Recorder Karate Idea Bank

Testing Method Involving The Whole Class

Submitted by Tess Hoffman, Michigan

Idea posted 2003-01-24

My white belt test does not consist of simply playing "Hot Cross Buns." Nearly every kid coming in the first day already knows how to splat that song out, having learned it in some version from an older kid. So the test consists of two parts.

First, I use the BAG-oh! game grid which I took out of Music K-8, Vol. 11, No. 5. It has perhaps 24 measure-boxes, maybe more - I forget. The person being tested has to 1) read the note names of two measures - never the same two as previous tests; 2) read the rhythm of those two measures with du, du-u, and du-day; 3) play the two measures. I ask the class how they did: correct notes? correct rhythm? no leaking? articulation? The class knows. If they play the notes and rhythm correctly, without leaking, they qualify for a score of 4 - a belt score. If they articulate as well, they get a five. (If they have the notes and rhythm mentally, but have a leak, they get a temporary 3 in pencil and the instruction to practice in the privacy of their boudoir 'til they have coverage.)

Second, if they have earned the 4 or 5, I invite them to play "Hot Cross Buns." There is always a gasp or sigh of relief from the other students, who have been fingering along. I remind them they are striving for a 5, and tell them to play. If we like what we hear, we will all play along on the repeat. In other words, by the time they play "HCB," they already know they have earned the belt. The class is on the edge of their seats, because they have a stake in the person playing well.

If the student does well and articulates, the kids break into applause. Then I stand the person up in front of the class and always say these words as I tie the yarn to their recorder case ring: "It is my pleasure and privilege to bestow upon you the white belt of Recorder Karate, in recognition of your hard work and dedication to music." The class claps again as I shake the recipient's hand.

So, mostly, I'd have to say the class is busy while the person is testing: fingering along, listening to see if they pass the test, preparing to play along on the repeat of the "Hot Cross Buns." Of course, this means that the hardest test they have to pass is for the white belt. I tell the class that if black belt is the top of a mountain, white belt is a first, single jump of 500 feet. After that, everything else will seem easy.

Hope this doesn't all seem too strange. It has been a magical system for me and my kids.

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