Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Recorder Karate

Whoever thought up Recorder Karate was a genius! What a way to get a child interested in PRACTICING their recorder! When we moved here, Gage's class had already started playing the recorder. Gage's teacher had sent home a note asking that if Gage has a recorder, please send it to school. We happen to have a few of them, thanks to a friend and "hand-me-downs." His class in Bismarck had started learning the recorder a couple months ago, I think. Since moving here, I remember Gage telling me on the way home from school, "Mom, these kids are really advanced at playing the recorder! They sound like professionals!" He was concerned. Apparently he hadn't gotten to this recorder playing level in Bismarck. I'm thinking that's maybe because they don't have Recorder Karate as part of their Recorder Curriculum. I had no idea what Gage was talking about when he mentioned Recorder Karate. Finally, he pulled up a website for me to look at. Basically, the kids learn to play different levels of songs for different colored "belts". For each belt achieved, the instructor ties a colored piece of ribbon onto the end of their recorder. White Belt = Hot Cross Buns. Yellow Belt = Gently Sleeping. Orange Belt = Merrily We Roll Along. Green Belt = It's Raining. Purple Belt = Old MacDonald. Blue Belt = When the Saints Go Marching In. Red Belt = Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Brown Belt = Amazing Grace. Black Belt = Ode To Joy. Gage said that many of the kids here had advanced through many of the belts already. He brought his recorder home and started PRACTICING! Without me even mentioning it!!! He's been practicing EVERY DAY. Without me even telling him to! In fact, this past weekend, we were busy with activities and the Superbowl, so we hadn't thought about the recorder. Monday morning he started playing his recorder in panic practice mode, and was worried that he wouldn't pass. Thankfully he didn't have music on Monday. He came home Monday and Tuesday and was practicing like crazy. Each day they have music, they have the option to "test" for the next leveled "belt". In the few short weeks we have been here, Gage has already advanced through many of the belts and is now practicing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for his red belt! When they test, they can only make 2 mistakes. If they make more than 2 mistakes, they do not earn the belt. Apparently Tuesday he tested for his Blue Belt and didn't get it. He asked the music teacher if he could come back during recess and retest. She told him he could. He tested and passed! I'm just amazed at how this little twist on the recorder has inspired Gage to want to practice and pass through the belts. I don't know if this is because he was in Taekwondo in Bismarck, and he had been passing through those belts (at a MUCH slower pace!), or what? There are only a couple other kids who are a belt ahead of him now. Even one of his classmates commented on how quickly he was passing through each level. I love this "competition" Gage has going with himself! At the beginning of 4th grade, Gage joined orchestra in Bismarck. He chose to play the cello. He was doing well and learned how to play a few different songs for their Christmas program. I know the teacher had tied some curling ribbon onto their instruments, and maybe this was the same concept? I recall Gage telling me each time they played a song in front of the group, they would get a new ribbon. It obviously didn't mean the same thing to Gage as this Recorder Karate does here, because I don't think he practiced his cello at home more than 2 times. I don't know if the orchestra teacher was implementing the same concept, but not making it a competition, or what? I can tell you that making it a competition has made it much more exciting for Gage!
I'm not sure if this is good or not, but Gage is not really learning the notes. He's learning to play by ear. The sheets he brings home from school just have the notes and Gage has found that the Recorder Karate website has the notes and the letters, telling what the note is. That is how I have to play too. I never learned to play the notes, despite taking piano lessons for a very short time. As he has advanced to the higher belts, the website has also stopped listing the letter for the notes. Gage asked me if I could go through it and write the letters down so he could learn them. I did it, but mostly because I also wanted to learn how to play them, and I need the letters. So, as Gage is practicing, he isn't even looking at the sheet music. He's just playing by ear. I know there are many musicians who do this as well. I'm not sure if I should be allowing him to continue doing this or not? What are your thoughts?
I really do just love how this Recorder Karate has encouraged Gage to practice. I'm not necessarily thrilled that I have the tune to Old MacDonald and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star stuck in my head for most of the day, however. I'm wondering if I can devise a Chore Karate list? For each chore he masters, he gets a belt. The harder the chore, the higher level of belt. Brown Belt = Cleaning toilets and Black Belt would mean that Gage is now making supper! Woo Hoo!! Do you think it would work?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Eventually he should learn to read the music too, because (with cello especially) the music will get much harder and more complicated to learn by ear. But learning by ear is a great way to start and will help him with staying in tune for cello and memorization later on! So excited that he is getting excited about music!! Wish you could find like a children's orchestra or something, so he could get a little competitive with cello too..