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!