Friday, April 16, 2010

Remedial Recorders

Remember when I mentioned that I was teaching extra recorders to one of my classes?

Well, I've only really had three extra lessons and I am please to announce that they are all caught up! Which is a good thing too because testing is coming up and extra lessons have to stop so our kids can fill in bubbles.

When I studied differentiation in grad school I never in a million years thought I would have to use it for teaching recorders. Here's a little glimpse into how I did it. Well I don't know if I "did" it but I stumbled through it and figured it out as I went and I made learning happen. Well I don't know if I made learning happen but the kids know the song now. I learned something!

I did something that I think the fourth grade teachers hate me for. I told them that their homework was to just play around with their records. I modeled "noodling" with your fingers and just sort of hearing all the different ways you can make notes when you add and subtract fingers. Oooh if there's one thing fourth grade teachers hate it's the sound of recorders, but if there's one thing they really hate it's the sound of a bunch of recorders all playing different notes at the same time. Woops! My goal was for the kids to get a feel for which finger belongs where. If I could go back in time I would have started all the kids out this way, but you know what? No one ever taught me how to teach recorders in teacher school.

So, much to the chagrin of the teachers involved in this particular class, there I am teaching the kids to play nonsense on their recorders a mere 5 weeks before our big spring sing.

But as annoying as those sounds were, it turns out my hunch wasn't completely off. After only one lesson of noodling the kids had their fingers covering the right holes and they seemed to be having a lot more fun. Anyone who says music isn't fun has never danced with a kindergartner in a parade. Or, apparently, noodled around on a recorder.

For my second lesson, we didn't even get out the recorders to start with. We made our hands into quiet coyotes. If you're not familiar with this quiet hand signal, it's basically gold for getting k-1 kids to shhh. You put your middle and ring finger on your thumb, and stick up your pinky and index finger. I had the kids make quiet coyotes and practice a few other finger movements. Then we sang our song while moving our fingers, pretending like we had the recorders out. Then, we got the recorders out and we made our quiet coyotes chomp on the recorders (it's how you play an F#.) Then we just went back and forth from G to F#. This was very tricky. The kids complained they don't know to do it! They said it was really hard! They said they can't do it!

I told them they just don't know it YET. And I promised them then and there that we would all learn it. So they tried harder.

Then on the third day, which was a week after the first two days, they all played G, F#, G, F# like it was nobody's business. So we played the rest of our song. We went slowly. We played in groups. And we played the whole song. The kids applauded and they really did learn it.

Today we had all three classes together and we played the song with CD background. They sounded... well like recorders, but they did a great job!

I can't believe how quickly they went from seriously not being able to put their fingers on the right holes to being able to play our performance song. All the kids needed was a couple of extra chances. And maybe if I had known what I was doing, we could have started off better instead of not figuring it out until now.

I'm not advocating that they teach us how to differentiate recorders in teacher ed. After all, if I had been able to find a real job this year, I would be stressing out over evals, open house, and testing right now instead of spring sing! But I am just saying, this is not what I ever thought I would be doing and I sometimes just have to make things up as I go. I do know that seeing the looks on the kids' faces today as I told them that we could do choreography with our recorders was amazing.

But seeing kids work their butts off to learn something, seeing them try their darndest to catch up to their peers, and seeing them achieve that goal? That was totally awesome.

Just so you know though, I still hate recorders.

I mean, today was totally awesome. AWESOME. But I do still hate recorders.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there. I am a teacher too. Would love to have you check out my blog sometime. If I can ever share any materials, lesson plans, etc. with you, please let me know. I would love to share.