Illustrative Examples of Units of Practice

'U' is for Ukulele - a classroom ukulele method for young children

Snapshot


This simple method, devised by a classical guitarist, can be used to teach the ukulele as a melody instrument. It builds on children's early vocal music experiences using Solfa (do-re-mi) and time names (ta ta ti-ti ta) to simplify understanding the ukulele. No experience playing a ukulele? No problem! With the detailed online lesson plans, you can be playing in a matter of minutes. The 12-week unit includes 20 songs for the ukulele. This unit is now available for use at the link U is for Ukulele.

Subject:                    Art/Music

Learning Levels:     Grades 4-6

Author(s):                 Warren Dobson

Invitation

How can we extend the child's awareness of the singing voice to build a basic understanding of instrumental technique for the ukulele?

Students who have had the benefit of Kodaly-based or Orff-based early musical education are usually ready to begin learning an instrument at age seven. The ukulele can be the perfect choice - it is small, portable and easy-to-play. Used as a melody instrument, it produces a delicate and charming sound. Furthermore, the skills learned on ukulele are transferable to guitar. The students will enjoy learning to play "Rain, Rain, Go Away", "Lucy Locket" and many other well-known children's songs.

Outcomes


 

1. Students will participate in group music making.

2. Students will demonstrate an awareness of rhythmic/melodic concepts.

3. Students will demonstrate an awareness of patterns in music.

4. Students will sing alone and with others with emphasis on pitch and production.

 

Tasks


Students should have their own ukuleles, whether purchased by parents, on loan from the school, or rented from a music store for the duration of this unit.

A classroom environment with music stands and chairs is preferred. Students should be seated two at each music stand, and the stands spaced so that the teacher can walk easily among the students for tuning and individual assistance.

The teacher should have the students for two thirty-minute classes each week for twelve weeks. These classes should not be on consecutive days, but should be scheduled a few days apart to allow time for practice at home.

The number of students can be limited by logistical factors - availability of instruments, for example. Another factor which should not be ignored is time - it is not fair to your students to spend half of the class time tuning instruments. How many ukuleles can you tune reliably in 5 or 6 minutes? With practice and a good ear, it is possible to tune 20 ukuleles or more in that time span. I have taught as many as 25 in a class, but find it both more enjoyable and more effective with less than 20 students.

Interactions


There will be five types of interactions:

1. Tuning time - Students must remain quiet while the teacher very quickly tunes all the ukuleles.

2. Teacher Performance Time - It is expected that the teacher will model the correct techniques and perform the songs to introduce them to the students.

3. Group Performance Time - During this time, all students will play together as an ensemble.

4. Practice Time - Students will work individually and in pairs to learn each new song. The teacher will give guidance where needed during practice time.

5. Solo Performance Time - Students are eager to show what they have learned. Try to make time for some solo playing in each class.

 

Assessment


A variety of assessment methods are desirable.

The teacher will observe students during practice time. Observation checklists are useful to keep track of student participation and time on task.

The teacher will assess individual progress during solo performances by students. Rubrics are helpful in evaluating solo performances.

Peer evaluation should be included to allow students to have input from their perspective as learners. 

Tools


Soprano (Low "A") Ukuleles - one for each student plus one for the instructor and six extras (you will need them when someone forgets to bring their ukulele, or their ukulele needs adjustment, or needs a new string).

A small screwdriver to adjust tuning pegs.

Extra strings.

Music stands - one stand for every two students plus one for the instructor.

Chairs (without arms) - one for each student plus one for the instructor.

Duo-tangs or music folders - one for each student, one for the instructor and six extras (you will need them when someone forgets to bring their music).

Assessment tools - observation checklist, and rubrics

The full set of lessons is now available at U is for Ukulele.