Ready for Recorder?

Ready for Recorders?    For many teachers, January is when the students in Grade 3, 4, or 5 start learning to play the recorder. While the recorder may seem like a simple instrument, there are many skills needed to be successful. Students must be able to:

* tell which is their left and right hands
* hold the recorder with the left hand at the top, right hand at the bottom
* cover tiny holes with finger pads – not finger tips
* start the note with the tongue
* continue the air stream between notes to create a legato sound
* breathe in appropriate places
* demonstrate correct fingerings for notes
* read the names of the notes
* read and perform rhythms
* understand meter
* follow a conductor
* demonstrate appropriate rehearsal skills
* articulate: slur in some places, tongue in others
* develop good intonation
* develop a beautiful sound

This list is daunting for an adult!  Breaking the skills down, islolating and teaching one skill at a time will help all of your students become successful recorder players. In this newsletter, I’ve got some tips for teaching students to read the names of the notes.

Tip #1.  Start teaching note names well before you order or hand out the recorders! Your students in K-2 should learn about the staff as part of their music classes. They should learn how to number the lines and spaces from the bottom to the top, and you can teach them that the treble clef circles the note G.  If you review this when you are showing them a piece of music, the note G will be learned long before starting recorder.  I like to use the floor staff and the hand staff to teach letter names.  A post on Floor staff games can be found on my new blog   In this newsletter, I’ll discuss the hand staff.

Hand Staff for K-2: If you hold your left hand in front of you with your thumb up, palm facing you and your fingers spread out, it’s easy to imagine that your hand is a staff. You have five fingers, just like there are five lines on the music staff.. In K-2 have the students point to each finger starting with the finger that is closest to the floor. Number the “lines”of the hand staff.

Pointing Game:  Call out “line one” or “line five” and have the students point to the correct “line.” Have a student be the leader and call out the line number.  Then, point to the space between the fingers. This is the “space.” Call out “first space”or “third space” and have the students point to the correct “space.”  Students like to be the leaders of the pointing game. When they are successful at just lines or just spaces, include both lines and spaces inthe game.  Transfer the Pointing Game to an actual staff.  The cookie sheet staff is fun for the students to use!

Cookie Sheet staff

Letter Names Gr. 3-5: Starting in third or fourth grade, teach the letter names of the notes. I use these poems to introduce the line and space notes.
The notes on the line spell Every Good Boy Does Fine.   (E G B D F)
The notes in the space, Spell your FACE!   (F A C E)
Lines:  Name the first line E, second line G, third line B, fourth line D and fifth line F.  Play the pointing game having the leader call out E, G, B, D or F
Spaces:   Name the first space F, second space A, third space C and fourth space E.  Play the pointing game having the leader call out F A C E.
When students are successful at just lines or just spaces, include both lines and spaces in the game.  No worksheets are needed to teach or review the note names – just the students hands. (and/or the cookie sheet)  You can play the pointing games when ever you have a few minutes at the end of a class.

When the students can name the notes successfully, review some of the simple reading songs from previous grade levels by having students sing the letter names that you point to on the staff. (hand staff or a staff drawn on the board)   When doing this, introduce some of the easy recorder songs that they’ll be learning to play later in the year.  If you are using the Complete Recorder Resource Kit, some of the simple songs that you could have the students sing include Hot Cross Buns or Doggie Doggie.  Each of these simple songs are singing games, so after singing the letter names, sing the song and play the game.  When you give out recorders later in the year, the students will be able to sight-read the pieces on recorder much more easily after having learned them in the fall.

3 replies on “Ready for Recorder?”

I use a thumb down hand staff, so that the lines correspond with finger numbers.
Just a thought from a piano/music teacher.

I don’t teach the mnemonic poems for lines and spaces names. I teach the music alphabet (around the same time as lines and spaces and staff) and i have an alphabet song from a previous music school I taught at that we sing while doing the body scale up our body like the elevator song (I love it thanks!) and then we can also sing and move notes up laminated staffs (and so many other different activities that drill the same concepts) and then I show them how you start with A at the bottom space and just go up the alphabet (3x) on the grand staff. They learn clue notes A2 or bottom A and F of the F bass clef and Middle C and G of the G treble clef. I start in KG and review this in Grade 1 and 2 adding complexity each year. In Grade 3, I’ve been doing a solfege karate program so get them reading and singing treble clef and I hope that most are then ready to read at least treble clef notes for recorder in Grade 4. The Grade 3 karate solfege has revolutionized the engagement level in this class and I’m going to try some sort of bucket drumming karate as well next year so as to give more emphasis on rhythm reading.
I have a very high number who also take private piano/guitar – but out of them all very few who are bored with these activities in class. This is only my second year begin able to deliver this part of the curriculum like this (I’m so fortunate to have the freedom to sequence all this how I see fit!)… so I don’t have a clear sense yet of how effective this “system” might be.
Judy’s idea for hands down staff is great… as a former piano teacher I’m always looking to help them out!
My utopian elementary music program would have music everyday and would include at least 2x a week in a keyboard lab – every student learning piano. 🙂

I really like your Gr. 3 Solfege Karate idea. Solfege is harder to teach, and this would be a great motivator. I’ve used the karate idea in beginning band classes with success, so it’s an idea that can transfer to many areas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *