusting fingers when necessary, either because they weren’t getting the correct pitch, or had the right hand on top, or BOTH hands on top.
In this particular group, everyone stopped immediately. (Miraculous.)
“Remember: left hand on top. The recorder is resting on your right thumb at the bottom of the recorder. Let’s go over this again. Hold your recorder with your right hand at the bottom, so that you’re looking at the thumb hole. Place your left thumb firmly over the hole. This time, place your index finger and middle finger over the top 2 holes. What is the name of the note you will play in this finger position?”
Once again, they all answered “A!”
I demonstrated and then had them give it a try. this time I made adjustments to slanted fingers, and had them check thumb holes to be sure they were covered, etc. I always have to remind myself that they are 8, their fingers are small, and some of them still don’t have such great fine motor coördination.
Ah, this group is good. They stopped!
“Let’s take it from the top. Hold the recorder in front of your face with your right hand, and place your left thumb over the hole. Watch what you’re doing; get that hole completely covered. Place 3 fingers over the top 3 holes. What is the name of this finger position?”
“G!” they respond.
“Press firmly with your thumb and fingers. If the holes are completely covered you should have a complete circle on each of your fingers and thumb.”
Lots of oohs and ahs as they check. They are still children, thrilled and excited by the smallest things.
G is the hardest of the three to play because of everything that I mentioned above: partially covered holes, small fingers, slanted fingers, right hand on top instead of left, and over blowing. I make as many corrections as I can, knowing that what they really need at this point is practice.
Now for a short drill. I have out 3 flash cards from Artie Almeida’s “Recorder Classroom”. After review which lines and space are B, A and G I have them play whichever one I hold up. I give them plenty of time to find the right finger position before changing the card. This is the beginning of what will become Artie’s “Recorder Hike”, which will come a couple of lessons down the line.
That’s all we do on the first day. They each take out their “Critic’s Corner” assessment sheet, also from “Recorder Classroom.” For today, if they understand how to play B, A and G they can give themselves a 3, even if they weren’t 100% successful. I allow this because it’s only fair: they haven’t had time to practice yet.
This will be the first, and so far, only paper for their recorder folder. When they put it inside I have them take a couple of quiet minutes (which I need at this point), and copy the rules into the inside of their folder, reiterating that if they will take just 5 minutes each night to practice B, A and G they will be able to play them next week.
“If you’re doing it correctly it should sound like the beginning of ‘3 Blind Mice.'”
We took the last 10 minutes of class to read and listen to “The Jazz Fly” by Matthew Gollub. ISBN 1-889910-17-1. I will temporarily divert from Haydn in order to teach some lessons on Jazz this month: Black History Month.
(Mine will be for sale next week.)
This book is a great way to introduce young children to the style of jazz and the idea of improvisation. It comes with a cd of the author reading the book, set, of course, to jazz music. I will be using it in first and second grade as well.
In fourth grade we again picked up our study of 6/8, having taken a break last week to review some of the principles and vocabulary of sound.
First we look at a rhythm chart of “Row Row Row Your Boat”. I have the eighth note beat running underneath the rhythm, so that I can give them a visual of how many beats each note will have to get to create the rhythm. They understand ties, and intellectually, I think they do understand what I’m getting at. Performing it is another matter. So, we go next to a set of flash cards, and just do some rote learning of how the pattern is supposed to sound. I speak the rhythm to them, they echo it back to me. Next week we’ll start trying to read it and put it into some songs.