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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Teaching Recorder: top tips

Teaching recorders can be tons of fun, but it can also be a never-ending headache! Whether you're losing your mind over classes full of squeaks and squawks and snail's pace progress, dreading the idea of putting recorders in every child's hands (and mouths) for the first time ever, or just looking for some new ideas to freshen up your recorder teaching, this post has got you covered!

You'll find my best ideas, strategies, and resources on a wide range of recorder-related topics below- just click on the picture to read each post in more detail. Don't see what you're looking for? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below, and I'll add it here!

This post covers all the basics you need to consider as you get your recorder program started: which instrument to purchase, the logistics of using classroom shared instruments vs having students purchase their own, what age to teach recorder, which curriculum resources to use, and more:

My step-by-step lesson plan to get students started on the right foot:

How I teach those first few weeks, after the first introductory lesson, to make sure all students have a strong foundation of appropriate fundamental skills:

Specific strategies to address the most common difficulties beginning recorder players experience, including over-blowing, improper tonguing, and finger placement:

4 different ways to structure recorder instruction in a classroom setting, including ways to manage leveled, self-paced programs such as Recorder Karate without sending the class into chaos:

How I adapted to pandemic mitigation protocols, including bell covers and masks, and new common playing mistakes my students are making because of them (and how I troubleshoot):

Simple, effective, and cheap instrument storage solution:

Another quick organization tip for storing "belts" when you're using a leveled curriculum:

Organizing sheet music in a self-paced program to allow students to manage their sheet music independently:

Want to see all of my detailed lesson plans and materials for teaching recorder? You'll find them in my 3rd grade curriculum resource here. You can also see my tips for teaching other instruments like ukulele, keyboards, xylophones, boomwhackers and more in this post:

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  1. Hi Elizabeth. I'm a first year music teacher, trained to teach high school but some how I've ended up teaching elementary! It's a small independent school so I have split classes. The grade 1/2s learn recorder, 3/4/5 learn ukulele, and 6/7/8 learn band. I am lucky that my recorder class only has 17 kids in it, but I still struggle to get them to pay attention while we learn! They're so chatty and constantly playing that by the end of the class I've taken away half the recorders. I hate ending the class in frustration. Do you have any tips for classroom management with little ones on recorder?

    1. That's tough to do recorders with 1st and 2nd grade! I hope you're able to incorporate other types of music making along with the recorders in that class- singing, movement, percussion, etc- so that they're developing well-rounded musicianship? I would definitely recommend spending no more than 15 minutes on recorder (including setup and cleanup) when you do it to keep engagement high.

      For playing out of turn, for this age I would not suggest keeping the instrument for the whole class period when they do it. Take it away for one or two "turns" and then give them another chance. They're more likely to learn when to play and not play that way. I would also have them sit on the floor to play so that "rest position" could be setting it on the floor in front of them instead of holding it in their laps. It's hard for them to keep it still in their laps at this age so setting it down where they don't have to touch it when they're not playing will be easier for them.

      For the chattiness, faster transitions will help. Try to talk as little as possible yourself- instead of telling them what to do next, show them (for example, show them your fingers holding a B, then play a 4-beat pattern while you point to yourself, then point out to them. they'll figure out after 1 or 2 times that you want them to echo you.... etc). A silent quiet signal is also helpful. I have a post on hand signals that you could use- I use the stand up and sit down cues as attention-getters as well because if I signal for them to stand, the ones who aren't paying attention notice that their peers are standing. Here's the post:

      I hope this helps! You're welcome to email me if you want to discuss further! caldwell.organized.chaos @