Teaching

Round 1 of Ukuleles

My secretary greeted me this week with a big box – our first five ukuleles have arrived! Using a mini-grant and most of my music budget, I placed an order for 5 ukuleles to start our ukulele stash for my music room – and the kids are THRILLED. We pulled them out to take a peek and try them out and I didn’t think I was going to get them back!

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I am looking forward to using the ukuleles for a big project in 5th grade studying chords and harmony (our QuaverMusic subscription has a devoted project to interactive lessons on the ukulele), but I am especially looking forward to putting these into every one of my children’s hands throughout their musical career with me.

As I do my research and exploration, I think ukuleles will fit into my Kodaly-inspired classroom so much more than I ever thought; I believe they will add an incredible depth to our music literacy together. As we start putting notes on the staff to sing, we can extend our lessons and make deeper connections by learning how to play the very same songs on ukulele. Once we learn how to read sol & mi on the staff, we can start piecing together lines & spaces and letter names and make the translation to ukulele. If sol is on the second line, G, then where is a G on my ukulele? How about mi? What if half of the class sang “Star Light, Star Bright” while the other played the sol & mi on their ukuleles? Better yet, we can learn the C chord and add chordal harmonies plus the pitches with the help ofย a handful of small stickers to mark frets. Suddenly, we’re reading ‘real music’ for singing AND instruments – as young as six years old. (And Kindergarten, it can be a whole new way to keep the steady beat, even if just using open strings – it might be slightly dissonant to strum all open, but I can picture their giant smiles now.)

Ukuleles aren’t just for chords and Hawaiian music – soprano ukuleles are tuned in a child’s voice range. Pitch-matching is so much easier for them on a ukulele than a guitar or other lower instrument, and the instruments FIT in their arms! We’re going to do a short guitar unit with my 5th graders, but I am already wincing thinking about how large the instruments will be on them and how painful those steel strings will be on their fingers. I’m committed to giving them some kind of instrumental skill that they can take with them into real life (unless you’re a music teacher or musicologist, who can honestly answer that they’ve pulled out their recorder since 5th grade?) and my 5th graders are excited to learn guitar, but I know ukulele will be a much better fit for my students.

Now, on to writing grants for more ukuleles… (and for kicking this nasty sinus virus – yuck!)

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