Are you one of the many music teachers who loathes to teach recorder? Or maybe you’d like to but aren’t 100% sure how to go about it. Well, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve taught recorder playing for many years as well as private flute tutoring, and I really enjoy teaching both. Maybe I’m just a bit crazy to be able to say that but come along for the ride anyways! Recorders CAN be in your classroom!
First, decide what your reason is for teaching recorder. If you are only doing it because you have one for each student in the room and feel obligated, then you might not be all in. My reasoning is two-fold. My students get to apply their rhythm, solfege and note reading in a new way. I also feel like it gives them a big head start with ensembles in middle school. Very few students take private lessons at my Title 1 school, and this will be about as close as they’ll get to that. Giving them experience in learning a new instrument will let them cross over to other instruments quite easily.
If you just want your students to briefly experience playing a new instrument, then you’ll probably want to just stick with teaching B, A, and G which is not a bad thing. But make sure they can play a few songs and not just Hot Cross Buns. A few years ago I was substitute teaching for a middle school flute class, and the students were complaining that in elementary school, they only played the recorder one or two times, even though they had purchased them. Give them a good taste of it before you move on to other things. There are several songs that just use B,A,G that will make students feel successful quickly.
If you are more like me, I have my students play them in 4th AND 5th grade. (When I taught several years in Las Vegas, the norm was to start them at the end of 3rd grade but I prefer to wait until 4th grade here in Texas.) I want my students to have full opportunity to learn at least 5 notes and play songs that are more satisfying. But that requires more consistency in playing at least a little bit in each class for a good part of the year.
Once you have decided to be brave and take this adventure on, you’ll need to have a system in place to handle the distribution of recorders and also how to teach effectively. Go ahead and take a peek at my other blogs that address both of these subjects. How to Handle All Those Recorders and Nuts and Bolts of Recorder Management.
And while you are at it, go to my youtube channel Crafty Music Maker and look at my Introduction to Learning How to Play the Recorder Instrument video. I have a playlist of several sequenced songs there as well as a playlist of practice songs. All of these things can give you the tools and confidence to help you teach that underappreciated first instrument!
It is very rewarding to see those students who truly enjoy playing it and practice outside of school. I sometimes get surprised by students who don’t seem to be paying attention and then play a song almost perfectly! There are also adaptive recorders for your special needs students. Recorders can be for everyone in your classroom and you really should give it a try!