Wanna know my secret sauce to teaching recorder? Centers! Recorder centers allow students to practice different skills without necessarily playing the recorder at every single station. This also allows me to work with small groups on their playing.
Here are 5 of my favorite recorder centers for beginning players!
Puzzles are super easy to set up and can cover a variety of topics. I often use puzzles with treble clef notes and recorder fingerings. The easier version of the puzzle is to simply have students match a fingering or note on the staff with the pitch name. The harder version is to have them match the recorder fingering to the note on the staff!
You can even make them seasonal, like these St. Patrick’s Day themed recorder puzzles.
During recorder centers, I always make sure I’m one of the stations. This allows me to check on students’ playing and help to scaffold or differentiate their learning. If you use something like a recorder “belt” system, this is also a great chance to do belt testing in a less public (e.g., whole class) setting. I believe in teaching for mastery, not grade collection – I’m happy to give students as many tries as necessary to pass their level as long as they’re using feedback to improve along the way.
Practice with Peers
After the class has established basic recorder skills (like playing B, A, and G) I like to let students move at their own pace. At the practice station, students pair up and play whatever song they are working on for their partner. The partner then has to give them feedback. Structuring this feedback is important; I find that “two stars and a wish” works well, and you can even have them fill out a quick half-sheet if you’d like. I love this center because not only are students working on their songs, but they’re also practicing giving and receiving feedback!
Who said worksheets have to be boring? When done correctly, worksheets can be both effective and entertaining. Plus, this gives me another chance to collect grades during recorder centers – a playing grade in small groups plus a music literacy grade at the worksheet center.
Worksheets for recorder centers could look like note naming, filling in fingerings, or reading and responding (maybe about the history of the recorder or different types of recorders).
Kids love a good card game! Go Fish especially makes a great game for recorder centers. Most kids already know how to play, and those who don’t can easily pick it up from the ones who do. I like to use print-outs of recorder fingerings as my Go Fish cards, but you could opt to throw the treble clef staff in here as well.
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