Friday, September 19, 2008

Teaching Ukulele to kids

Sometime in May this year, GSPS Vp got in touch with me wondering if I could teach the Ukulele to her school pupils as part of their post-exam enrichment programme.
She was very pleased and most delighted when I said," No problem". The kids from Primary 4 and 5 mostly were under my tutelage for about 3 or 4 sessions in that short span of 3 weeks. There were more than 10 different classes with class size averaging about 40 pupils.
We met in the comfort of the air-conditioned Music room which came with a host of percussion instruments...bongo drums, maraccas, castinets, tinker bells etc.

The sessions were full of fun.
None of the kids I've asked even knew what a ukulele is let alone play on one. And here they were all strumming away on the "chicken" chords I taught them.
But first thing first...they were boisterious, active and playful as most kids given half a chance should be.
How did I control and manage them without having to resort to harshness nor threats nor punishments?
Well after 4 decades of teaching kids from the Primary to Junior College level...that should be the 1st thing that any decent hopeful teacher should master.

It is no big secret really. Observe them as a class and use simple strategies to engage them which may vary a little from class to class.
If there should be a few playful characters in the midst ...bring them closer to you rather than send them out or away or standing in a corner.
By the way, in all my years of teaching, I had never subscribed to the nonsense as such. Readers of this blog will get to learn of my approach to classroom disipline in and outside the classroom which never fails....when I go into my extensive experience in teaching later on.

Using the OHP, I had diagrams of a typical ukulele on the screen with the 4 main strings named G C E A shown.
Playing each string I said, " this is G and this is C and so on".
To help the kids memorise and remember better the 4 named strings I used mnemonics....telling them GCEA means "Girls Can Eat Alot !"
This drew much laughter from the boys. Then a clever girl raised her hand up to speak and said," No,no...Guys Can Eat Alot !!"
There was a roar of support from the girls now and groans from the little guys!
That was the kind of atmosphere and classroom ambience that carried me through these sweet, musical sessions. The Vp and other key staff dropped in, perhaps worried that this old man could be swamped by all the GSPS kids. Haha. Some of them enjoyed the sessions so much they stayed and joined in!
Ps: By the end of the 1st session they could play and sing 2 songs as I had promised them.


jit said...

From all of us in Gongshang, thank you so much for making that difference!! Appreciate it very much!

uncle Dick said...

Hi jit,
Thanks for your kind and encouraging words.
I must confess that I truly enjoyed teaching the magic of the ukulele to your kids!
They were so enthusiastic, lively,
teachable and fun to teach.
The keen interest and support from you as VP and your key staff is a major factor for the success of the programme.
You can now tell them the 4 ukulele

Jennifer MacArthur said...

Hello! My name is Jennifer and I'm from St. Louis, MO. My 6 year old daughter would like a ukulele but I'm not sure what a good starter would be and do I go with a baritone or soprano? Any direction would be much appreciated!!! Thanks, Jennifer

uncle Dick said...

Hi Jennifer,
Welcome to the blog and thanks for visiting.
Personally,I would prefer the kids to start on soprano ukes.They are more easily available and a wider choice of makes too.
Baritone and Tenor can come at a later stage.
Glad that your 6 year old daughter is keen to try the uke!
Do drop in again if you need any further advice.

Jennifer MacArthur said...

Thanks Uncle Dick for getting back to me so quickly!!! Now that I know that the soprano is probably the way to go - which kind? Seems like there are so many and the prices vary so much - are you comfortable recommending a brand or two? Thanks again! Jennifer

uncle Dick said...

Hi Jennifer,
If you yourself are also keen to pick up uke playing, then I would suggest to buy a "better-sounding" one. But if not,for a start any of the cheaper ones will suffice. Cheaper does not always mean no good sound. The kids I teach in schools,the ukes they are using are made in CHINA,INDONESIA,etc.
Different brand or label names like "Mahalo". The sounds produced are good enough! Cost less than $25in your currency. For a kid,it would be wise to leave the uke in a place that she can get at easily.
Not on top of a cupboard etc..
Uke strings are also important...that can come later.
Also, when new,a uke sounds "new".
Gradually, it will mellow down nicely as it is strummed and played.