You’ve made the commitment to teach recorders! Now what? How do you assign, distribute, and store all of them?? How do you go about selling recorders? How do you keep them sanitized? Wow, it seems like a lot of effort, doesn’t it? Well, it may initially seem that way, but let me help you make it easier. Once you have everything in place, it’s just routine and no big deal.
First you need to have a recorder for every student. At my current school, there were enough existing recorders for one grade level. But I don’t believe in only letting 5th graders participate. So I took a leap of faith, praying that almost half the students would purchase their own recorders, which they did. I was able to teach both grades recorders that first year.
If you do not have any school recorders, you can do one of two things. Buy them or procure them. Use your school budget to order as many as you can. If you are starting with zero and depending on your grade level size, you probably should only start with your oldest grade level (assuming you are in elementary school). PTA is also another resource for one time purchases. If neither of those options are available, reach out to other music teachers in your area. In my current district, a teacher emailed all of us saying she had lots of extra recorders she wanted to get rid of. I jumped on that like a hot potato! She gave me at least 50 recorders, probably more. Now these aren’t the same quality as the ones I sell or the ones that were already there, but they still filled their purpose.
Now that you know each student should have a recorder to play in class, the next thing is to presell to those students who want to have their own recorder to practice at home. My office manager thoroughly educated me on how to hold a fundraiser. (That’s what my district calls sales for items that aren’t required. I don’t make any money off the recorders.) Please see my blog Selling Choir Shirts and Recorders, Oh My!
Before I have that first recorder lesson which will coincide with the arrival of the new recorders, I get the school recorders ready. If they are new, you don’t have to clean them. If they aren’t, I clean them in my dishwasher. The better quality ones separate so I take off the head joints and put them on the prongs of the upper rack and put the bodies on the lower rack prongs. I can get most in at one time. I do not wash other dishes during this process. (I don’t want a piece of macaroni or onion stuck in one of the recorders!) The dishwasher removes any joint grease unfortunately so I find that I need to apply a little grease with a Q-tip when I reassemble them. I used the grease that came with my own personal recorders that I’ve purchased or been given. If they come with cloth cases which mine do, I wash the recorder cases as well. Then I take a piece of masking tape or painter’s tape and stick it to the outside of the case. You can place these recorders in the class bins at this time or you can keep them all together. I prefer to put them in the class bins so I don’t have all of them in a giant pile.
First recorder lesson: you have students who are going to receive their new recorders as well as those who are going to be assigned a school recorder. Pass out several sharpies. Students with new recorders will write their own names on their case and at the end of the recorder. (I sell Yamaha recorders that are ivory in color with matching cases so black sharpies work great.) For school recorders, I write the student’s name on the tape. (The first year I let the students write their names and many were illegible.) After the recorders are all labeled, then you are set. The process can take up to 10 minutes, but it’s a one-time event.
After I teach the very first recorder lesson, it’s time to put them away. The helper is a very good person to call on to collect the school recorders. Helper link He or she just grabs the class bin and lays each one in it. If I have cut the time too close, I will have students place their own recorder in the bin before the next activity or before lining up. Then the bin is returned to the recorder shelves for next time.
The students who purchased their own recorders will take theirs home. Most bring them back, but there is always at least one who forgets next time. To encourage them to bring them back, this year I started handing out JagBrags to each student that brought it back. This is our school incentive currency. For those that forget, I have extra recorders for class use. I have a can for clean recorders and a can for used recorders. To clean them, I use sterilizing spray on the used recorders and return them to the clean can.
Remember when I said I got a bunch of free recorders from another teacher? I had enough of them that I chose to assign them to the students who owned their own recorder, but these stayed at school. This cuts down on cleaning the extra class set. These recorders came with plastic cases that were nigh impossible to clean and dry well though. That left me with recorders without cases. I just hung onto them for a year or so. But last year I was lucky enough to get a parent volunteer to make 34 cloth cases. They were made from various materials which makes it easy to discern those recorders from the school ones. I needed more though so that’s when I decided to figure out how to make them myself. YouTube link I put tape on these too and labeled them with the students’ names. I still need to make a few more cases to be able to supply them for both 4th and 5th grades, so only the fifth graders got the privilege of having one to use at school this year.
The last piece to this recorder management system was to get a shelving unit that I could put all the bins in. I was able to get it custom made free of charge. It fits right under the table so it’s convenient but doesn’t take up any more room. I found the bins in a storage room at my school, unclaimed. I slapped labels on them, color coded by grade level, and each helper can easily get it and put it away. I’ve only had this luxury at this school. In Las Vegas I was expected to clean them all in the sink every day.
Once all the recorders have been assigned and labeled, it does not take long to distribute them and put them away. I do not like to waste class time and I have found this is the most efficient way for me. Even if I only end up with 10 minutes left at the end of class, I know I can still have a little recorder practice if it’s in my plans. You too can do this! One more tip: at the end of the year, have the students take their piece of tape off the recorder case. This will save you from doing it yourself next year!