Recorder Karate Idea Bank

What To Do Next - Black Belt Degrees

Submitted by Barb Philipak, St. Peters, Missouri

Idea posted 2002-04-23

Question: I want to know what to do next year. Do the kids keep their belts and begin earning new belts from the level they left off with? OR, do they start all over again. OR, do you "spot" retest next year?

Answer: I started this in 1998/1999... so the plan for my next school year (1999/2000) for my fifth graders was to 'spot' retest them. However, I didn't do my recorder unit until March (because of musical program dates), and the kids were a little out of practice, so we just ended up redoing ALL of the same songs as last year. The kids really seemed to want to do this. I had a few students who had been practicing since last year, so they zoomed through the black belts.

Then, I created what I had talked about doing before - Black Belt Degrees. I have songs for Black Belt - 1st Degree, 2nd Degree... all the way to 8th Degree. This worked extremely well!!! I was AMAZED at the number of kids who got into the degrees and ESPECIALLY the number of kids who got through 8th Degree. Out of 120 kids, I had 22 who got Black Belt 8th Degree. (I had 76% of my students get Black Belt.) My degrees got REALLY hard! I had to really practice several of the songs myself to be able to play them for the kids.

This is a list of what I did for the degrees. (As you can see, for 6th, 7th & 8th Degrees, I added more songs.)

1st Degree - Aura Lee - CDEFGABb
2nd Degree - Rocky Mountain - GAB D'E'
3rd Degree - Swing Low, Sweet Chariot - DE GAB D'E'
4th Degree - Pourquoi - GAB D'E'G'
5th Degree - Tideo - GAB C'D'E'G'
6th Degree - Merry Minstrels - CDEFGABC'D'E'
7th Degree - Goodbye Girls, I'm Going To Boston - GAB C'D'E'F'G'A' & Looby Loo - CFGABbC'D'
8th Degree - Hushabye - FGABbC'D'EbF' & Follow Me (Duet)- CFGABbC' (students could pick their own partner or I would play with them)

Also, students who had already gotten their 8th Degree became my 'helpers.' They would help me cut thread, play duets, time and grade mad minutes, help students with new notes, etc...

Yes... this is a VERY tough list - and it took me a while to be able to play all of these notes... but the high notes are actually pretty easy once you get the hang of the right amount of air pressure - just the same fingering as the low notes, and then half-cover the thumb hole! Believe it or not, I have many kids get all the way to the 8th Degree!!! They just eat this up - and I am very strict with what will pass... it has to be played with good tone, correct rhythm and fingering, etc.

Every year I do this, my kids fly through to black belt so fast that I needed to really, really challenge those kids - so this packet is tough - but they LOVE IT!!! You could obviously make your packet easier... just depends on your kids!

As far as awards for the degrees, I made Recorder Karate necklaces - cards that were a little bigger than a business card with Recorder Karate at the top and clip art of karate men... and then the words 1st Degree, 2nd Degree, etc. across the bottom. I then punched holes below each degree, and as they earned the degrees, they got to tie a piece of black embroidery thread... up to eight. At the top of the card, I punched two more holes and tied yarn. We had kids all over school wearing their necklaces! One boy told me that he hadn't taken it off yet (this was after 3-4 days - I wondered how he showered...:-)) This year, I plan to use different color beads for each degree!

I also posted all of these results in the main part of the building for everyone to see. I have one list of names for Black Belts. (This year, I have a bulletin board where the kids can sign up for EACH belt that they get - in addition to the bulletin board for the 'degrees.') Then, I had strips of black paper with the Degree name at the top, and I made yellow covered wagons (our school mascot is Pioneers) from the Ellison die-cut press at school and wrote their name, the degree, the date they got it, and their teacher's name. For 8th Degree, I used paper trophies instead of covered wagons.

Then, for the awards assembly, I made certificates on parchment paper for the black belts, and I did certificates for 3rd Degree (Teacher), 5th Degree (Master), and 8th Degree (Grand Master) on different colored paper. They also got to take down and keep their covered wagons and trophies. With over 600 students, I just don't have the time to make certificates for every single belt, so I just do the black belts and 3rd, 5th, and 8th Degrees.

The response was tremendous!!! I have to say that after I announced all of the recorder awards at the assembly, our assistant principal announced that she had a couple of students who had approached her about giving out a special award and that she had wholeheartedly agreed! The students gave me an award for the Recorder Karate program and everything that I had done all year. They said that they didn't feel that I got enough recognition. They had the award laminated and everything!!! I was crying! It was so wonderful!! Talk about a fulfilling job!!

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