Bill_Burke_360Just like your students, you are counting the days until the last final exam is taken and those sweet guitarists are on their way to summer! In our district it is very difficult to keep the momentum up during the last month of school. The first major interruption was A.P. Tests, immediately followed by S.O. L (Standards of Learning) tests; then followed by Senior Final Exams. For weeks you have not had a full class so moving forward is compromised with all the make-up work you have to provide for the students who missed class for testing. The calendar has wreaked havoc – now the seniors are gone but there is still two more weeks of school! Ugh!

The undergraduate guitar players are mentally checked out. It is the time to dig into the back of your files to pull out some activities to keep them going. Now is a good time to teach guitar maintenance and get some help preparing your instruments for next year. I teach my students how to change strings and then have them do so on all the class instruments. Once they begin, you have to be diligent in having the students come to you to check each string to insure that it is attached to the bridge correctly and that it is wound over the headstock roller consistently. Our classroom guitars are classical and therefore require finesse in the string changing process. In some classes I have pairs of students work together. Have the students take turns choosing music for the class to listen to as they work.

When classes are missing students for testing, I sometimes show a historical guitar film with an accompanying worksheet to the others. I don’t do a lot of this during the year so the students in class actually like this when I do show a film. They have all seen Shrek or Finding Nemo too many times already in their other core classes. They may groan when you first introduce the activity but they soon become quite engaged.

Playing projects are also a great way to allow the students an opportunity to make music with others before the solitude of summer sets in. Remember that one benefit of your guitar classes is that they get to make music together! That is something they cannot do locked in their room in front of their computer. In one group project a small band of 3-5 students is formed and they pick a song to arrange and perform together. Another project I assigned this morning was a trio project. Students could form their own trios and then practice and play the trio music that I gave to the whole class. The music that I selected covers reading in first position on all 6 strings with basic rhythms. I then use this to assess their reading skills when they perform.

Mix things up by teaching the riffs from a few songs. Teach them with standard notation, the tabs and by rote so that all students of all skill levels and strengths get charged up about playing guitar and participate. We know that we have strong and weaker readers in class, but by teaching them in a variety of ways, inclusion is fostered and all can learn something cool.

Put a chord progression and strumming pattern on the board for a familiar song. Play it as a class and have them guess what song it is. The teacher can then play the melody while they do the accompaniment. Now have them guess again what song it is. Finish by playing the song and adding the vocal part. This is also a good way to teach classic songs. Many have heard the songs but don’t know the title or the band that made the song famous. This can foster a little mini-history lesson.

The end of the year is a great time to build some anticipation for the upcoming year. Talk about activities and trips planned for next year. Give out some awards to your students. Make it fun!