Thursday, November 6, 2008

Teaching Ukulele...a Joy and a Challenge!

In May this year, GSPS a top primary school in Singapore, approached me to embark on teaching the ukulele to their kids. They had wanted to do something different for their post-exam enrichment Programme...something that is new, something creative, something that can truly add on to the learning journey of their pupils. To widen the scope and experience of their pupils...teaching them to play a musical instrument like the ukulele would be an attractive challenge. So, that decision was made and unk Dicko accepted that Challenge with no apprehension at all.

The success of that musical adventure in May led to even greater success when some of the kids performed at their school's 88th Anniversary Dinner celebrations in August. The VIP Guest -of- Honour was visibly touched and impressed.

Part 2 of the musical adventure for GSPS kids started 2 days these photos show. On Tuesday, I conducted 3 separate classes for the Pri 5 kids each lasting an hour. This class of kids were the last lot for the day.

Before Richard, who is an adjunct staff assisting me with the physical arrangements and getting the kids down to the music room etc..left to get them, he forewarned me. This next lot of kids have a reputation of being naughty and can present a host of disiplinary problems. My actual reply to him was this," Is that so? Wonderful! I can't wait to meet all of them. Don't worry Richard..let them all in." He left to fetch the class down. Meanwhile, I was sitting on the piano bench gently strumming some tunes on my uke....when the door opened and in rushed a dozen or so girls. I said nothing and continued playing the uke...humming some familiar kiddies tunes from playschools. The girls were intrigued and came closer.I motioned for them to sit down. Soon, they were softly singing the songs I was playing....Wheels on the bus, London Bridge, Old MacDonald... Then I stopped and spoke to them. " Where are the boys?" " With the Mr Richard, sir". " Why?" " Maybe kena punished, sir". " You mean the boys are very NAUGHTY ?" " Yes sir, all very,very naughty!" Me," And you girls are not naughty?"
They just SMILED and GRINNED at me! Haha. Kids are kids, that's why I love teaching them very much indeed!
I asked if they like what they just heard. All nodded their heads enthusiastically. Any request I asked them. Yes, and I played, they sang. Then...the door opened again. The boys came dancing in, a very active and noisy lot. Some were singing a Malay song as they came nearer to me. I know that song. I was pleasantly surprised they knew it too. It was so long ago, half a century old....from a movie. Instead of chiding them for their boisterious behaviour...guess what did I do? I told them that I played 2 song requests for the girls. I will give them the same." What's your 1st request?" ..I asked them. " know Bujang Lapok?"they chorused. Me," You must be joking. That is a vey old Malay movie! Name me one actor in that movie"..I challenged them. Answer by them...P Ramlee! Absolutely correct. Name me another, I asked. Aziz Sattar! boy answered. final test still. Name me the funny guy. Instant answer...S Shamsudin! I was flabbergasted. They had all the answers. So, I said," you sing and I play for you." They sang," Pok,pok, pok...bujang lapok," and I came on," ada machis tak dah rokok". Now
they were shocked that I too know this song.

By the time of their 2nd request, this class had demonstrated to me and Richard ( who couldn't believe it was happening)...the importance of engaging the students positively and intelligently. They will respond.
Not a single one misbehaved. And they were superb learners. Not a single harsh word from me at all through out the lesson. By the end of the session, they were actually playing and strumming the ukulele to the correct beat, holding the right chord and singing well too...the songs
they already knew. The lesson and school ended at 1 pm but many did not rush off. They wanted to learn more! Naturally, I was very pleased. We continued for 20 more minutes.


Lam Chun See said...

That itself is a great lesson on how to teach with passion. I think the kids can recognize passion when they see it.

Xin Ru said...

I am from P5.10 and it was so sad that a few of us missed the lesson. Sounds really interesting!

unk Dicko said...

Hi Xin Ru,
Yes, I too believed today's introductory ukulele lesson was a superb musical session. For a great lesson it requires more than just a great teacher who knows his stuff and how best to work with pupils. The pupils should also relax,immerse themselves and enjoy the chance to learn and make magical music with the UKULELE!
Your class was very good indeed!
Don't miss the next session for your class tomorrow ( Tuesday ).