Recorder Karate Idea Bank

Personally Adapted Method

Submitted by Patricia Oeste, Conway, Arkansas

Idea posted 2002-04-11

I love recorders. They are an excellent hands-on type of activity. The results are wonderful! But, when I began teaching them, I was floundering. I knew what I wanted, but structuring it was sometimes a matter of trial and error. AND, I thought I should do it all myself! (wrong) So, for the last couple years, I have tried to really organize my recorder program - the karate (I call it tae kwon do, as we have an after-school tae kwon do program here) motivator helps, but only if what you have in place makes sense, is sequential, and organized.

So, here is what I do (as succinctly as possible!). I teach recorder in fourth and fifth grades. I use Denise Gagne's "Complete Recorder Resource Kit." It has helped me organize and drill efficiently. I use only BAG and E for fourth grade. I supplement Denise's BAG exercises with some Ed Sueta exercises and lots of Music K-8 pieces. (Our favorite: Rockin' Around The Hound Dog's Blue Suede Shoe BAG (Vol. 7 No. 1). Others: BAGzilla (Vol. 9 No. 1), Popcorn BAG (Vol. 8 No. 1), and the list goes on... they are all so good.) The Music K-8 songs appeal to kids, making things lively and fun.

I use a lot of modeling/imitation. I play a four beat phrase, they play it back. I play an eight beat phrase, they play it back. Then, a student can take my place. We play a lot in small groups (four students) too, so that they can better hear themselves.

I start belts in fifth grade. White belt is BAG. They must meet four criteria (in kid language):

1. I played the correct notes.
2. I played the correct rhythms.
3. I used proper articulation (breathing, tonguing).
4. I produced a good tone.

To pass, they play three of Denise's exercises. These are exercises that we have drilled in class. Almost all of them succeed. I give them three tries. If they mess up all three, they can try again on their own time (before/after school) until they have passed.

When they pass, I give them a piece of white yarn which they attach to the bottom of their recorder (I used to do it around the neck, but as we add on colors, it got more and more difficult to keep it all straight). Outside in the hallway, I have a giant recorder on the wall. Behind the recorder are long strips of colored construction paper. The colors correspond to the belt colors. Each student has a small paper recorder with their name on it. When they have gotten their white belt, they put this small recorder on top of the giant recorder in the area designated "white" belts. Above each belt color on the wall are the criteria for passing - stated in kid language. I also post the state standards that we are covering with this activity.

Yellow belt is BAG and E. A good song to reinforce this is "March Of The Droids" (Music K-8, Vol. 7 No. 5). They play two exercises from the method that we have drilled in class. Again, if they pass, they receive a yellow piece of yarn (and many kids like to start braiding them together - makes it colorful), and move their small recorder into the yellow belt section on the wall outside my room.

Green belt is BAGE and F. This follows Denise's method book. The test is again from the exercises we have practiced, and again they receive the next color yarn and move their recorder into the green area. Now, we begin to visually see who is moving forward on the wall and who isn't. The kids do not like to be left behind, so they really start to practice.

Blue belt is BAGEF and High C. Red belt is BAGEF High C, High D. (Now we can add the beloved Music K-8 (Vol. 6 No. 2) "Ode To Joy.") Brown belt is BAGEF High C, High D, and Low D. (Now we can add the incredible "Amazing Grace" from Vol. 11 No. 2.) Black belt is BAGEF, High C, High D, Low D, Low C, and High E. I now switch over to a book called "Songs For Hand Drum And Recorder." I also use "Renaissance Banquet." These books are more difficult and musically intricate than the Music K-8 songs, and they incorporate these higher and lower notes, flats and sharps, and more challenging tonguing.

At the end of the year (and it takes all year to make it to black belt), I have a popcorn party for the black belts. Last year, out of 92 fifth graders, 75 made it to black belt. I had to have three black belt parties!

It has taken me a few years to get this organized to where I really feel that it is effective. The other teachers who teach recorder here in our district (not many, unfortunately, "It's too noisy!" they say...) have adopted this method, so there is some continuity for students who move and have to change schools. One problem I am still working on is getting the new students up to speed when they move in. It is very, very difficult and I just hate to alienate the newcomers, but it is next to impossible to make up for the lost time just during class time. And, I don't have time in my schedule to catch them up privately. So, I'm still working on that one...

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