School is about to start – if it hasn’t already started. Your kids’ hands are itching to start playing guitar. You have so much to prep! What to do? We’ve got you covered.

If you didn’t read Shelley’s Classroom Guitar Diaries as they were being published a couple months ago, here they all are under one roof…umm, article. This post is complete with lessons, videos, exams…it even has a sub-plan! Kick off your school year the right way and take a bunch of lessons from Shelley Brobst.

Week 1

My name is Shelley Brobst and I teach guitar… to elementary students! Yes, I may seem a little crazy to try such a thing but, stick with me and you’ll see that it’s a lot easier than you think! I’m starting my guitar unit for the next 9 weeks and I’ll be updating you on how guitar works in my setting.

For Starters, I’m Not at a Traditional School
I teach overseas at an international school. But, like many of you, I only see my students once a week for 45 minutes and I have about 4 different language backgrounds in each classroom. I would consider my class sizes average about 20 per class. I inherited 30 guitars from a school that was closing. Lucky for me they are all nylon-string 3/4 and 1/2 size! Perfect! And… I’m starting off with no books!

5th Grade – Guitar Class – 9 Weeks (or longer if I’m still sane) – Week 1: Goals
Learning your way around the guitar (String numbers, Finger numbers, Fret numbers, Reading a Chord Diagram, Play first song)

To be fair, I actually started teaching about the guitar parts last week. We did a little cut and paste activity that I found on line. This worksheet was great for the kids. At first they were a little “upset” that it was so easy – match the shape for the word. Actually, it really helped them discover all the parts for themselves! So, back to this week…

In my classroom I use my smart board all the time. So, I have a file named guitar unit (I can share from google drive for the first week) There is a link to a man talking about the history of the guitar. We have some Arabic languages in the school so my kids especially liked the link to the origin of the word guitar. Next, I show them the slide for how to sit. I selected 3 images that I think will get kids started without too many problems. I emphasized the fact that the head of the guitar is up in all pictures, no elbows are resting on knees, and that’s what I expect when they are holding the instrument.

Now 15 Minutes into the Class
I can start passing out instruments! This is gonna take some time! And the whining starts, “Can’t I have one in a pink case?” Here is where you really have to think about classroom management. My method is to call students up one row at a time so I can make sure they follow procedures (getting a guitar from the rack to their spot on the floor) the first time! Make sure to say exactly how you want them to cary the instrument and exactly what they will do with it once it gets at their seat. After that, it should be smooth sailing.

25 Minutes Left Quiet position. Strings down on your lap. I demonstrate this ensuring they know their head should be facing the left of their body – they repeat my words. THEN they may get their guitar out of the case and get into quiet position. Twang! Thud! Somebody didn’t follow directions…

String Numbers
Get guitars into playing position and give me a “thumbs up” with your right thumb. No, your other right thumb. That is what we will pluck with. Explaining the rest stroke is easy, doing it seems to be difficult for some kiddos. It’s almost as if the string they should be resting on has those coodies that go around the playground. Same ones that cause kids not to hold hands when dancing in circles! Anyway… and finally we’re plucking all strings with a rest stroke. 6666, 5555, etc… drill 4444, 2222, 6666, etc. Now onto finger numbers.

Kids who play piano have a different finger numbering system. I find it’s easier to call attention to that before I tell them the guitar finger numbers! Place fingers on a string/fret. Pluck that string. Buzzing or thudding corrections – press left hand harder! Mrs. Brobst’s phrase of the day… “Play on the tip of your fingers where it hurts the most!”

7 Minutes To Go
Reading a chord chart! (Talking faster than the guy at the end of a car commercial now) Em chord slide… “What does this mean?” Answer: “Put both your fingers here at the same time.” Excellent!!! Now strum all 6 strings! My tempo! 1, 2, 3, 4,… No MY tempo! You’re going too fast!!! Finally, we’re together.

4 Minutes Now
The “other chord”! Start with Em then make your fingers do a jumping jack to spread to the other strings. Good! Pick a level.
Level 1 – Strum on the 1st beat. Em, 2, 3, 4 Other Chord, 2, 3, 4.
Level 2 – Strum on the 1st and 2nd beat
Level 3 – Strum on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd beat.
Level 4 – Strum all 4 beats!
Level advanced – Try the strumming pattern with me!

Start the Music in Silence
Listen to the first few bars and… go 1, 2, 3, 4 switch, 2, 3, 4!

1 Minute Left!
..and stop. Guitars back in their case. I’ll call you by birthday month! January…. What’s the name of that first chord we learned? “Em (em)” Can you remember it for next week? “Yes”

Well, I guess we’ll see…

Week 2

This week’s main goals are:
• Teach 2 new chords
• Have students be able to change chords in a song
• Strum up and down
• Compose using 3 main chords.

“Guitar again?”
The line leader grins as she comes through the door. All the kids seem excited to come in and have another go! Straight away I have the kids go to their square on the carpet. We start with a review last week’s slides to refresh their memory and help the kids who were absent understand what they are expected to do. Posture, posture, posture.

Get Your Guitars
Remember that I have a procedure for getting the guitars to their spot. I’m not ready to trust that they can do it by themselves so, I walk them through it one more time. All this rehearsal ensures my guitars will stay in good shape for the long haul. We really want these guitars to last for years to come. There is still that one student who doesn’t get the next guitar in line but, goes for the pink case instead. This of course makes all the other guitars lean over threatening to fall. Grrrr… Once that has been addressed and all the students are at their seat and in quiet position, I tune all 20 guitars. My record: 2 minutes 05 seconds to tune a classroom of 17. (While most of them stayed in tune “close enough for the classroom” from last week, my tuning procedure really helps cut down wasted time.)

Taking Attendance
We watch a short video clip about how the guitar is made while I am taking attendance.

15 Minutes Gone
Next we review the “Horse With No Name” (HWNN) chords and get them strumming down with that thumb. I do not to pass out picks yet so students can build large muscle movements into their strumming hand. It’s amazing how that little piece of plastic smooshed between the finger and thumb can be so debilitating to a person’s coordination. All kids are successful this week at changing chords and strumming down to the beats! Now for the hard part – strumming.

On the board is the Em chart with a rhythm line showing down and up strum symbols. For right hand rhythm practice, students must mute the strings (touching with fingers) by holding the neck of the guitar (including strings) with their left hand. They should not squeeze the strings. I teach them to flick down with the back of their index finger and up with the back of their thumb. This motion is similar to what will happen when they get a pick between their fingers. The second rhythm line is activated to disappear when I touch either down or up. Systematically I chose to get rid of the up strums or the down strums until I’m left with the HWNN rhythm going in the right hand. Now I tell students the Em chord is on the down strums and the “other chord” is played on all up strums. After some practice about 80% of the class can do this with me.

By the Book
There are several method books that you could use to teach elementary guitar. I’m using the Guitar for Kids Method & Songbook from Hal Leonard. Now, I show them the simple C chord and have them put it in their finger and strum quarter notes then eighth notes. They like this! We’re jamming now! Four quarter notes, Eight eight notes. Then play the “Are You Strumming?” song. That was easy!

Next: G7. The same procedure as above. One of the tricks I use to get kids to use the tip of their left finger is to have them show me the OK symbol with their left hand. When making the ‘O’ with the left hand, finger and thumb are touching at the tips of the fingers. This is exactly how you want the finger placed on the string with the thumb supporting behind the neck. So I have them open up their ‘O’ and put the neck of the guitar between. Now they should get clear string ringing for the C chord. Success! Holy Cow! only 12 minutes left!!!

Play the C and G7 song “Hokey Pokey” with the recording. Others you could play are “Skip to My Lou” or “He’s Got the Whole World”. These are great to get kids singing and playing the guitar and you could get a little ear training in too! Now for the real fun – composition!

Blank Space
Next slide has the 3 main chords we know; Em, C, and G7. There are 8 empty measures and the chord letter names are infinite cloners. Students fill the measures with chords and we play their composition. I only allow one chord per measure and straight down strums on the beat to start. Others suggest changes to the work; adding a second chord in a measure or changing the chord entirely. All students are engaged now… even the ones who are complaining about that chord change in the measure. If I had more time and technology, (insert long sigh…) I would have students submit a recording of themselves playing their composition.

Time to pack those guitars already. Next time… notes on the first string!

Week 3 (sort of)… Elementary Guitar Unit

As I told you I teach 4 classes of 5th grade during the week. Well, last Tuesday school let out early and tomorrow our 5th grade will not be attending specials because they will participate in Wax Works. Of course this means that these two classes will be one week behind the other classes. And… next week we’re off school for Carnival break. What will the kids remember?

Elementary music teachers know that schedule conflicts are as common as broken “D” strings – you may not see students for 2 or more weeks at times! Lessons should stand on their own so students who may have missed material can be successful. In addition, your lesson must be part of a larger scope for students with previous knowledge. Oh, and you need to teach something new to and differentiate your instruction.

This week’s goals: 1. Review 3 chords, 2. Learn to read and play notes on the 1st string

First 20 Minutes

This week’s video clip is about making of guitar strings. (Secret tip: This time, I can tune while students are watching the video! ;=)).

We review Em, C, and G7 and practice strumming to my steady beat. Next we listen to the recording for “Eleanore Rigby” from Guitar for Kids Method and Songbook pg. 13. Students point to the chords in the book as the song plays. The 2nd time we go to playing position and play along. Kids love this tune! Most of them have heard it at some point or another. If you had a little longer you could even talk about the Beatles with pictures or video or music! 20 minutes gone – bam!

5 Minutes

Next is creating. The composition smart board “worksheet” I’ve created is an activity we do as a class. It is 8 measure blocks (lines with no staff), a time signature of 4/4 and at the bottom are the letters “C, Em, and G7” as infinite cloners. Chord diagrams are also shown on the bottom of the page. We compose a simple song using the 3 chords from above… sound like any famous band you know? Hmmmm… Put your guess in the comments. I let students choose the chords; one chord for each measure and then we play the composition. The students who was chosen first picked G7 to start. Next kid Em. While I already know, I’m not going to like this “progression” I’m hoping the kids will hear it too! No such luck :(. For the last measure – two C’s two G7’s. Could not let that go. We listened to how C to G7 doesn’t sound like it’s finished but G7 to C does. Theory lesson of the day: “G7 always hangs around C but, C sometimes hangs out with other chords. And when G7 is hanging out with C it cannot be the last chord.” 5 minutes – see ya!

20 minutes left!

Notes on the first string. No I do not have Orff levels… yet. However, I do want students to have a physical experience before I give it a formal name. Learning the strings and names of notes are no different. Before going to the book we find the first string and practice plucking open, with 1st finger/1st fret, 2nd finger/2nd fret, 3rd finger/3rd fret and 4th finger/4th fret. They echo me. “Open, open, 1, 3, 3, 1 and 1, 1, 3, etc” Simple echoing turns into more interesting 4 beat phrases using open, one and three. This concept is presented on the smart board and students uncover E, F, and G on the strings and we echo using letter names. They then partner up and quiz each other for 2 minutes. They are instructed to be good teachers with their partner and correct mistakes. I review the “hand staff” system they learned while studying recorders. Now back to the book.

We read the directions on the top of pg. 14 as a class. From now on, I tell students to put their finger in the book and speak the letter names of the exercise. We do this as a class. Easy peasy lemon squeezy! (ish) They have to get it right before we turn on the recording and play along. This means they know exactly how many to play and when to stop. They will play it best once the brain work is done! I use the same format on page 15 and 16. Success! As I’m helping put the guitars away (leaning on the wall) I hear one student tell another “I liked ‘Hammer Head’ best!”. The other student replied, “No, ‘Secret Agent’ was the coolest!”.

Happy kids who are loving music! This makes me smile!

Week 4

Break was a hit! I was sick on the couch for most of the week. I’m sure some little sweetie forgot to wash his/her hands before sharing their germs with me on an instrument, door handle or hand hold. I did get a chance to sneak in a little trip to Barcelona, Spain for a few days! Yes, I did get to see a flamenco guitar concert held in a gothic cathedral! And… I found a museum that had an excellent display of guitar instruments through the ages. Check it out above!

Week 4 (We’re on our way!)

By now you know that only one of my guitar classes has been able to keep up with regular music classes. All other classes are at least one week behind. Like many of you, I wear a lot of other hats at my school so there is no time to get the others caught up. In any case, this happened today…

Mapping Old Bands

“Mrs. Brobst, do you know the band Green Day? They’re a really OLD band”. Really kid?! Speaking of bands… we started out talking about the Beatles to see how many kids had heard of this band. I like to point out to the students that many Beatles (and Green Day) songs have as few as 3 chords and we also know 3 chords. So, we start our review with “Paperback Writer.” If you’re using the Guitar For Kids Method & Songbook, you can find a G7, C version on page 31.

My method for getting kids to read music is to make them look at the music and read the chords in tempo as if we were strumming. This helps students “map” the song and look for possible pitfalls before trying it with their fingers. I find it brings more success. We might even say the chords (later notes) with the play-a-long track so they have an idea of the tempo they are expected to keep. After the “mapping” exercise we play the song!

Singing and Echoing

We review notes on string 1 in a say and play finger numbers, then letter names. Since it’s been 2 weeks I’m having to do quite a bit of “re-teaching”. We review an old slide. I also like to take the opportunity to sing the pitches while I’m drilling them; students usually echo back with singing too. Once they catch on I can sing only letters/pitches without demonstrating on the guitar and have them echo by playing on the guitar. The next slide has 1 staff filled with notes and 2 blank staves with 4 measures each. Students choose the notes for the exercise and we attempt to play. The note choices are only quarter and half notes. This is a challenge! But, moving on to the 2nd string.

“It was in that movie!”

I use exactly the same procedure for teaching string 2. Play frets, echo fancy rhythms one fret at a time, say note names, echo fancy rhythms one note at a time, try with 2 notes at a time, then 3. (For more details see week 3) Now onto the paper training. Pg. 17. I cannot emphasize how important it is to read all the printed directions. Even though I’ve set this up for all students to be successful, they know where the notes are, there is that one kid (or two) who says, “Oh!” when we are reading and looking at these pictures! I don’t care how they “get it” as long as they eventually “get it”. As before have students group read notes with rhythmic values before playing. Notice “Cool Blues” only uses open strings! With full confidence we start! I play the 12-bar blues shuffle Teacher Accompaniment. “I know this song!” says one. “Me too! It was in that movie.” says another. 12-bar blues will have to wait for another day…

Rock Star Strum

Remember to follow this procedure for The Note C and D on pgs. 18 and 19. With about 5 minutes left in class, one little girl turned to page 20. “Ode to Joy! I want to play that!” Next week! To end class today, we wrap it up with “Feelin’ Alright” on pg. 38. This song is another G7, C song that is easy to play and many (not all) kids have heard it before. After the first practice run, I ask students to do a “rock star strum” for the last whole note. While we’re playing I tell them to make it look cool… We bob heads to the beat as we strum and then… ROCK STAR! Time to go.

Week 5

“Show me what you know”
I’ve spent 4 weeks showing students where to put their fingers on the guitar and how to make sounds on this 6 string instrument. They learned to play the Em, G7 and C chords, single notes on the first 2 strings, reading on the staff and strumming patterns. They’ve even learned a little about the history of the guitar and how guitars and strings are made. I’ve been assessing them all along but, now it’s time to collect real data in a – FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT – I need them to show me what they really know. Proof that we learn “real stuff” in music class!

The class went something like this. Everyone came in and got seated with their guitars. I quickly went through each slide in the unit reminding them of what we learned. We reviewed chords and notes by playing through some of the songs from previous lessons. I drilled them on notes by singing note names and having them play back to me. I gave them a minute to drill their neighbor. We even had a review slide almost exactly like the test (get the pdf). Are there any questions? Of course, no one has any questions so, we pass out clipboards and pencils and begin.

This test was created using SmartNotebook; the answers will be “revealed” next week after I have graded the tests and return them so the students can discover the correct answers for themselves. You can see that I provided a word bank for students to use when identifying the guitar and chords. Also, I gave extra credit for students who can correctly identify the string names. Note, we haven’t discussed this yet. Next week they will get a few sentences to help them remember the string names. Once students turned in their completed test they were then asked to get in groups and start to learn “Ode to Joy” on page 20. How did they do?

80% of the class earned 100% on the test. The most common mistake was students who answered G7 in the F space when I asked them to write the note names. Another common mistake was students who mixed up D and G. All but one student correctly identified the chords and all but 2 correctly identified ALL parts of the guitar. Two girls cried… By the end of the period most students were able to play the first line of “Ode to Joy” together. They were ecstatic! We are participating in “Flat Beethoven” selfie campaign for MIOSM at our school and they have made this connection. I hope we can feature this song at the concert with guitars! Only one boy knew the names of strings 3, 2, and 1 – no one got the extra credit. Next time for sure!

I’ve included some other photos and slides and things that may help you get a better idea of what goes on in my classroom! Next week – string 3!

This bulletin board displays the work students completed before we started the guitar unit.
Shelley's Classroom Board
Unfortunately, we don’t have guitar racks. Fortunately, we have a case for each guitar! Most guitars are 3/4 size instruments – a few are 1/2 size. Shelley Class No Racks

Guitar Unit Left Hand finger numbers (get the pdf). I make them actually hold their hand like the picture then wiggle each finger as we learn the number. Remind piano students that the numbers are NOT the same.

Students can move the letter names of chords into measures to compose (get the pdf).

Video I’ve used in class so far:
History: Acoustic Guitar

How It’s Made: Acoustic Guitar

How It’s Made: Strings

Week 6…Tuning and Review

It’s about time the students know at least a little about tuning a guitar. Spring Break is around the corner and they will be taking trips, trying out their guitar skills at Grandma’s on Mom’s OLD guitar. It needs to be in tune. This week’s exercise took longer than expected. I had planned on moving on in the “Guitar for Kids” book. Best laid plans…

Review the Test
I gave students back their tests from last week. They really were pretty happy with their scores and understood what they had problems with. Remember the biggest mistake some students made was answering G7 in the F circle. By pointing out that I had asked for a NOTE and not a CHORD, I was able to make the distinction between the two again. Also, this was an excellent opportunity for me to teach that Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears – the names of the 6 strings of the guitar. I believe we learn from our mistakes. I’m betting they will not make the same mistakes again next time… Yes, there will be another test.

There are several methods that work well for the classroom. I do not have individual tuners on each guitar so we will need to use our ears. I really want the students to be able to understand the concept of tuning so that I can say, “The D string is flat” and they will react appropriately. First they must get into tuning position.

Tuning Science
Tuning position is when the bottom of the guitar “stands” on the left leg with the neck straight up next to the head and the sound hole facing away from the body. Students then put their left ear directly on the shoulder of the guitar. After a brief discussion/discover that sound does, indeed, travel faster through solids (like wood) than air we begin to compare. SCIENCE!!!! I tell them that they need to pluck gently enough that I wont be able to hear them while I’m playing. I’m going to play my string and they will pluck and compare their string. If they think they are in tune and their string sounds like mine they should go into quiet position. If not, they are to leave their guitar in tuning position and I will listen with them individually.

Usually, the guitars stay in tune by now so I search for one that is not in tune. I teach them to follow their finger up the string to the tuning peg that operates that string. Now, everyone is listening and watching this one student. She is nervous when I tell her to turn the tuning peg away from her. She barely turns the peg – about 1 mm. Hardly any change is made. It is important to instruct students to pluck as they turn. Also they must turn about 1/4 to 1/2 a turn in order to make a real difference to the sound. I have to demonstrate this to the students. Remember that you should hear the pitch change. Yep… all 21 students tuned all 6 strings.

Some students were worried and made me listen to each already in tune string. Others didn’t change a thing when they needed to. I did a quick 6 string check at the end to see how everyone did. For the most part, students had much better ears than I expected. Will I let them free to do this on their own next time… No Way! But, we’re on our way.

Leave Them Succeeding
Remember from last week that we are working on “Ode to Joy”? Well with 10 minutes left of my 45 minute class period, we only get to review the first line. I always like to close with something I know students will be successful playing. We played “Electric Avenue” pg. 42 and”Jambalaya” pg. 40 for run and review! This class was very heavy with test review, tuning and note review. Remember to have FUN playing music with kids!

Ideally, every kid in your class should have a tuner. In case your teaching situation is less than ideal check out these free tuner resources:
Fender Tuner
Gieson Interactive Tuner
– And this tuning video

Also try out these other articles – Teaching Tuning Part I and Teaching Tuning Part II

Week 7

The G and D chords and learning about a progression.

I had a restful two week spring break! And so did most of my students so, I was a little worried about how much they would retain.

Back to our regularly scheduled classes! I started this week’s lesson letting students know that we will be studying 3 more weeks of guitar. While I LOVE guitar classes and would teach nothing but that all year, I do know that not everyone shares my passion and some kids want to get back to making other kinds of music. Kids who share my passion can join me for a lunch time guitar ensemble during the last 9 weeks of school.

Review…warm’em up
We quickly reviewed the Em, C and G7 chords and practiced changes from each chord to the others. Then I asked the question: What do the following 3 songs have in common? We played through “Paperback Writer”, “Jambalaya” and “Feelin’ Alright”. Quickly they were able to recognize that all chords have the C and G7. Some students also recognized the “Rockstar Chord” at the end. That is where the whole note is and we have a special “rockstar” move. I tell them: -C and G7 are part of the C progression – G7 is always seen with C – C has other friends and is seen in other progressions. Before you get all technical with me… I know 7th chords are seen a lot of places! But, we’re talking 5th grade general music class!

Easy as 1,2,3
Next is the G chord – pg. 22. Easy peasy! Make sure to use the 3rd finger!!! You should call their attention to the fact that the G chord uses the note G and they are in the same place. Once we strum this a few times, we watch the Jackson 5 video of ABC. My students all know of Michael Jackson. They are amazed when they learn that he was around their age when he performed this song. Let’s play ABC!

The D Chord!
We learn that G and D are friends just like C and G7. They are part of the same progression. Starting with the G chord in hand, move the 3rd finger over to the 2nd string, same fret. Then add finger 1, then finger 2. Once there, squeeze and you’re playing the D chord. It’s a good idea to show these two chords side by side so you can see the how the 3rd finger is relative to both chords. In this slide the fingers activate when touched to end with the full D chord. Play “Land of A Thousand Dances”. Download G and D Side by Side,

We complete the rest of the page where students practice chord changes. This should be done slowly! Now it’s time to compose! I let students help me choose what chords they want to play in each measure. Even if all measures have been taken, I squeeze in a final G chord to end the progression. The chord names are “infinite cloners”. A few students say, “That sounds pretty good!” I love that they are impressed with themselves. Download Compose G Progression

Giving fingers a quick break we talk about progressions – the reason your composition sounds good! I don’t dwell on any of the information too long… they’ll get more of it from next week’s lesson. Piano and band students really grasp the basic information in this concept. Finally we play “This Land is Your Land” and “You Are My Sunshine”. These songs are familiar and use that G progression. Next week – Green Day! (That really OLD band… a lot of the G progression there!) Download Progression Slide

A few other notes about this lesson. On Monday, I started by having students tune their own instruments. This took way too much time and we were not able to get through the entire lesson. Tuesday and Wednesday, I tuned the guitars for students in 5 minutes. Thursday – I had a substitute! (See my substitute lesson plan)

Download the 3 pdfs…and Good Luck!

Classroom Guitar – Sub-Plan

The big question… What do I do with a sub? You could pop in a movie… But, I know that when kids come to my room, they expect to play instruments. Also, there are a ton of resources out there that can instruct anyone to do anything. So, here are some options for you…

Our district has purchased eMedia Guitar Method. This program has quite a bit of instruction and videos that can be helpful to students…there are even activated necks that go with the songs if you wish.

If you have iPads you might be interested in an app called FourChords. This program is sweet! Students choose a song, and learn to play the chords. They can video themselves playing the song along with the music and mail it to you! You can even change the key. This could be an activity students could partner up and do together with a substitute. You could choose the music for them.

Here is what I left for my substitute:
5th Grade – In other classes I would be there to help instruct students. They should know enough to follow the directions on the videos below. They should only play when instructed by the video… This is an issue with students sometimes – they like to “noodle”. Other classes are learning the Easy G and D chords. So… Next week, they will need these chords for the music.

Also, you’ll need the “Guitar Unit” smartboard lesson open. You’ll find it in the common drive. All of the music they will be playing along with is attached to the slides. The G chord slide starts on slide 47. But show the videos below.

The video will go through a lot of stuff they already know… But, they will get the G chord and D chords and that is the main objective for this week.

The G chord or “Easy G” Video

(I choose this because the man uses the finger I want them to play the G chord with. Other videos used different fingers.)

This is easy. You may still have to play it a few times. In their case they may find the “G” chord in the book on pg. 22. Open the Smartboard Guitar Lesson found in the common drive, at… And play “ABC” with the kids. (slide 47) There is a video link of the Jackson 5 singing this when Michael Jackson was 11; about their age. They’ll need to switch between G and C. You may have to do this a few times.

Next, move on to the D chord Video…

Then play the song on the “D” Chord page. (Slide 48) The “D” chord is not activated on my slide. If you touch where fingers 1 and 2 are they will appear.

Back on the Smartboard pages… Have students turn to “This Land Is Your Land” and “You Are My Sunshine”, pgs. 24 and 25. Have students play through each a few times. (slide 51.

Repeat any song that you have time for. Slides 43, 44, and 45 are fun to play. (those are my review songs from the start.)

Pack up about 5 minutes before class.

Tell them that I want the guitars to be put back neatly otherwise, I’ll take points from their class when I get back tomorrow.J

My substitute left a little note saying they didn’t have time to play through the “fun” slides at the bottom. I think she was playing along with the students! Since I know she is not a musician – I am pleased that she was able to get through this much. Excellent! Sharing the music!

Week 8 – Review Time!

It’s week 8! I was the preparation for the BIG unit test! Of course, it also was the week our students took the Terra Nova test. I don’t know about you but, I know our kids can be a little crazy these days! I think it’s because of sitting in a chair for hours on end… in silence! By the end of the day, they just want to play! I can oblige.

A quick tuning and then let’s get busy with a review of our C, G, D, Em, and G7 chords. I let students choose what songs they want to play for this bit. Remember that I am using the Guitar For Kids Method & Songbook with a lot of fun pop tunes that kids know. They chose Hokey Pokey, ABC, and You Are My Sunshine. Now to rest the fingers they watch a brief video of Elvis singing Hound Dog. Discussion Question: Why was this video so controversial when it first aired on TV?

Most kids have no idea. “TV was in black and white!” One student, invariably says, “It looks like he’s twerking”. Excellent time to make connections between music of the past and music today. Then we play Hound Dog. The down up strumming is something that kids can do well if the pattern is always down up. Up to now, students have been using their thumb or nail side of their index finger to strum the chords down. I instruct students to use the index finger do strum down and the thumb to strum up. Tell students to touch finger and thumb together on the finger pad and strum down up. Now they’re ready for a pick. I have a pickpunch in my classroom and I use old gift cards to make picks for students. Getting the pick out of the sound hole is an “after class” activity. If it goes in only you, the teacher, should be in charge of getting it out. Play through Hound Dog at least twice if you can. Don’t forget the “Rock Star” ending!

While all of this is going on, I’m trying to hammer home the idea of the G progression and what chords makes up the G progression. I want students to make the connection that groups of chords keep showing up together. On to Brown Eyed Girl. Students see this as a challenge because the chord changes are every measure. When this happens, I have them put their finger on the paper and we read through each chord out loud making sure to include repeats. For the first line we would say, “G, G, G, G, C, C, C, C, G, G, G, G, D, D, D, D”. We only got one chance to play through this due to time – where does the time go?

Quickly switching gears from chords to melody we go to pg. 28 for notes on string 3. Quickly echo me without looking at the book. Students take turns giving us G and A combinations and we echo. Show them the G and A on the staff. Since they play this G on the recorders, they can easily remember this note! Every class played example 1 with ease. From here I let them choose between Au Clair De La Lune and Birthday Song. I give them about 5 minutes to try and play through on their own. About 1/3 of the students can play through their song by the end of the time. With more practice, I know they all could play the songs! Unfortunately, we do not have that luxury.

Quick test review time! We reviewed all the questions that would be on the exam! Parts of the guitar, chords we know, string names. I think they’ll do just fine!

We shall see…

Week 9 – Wrap it up! Show me what you know!

It’s the day of the big test! I begin by letting kids study with buddies for about 10 minutes of class. They are allowed to ask me any questions and review anything they don’t understand. Students ask about how to tell the difference between the 2 G’s. Another telling question, “How do I know if I’m supposed to play one note or a whole bunch of strings?” Chord = 2 or more pitches played at the same time, Note = one pitch at a time. One asks me to review the sentence to help remember the names of the 6 strings. Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears. For the test I do let them use the guitars but, no books. I really want to see what they’ve learned over the last 9 weeks. Download the test.

More Bark than Bite

Many students finish in less than 5 minutes. Once I have a group who has finished, I let them find a place away from the rest of the students and work on I’m A Believer, pg. 32, 33. They are pretty enthusiastic about this! It takes the entire class about 15 minutes to complete. A few students had to move to the hall to finish. Everyone else played through I’m a Believer. If you’re looking along to the 2nd page you’ll see that the chord changes are very quick. Students who are still not as confident can play one strum per chord as a half note during the chorus.
And for the finale… Everyone learns the Smoke on the Water riff. All on the 6th string, and with the 1st finger… play these frets: 0, 3, 5… 0, 3, 6, 5… 0, 3, 5, 3, 0. Even kids with no confidence LOVE this. It’s what everyone who ever picked up a guitar can play, my 5th graders included. Everyone skips out of class happily ever after!

This was certainly not my first time to teach elementary guitar. However, it was my first time at this school and with this schedule. If you were following along, you may have had the impression that this class was taking forever… I agree! We had several interruptions to these classes; spring break, ½ days, absences, field trips. While interruptions like this may be typical, it is not the best for student retention on any instrument. Next year, I will plan this unit during a time when we have the least interruptions.

The classes that met on a more consistent basis were able to play that Green Day song “Time of Your Life”.

We had to use the Amazing Slow Downer to get the song at a reasonable speed for class. Having the exposure to this tool was another advantage other classes did not have. I expected these classes to participate in the MIOSM Concert but, that did not happen. I hope some of these students liked guitar enough to sign up for the middle school guitar class next year.

What else will I do differently? #1 Name the guitars. Normally, my guitars are numbered and named after famous guitarists. This provides exposure and an opportunity for us to play or listen to music from those artists. #2 Quick checks. I think a few more quick assessments or tickets out the door would support student learning a little better. #3 Cookie Recital. I would definitely plan a small class recital and invite parents and staff to come see what we’re doing in the music room! We would play some of these OLD favorites and eat cookies at the end!