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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Teacher Tuesday: Recorder Karate sheet music organization

Welcome back to Teacher Tuesday! I hope you all are having a fantastic start to the week!

Along with many others (as evidenced by the many pins on Pinterest related to the topic), our district has adopted the "recorder karate" curriculum to use with our 3rd graders in general music class. I have my own opinions about the merits and drawbacks of the curriculum, but today I want to talk about an idea I stumbled on last year to keep up with all the sheets of music for students to use when they are working on earning their belts.


If you don't know about the Recorder Karate program, you can read about it here. I used to just keep a file folder with each of the songs in belt order, and when a student passed a belt I would pull out the next song and hand it to them. But that takes up precious time when I could be listening to or helping another student, and it means I have to keep up with a LOT of papers! Enter my new system:


I have this big magnetic chalk board at the back of my room, so I stole obtained some mailing envelopes from the school secretary and attached a piece of construction paper to the back of each one, labeled with the belt color. On other side of the envelope I put some adhesive magnet dots to help them stay on the wall. Then I put all the corresponding papers in each envelope and put them on the wall, with a big magnet on the envelope flap, in belt order.

I really like this system because the students can see where they are in the belt rankings, and they can easily go and get their next paper when they pass a belt without me getting it out for them. It is also something colorful to have on the walls, and the younger students always ask me what it is for (and I tell them that they can find out in 3rd grade, which just infuriates them and makes them want to ask the 3rd graders what they are doing!).

I was also able to put the recorder fingering charts up next to the belt songs. I started with just B, A, and G and added more as students started working on higher belts with more notes in them. If you want the same fingering chart posters, you can find them here from Marti Chandler.

I have plans to spiffy these up a bit to make it pretty, but I love the basic idea of hanging the envelopes and labeling them by belt color. It has definitely made my life easier while we are doing the program in class!

Do you have any tricks for keeping up with all the sheet music for recorder karate? Share your tips in the comments!


12 comments :

  1. Yay! Those fingering charts are from my TpT store! Glad you like them! Nice setup! :)

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    1. I love your store, Marti, and I love those fingering charts! They are clear, easy to read, and I love that they match the boomwhacker colors :) I already had the link to the item in your store in the post so I also added your name in front of the link to make it easier for people to find you :)

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  2. I never realized this before, but we did the same thing. I would keep folders hanging with the sheet music for the next belt. It made everything so much easier when the kids didn't have to ask, they could just go and get it :) #fermatafridays

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    1. Yeah, I wonder if I should move to a more stream-lined hanging folder system, especially now that I am using up the rest of that wall space... The nice thing about these envelopes, though, is that they can take just one envelope off the wall and get what they need, and they don't accidentally put a sheet in the slot in front of the label instead of behind etc. like I fear would happen with a hanging folder system (the ones where they are all hanging down on top of each other).

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  3. Great idea! I have been trying to really get my recorder curriculum down to a science and this might help! #fermatafridays

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    1. It really has helped make my job so much easier- hope it helps! :)

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  4. I LOVE ideas about how to get organized! Thanks for sharing! #fermatafridays

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    1. Me too! :) This system has really made my job easier. Thanks for the comment!

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  5. What do you think of recorder karate? What other recorder methods do you know and like? I'm trying to find a new one for our school. The one we used this year (the first year in like 15 years that our shook has had music) I felt was really lacking. Also, how do you structure recorder lessons? How do assessments work? How do you do inidividual or small group instruction?

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    1. Hi Jen! The short answer to all of your questions: it depends. ;)
      The longer answer: the structure of Recorder Karate is highly motivating and has worked well for me in a number of different settings and with a variety of populations. How I teach recorder lessons varies from class to class. I always start off teaching the whole class the basics of tone, logistics, hand placement etc and I move VERY SLOWLY and make sure every student has a firm grasp on those. Oh, and of course I don't even get out recorders until they have mastered treble clef reading. Once they have mastered the basics (and, by the way, I start them on G and then low E to get the right hand involved more quickly and force them to control their air more from the get-go), we get into the "karate" stuff. Depending on how independent the students are and how much range in skill I have in the class, I structure this part different ways- sometimes we work on each song together as a class and I let those few advanced kids work off to the side at their own pace and let them play their songs for me to earn their belts at the end of class (while the rest earn their belts together with me at a slower pace), or I'll have everyone working with 1 partner and I walk the room to test whoever is ready on whatever belt they're on, or I'll have everyone working on the same belt work together in a small group and I go around and help each group for a few minutes and then test each group every 2 class periods or so (and the ones who can play join the next belt group after they pass). Often I change it up from week to week based on how the students are feeling- if they are getting frustrated trying to work on their own I'll throw in a couple of group lessons before going back to independent work, etc. Hope this helps!

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  6. I find this method very motivating too, and do many of the things mentioned above as well. However, for me, the time it takes to test in pairs (or threes) is too time consuming. I limit my belts to three per year per grade, so Gr. 3 does white, yellow, orange, and sometimes a challenge bead. Gr. 4 does the next three colours, etc. I just don't want to take more class time than that, yet integrate recorders into other activities and songs. And I pick my own repertoire,

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    1. The program can definitely take over your entire curriculum if you don't manage it, for sure! I find I end up adjusting my testing strategy with each group of students- some of them do great with individual or small group testing, others I end up testing all or half of the class at once. Most of the time I end up doing a mix.

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