This year I began making canjos with the 3rd graders and a few more things have changed.
Less time sanding – I had my husband use the belt sander on each canjo neck to smooth them out. I did have the kids sand a bit, since I think it is important that the understand this step and get to work with some sand paper.
Frets locations marked on the ruler. I had been doing a lesson on how to measure using the yard sticks. I discovered the last 2 years that the kids really don’t understand 1/16th of an inch yet. This meant I had to individually work with each child. It took at least 3 music classes. That’s just too long. I want to help develop math skills but I am not willing to introduce a concept to the kids. This year, I had tape with an arrow pointing up marking off each fret location on the yard stick. I learned last year that even with the tape I still had kids marking the WRONG side of the tape. Arrows helped but some of the kids still got it wrong. I will need to push the direction of the arrow next year.
Only three notes by Christmas: This year for the Christmas concert the kids played a song dominated by I, IV and V chords. I taught the kids the song first then taught them to find the root of the I chord. We then added that note to the song. I added the roots of the V and then IV chords next. To get to the root we discussed how the frets go in alphabetical order forward and backward. We discussed how to make higher and lower pitches. We DID NOT read notes on the staff. We played off of something that looked like a lead sheet. Lyrics and chord names only. This gave the kids a chance to focus on the physical side of finding the correct frets. I had much more confident players at the Christmas concert this year. And a few students started to figure out what the other frets were by applying what we had discussed in class.
Extend canjo playing past Christmas: We discussed note reading on the staff in January. We continued using the class set of canjos to play the notes. Since they knew G from the program, I started with going over the form of the treble clef and showed how it curls around the G line. We grew all our other knowledge out from there. I never once used a mnemonic. The kids seemed less confused by the process, overall as well. I feel like they have a better understanding of HOW the staff works this year. I hope they can apply what they know to the recorder next year.