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!