Issue 149: Conceptualising

This is fast becoming a lost art…

What do I mean by it anyway? I mean THINKING about something without actually DOING it.

It’s a skill with so many applications. For example, how do I get from this place to that place? What do I need to go camping? What kind of biscuits are likely to sell at a cake stall at school?

These are all questions that are better answered BEFORE you launch into the activity!

Music is one way to develop this skill of imagining how to go about doing something WITHOUT actually doing it. So, 300 children this week have been subjected to my determination that they will learn this skill through ukulele lessons this week (glory be – do I really teach ukulele to THAT many children? My word, yes I do!)

I taught six classes of year 5 and year 6 children to play “Eleanor Rigby” last week, using F and Am, and four classes of year 3 and year 4 children to play “La Cucaracha” using F and C7.

Over the course of the lessons, I refined my teaching process, until it went like this;

Learn the song (it was up on the whiteboard). Learn the notation style, including chord and strum symbols and repeat signs.

Listen, keeping the pulse and calling the chord changes.

Watch me “No, put the ukulele down and just WATCH and LISTEN” as I demonstrated how to find the starting chord (F in both cases) and switch between that and the other chord. “NO, PUT the ukulele DOWN and watch!”. They have one ukulele between two children, so if one child grabs the ukulele and starts plinking away, firstly the other child is disadvantaged, and secondly it rapidly becomes very noisy.

Call for volunteers to demonstrate what I have been showing them.

THEN let them loose to have a go! Hopefully, they have been thinking through what has to be done to create and F chord, and switch between F and Am, or F and C7.

By this time about half the lesson has passed in

  • activity (singing)
  • listening (learning about the notation)
  • thinking/conceptualisation (watching the demonstration)
  • activity (taking turns at learning the chords)

Now, when we put it all together, taking turns to strum and sing, it should work pretty quickly. And it did.

the keyboard snake

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