Recorder Karate Idea Bank

Sounding Out Music is like Sounding Out Words

Submitted by Stephanie Menefee, Tacoma, Washington

Idea posted 2009-02-10

Last week, I had my upper elementary kids (4th/5th grade multi-age class) working on "Talking Turkey" (from Recorder Classroom, Vol. 1, No. 2) on their own in small groups for a little bit. Some of the kids were looking a lot confused. I sat down with those kids and talked them through it, using this analogy (in subsequent classes, I shared the analogy with the entire class):

When you are learning to read, you first learn the letter sounds. Then I sound out, phonetically read the word "Talking," pronouncing every letter. Then, I tell them that reading music is just like how I just read the word. Sounding out the music, is like sounding out the word.

You see a note, then play it instead of doing the letter sound. 95% of the kids who were struggling with reading when they walked into class had it down by the time we finished. And this was a 30 minute session! I asked them to reflect on whether they understood how to read music when they walked in, versus if they understood how to read it at the end of class. Nearly every hand went up. Now, for most of them, their biggest struggle is remembering the fingerings when they see the note.

The whole thing took five minutes to explain, and then I allowed them 10 minutes to practice. Everyone I was watching during the practice time seemed to be getting it on some level, either conceptually or was able to put the knowledge into practice.

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