Friday, December 1, 2017

Ukuleles - A Tool for Teaching All Year Long - Part 2

If you missed the first post about ukuleles, check it out here!

When I first started uke I wanted to make ukes another tool, just as we use Orff instruments, drums, triangles, shakers, etc.  I didn't want to have students learn it for a short time then put it away as I don't see the meaning or value in doing that.  In the last post one of the suggestions I made for beginners was to tune up the bottom string from "A" to "C" to make a non-fingered, open string C chord.  This works well while learning proper hold and strumming patterns.
Let's delve a bit more into the "how" to make this a tool:

Dot it Up

When I first started ukuleles I "pish poshed' the idea of using dots but then I started an after school uke club and definitely needed the dots. Why did ever I nix the idea???  These dots made a tremendous difference in my students ability to play chords and move fluidly from one to the next.  I use the Mark -It Dots, available here from Amazon.  The one thing I wished I had done differently was to make my C chord red, F chord green and G chord turquoise or navy blue (more closely aligned with boomwhackers.  This way I can also have students playing the bass note of the chord on boomwhackers for some activities and I like the color consistency.  I am going to change them over the holiday break! 

Beginning of Class

Rhythm Cards - In my class we perform rhythms using rhythm cards and review a short song or two, then do some movement the first 5-7 minutes of class; instead of reviewing rhythms by speaking or through body percussion, half the class performs it with body percussion/spoken rhythms and the other half performs it by strumming (either open strings or fingered "C" chord).  After 4 rhythm cards, switch players. Transitions can often become times for students to talk, but I keep the beat going as I speak a silly tongue twister or rhyme; my youngest students learn that anytime I say, "Eeenie meanie deck a feanie, ooh, ah, alameanie, x, y, coomalatta, x, y, z" or "ock knock, ditty wock, picky picky poo, shimmy gimmy galiminny, you know what to do" or "Intry mintry, tribbledy fig, deema dime-ah, donna dig, howdy pouchy, noma nouchy, olliga bolliga boo", etc. they switch.  Switch Orff instruments with a partner, switch drums with a partner, switch triangles with a partner, and switch ukuleles.  Then I simply say, "one, two, ready, go" and we don't waste time talking or transitioning.  You can use simpler Humpty Dumpty rhymes, too, or sing, "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, until you hit the waterfall, then you start to scream". Or recite Betty Botter or How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck, etc. Have fun with it and you will quickly find your transition times move so much smoother.

If you play "Sol-La-Mi AKA Salami" with solfege - half the class strums a C chord to the beat - if you are working on tempo and need a review- ask one student to lead "andante" until "Sol-La-Mi" when they stop playing. Also consider having a student conduct the tempo.


How many SLM or SM songs do you use?  Probably a LOT, right?  Any time after you have learned a song it is always good to keep that repertoire going; accompany using ukuleles.  Choose a rhythm or have students strum a simple down, up, down, up quarter note beat. 
A few lists to refresh your post- Thanksgiving brain:
SM - Beth's Music Notes
SLM -  Beth's Music Notes
SLMRD - Beths' Music Notes check to make sure Re doesn't happen on a strong beat as that would indicate a chord change is needed.

When playing/singing a song using Orff instruments - particularly pentatonic songs, and especially those pitched in "C", half the class can play the bordun on the instruments and the other half can play the same rhythm on the ukulele. 


There are SO MANY!!  Check out Bernadette Teaches Music, she is such a tremendous resource with great teaching videos.  Look for her "Ukulele Education Series". Find her on facebook, also, and you can ask questions- she is very quick to answer!
Ukes in General Music is another starting site- with free chord diagrams and other info.
Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) has so many, from Rainbow Ukulele to  "Sing & Strum Intro and One-Chord Songs".  Many, many others.  Spend some time online and you will find others.

Hopefully that gives you some ideas to get started!
Happy Holidays!

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