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Ukelele Lesson #4

“Cheat sheets”, as we sometimes call them, are a wonderful thing. Last Friday, I asked my students how important their multiplication charts were to them. The resulting and rather loud answer was, of course, “Very, very important!” I showed them my chord chart and explained to them that I absolutely could not learn any of these new songs without this chart. I have to refer to it all the time. In school, and in life, if we really want or need to learn something, to see it over and over will help get it into long term memory. Did you know that, for the person with an average IQ of 100, it could take FIFTY or more repetitions to get something into long term memory? Fifty. It will take practice, practice, practice. They should expect this and not get too discouraged. I have to remind myself of this often now, because those darn chords are not easily sliding their way into my long term memory just yet. I still have lots of work to do, but I am not giving up. It’s getting to be too much fun. And…it’s not cheating to use a very helpful tool like this–it’s SMART!
(On a quick and fun aside, when I started playing “Brown-Eyed Girl” last week, the BOYS all spontaneously got in a line side-by-side, put their arms around each others’ shoulders, and started swaying to the music! I felt a little bit like a rock star. Tee hee. Yeah, just a little bit!)

Ukelele Lesson #3

My life’s motto: Life’s short. HAVE FUN!

The more you bring fun and joy into your classroom, the more learning will take place. My students get so excited when it’s ukelele time! We discuss the lessons we are learning in relation to the ukelele and they are relating it to their lives more and more each week. THEY ARE HAVING FUN!

I bring learning games into the classroom whenever I can to reinforce concepts that the students are learning. THEY ARE HAVING FUN!

And guess what? I am having fun, too. This is the joy of teaching!

Ukelele Lesson #2

‘Tis better to try and fail than to never try at all.

Thus continues the ukelele wisdom I am collecting. Our students (our children) need to learn, to know, to feel that they can try anything in our classrooms/our homes. They need to know that they are safe to try new things, safe from embarrassment. Always. The more comfortable you can make your students (your children) in your environment, the more they will try. And the more they fail, the smarter they will become. The best learning comes from our failures.

Thought about using that latest technique you read about in your education journal? Considering trying out the idea from that parenting book you are reading? The worst that can happen is that it doesn’t work. Or it doesn’t work well and you need to tweak it. Hopefully when you do, you will be in an environment that is encouraging, forgiving, and ultimately success producing!

Ukelele Lesson #1

It’s been about a month since I started learning how to play my ukelele. Each Friday I bring it in and play a little bit more for my students. The lesson I learned last week: It’s really nice to have an encouraging and forgiving audience! While I am their encouraging and forgiving audience each time they read, they are my audience each time I play. While I listen to them work on fluency with words, they listen to me work on fluency with notes. While I know who’s practicing at home (and they know who they are!), they know if I’ve practiced, too. The encouragement I receive makes me want to do better–do more–practice more. I will always be cheering for my students, and I now know that they will always be cheering for me, too!

Being Brave … with my Ukelele!

Come with me on a journey …

My students are brave with me every week.  They try new fluency passages, they raise their hands to answer tough questions, they know that the simple act of being brave will get them big kudos.  They make goals, they practice every day, and they try to reach those goals.

I decided that it’s time for me to show them that I can be brave too.  You see, I recently (and I mean RECENTLY) took up the ukelele.  And I use that term loosely.  Two Fridays ago I brought my ukelele (it’s actually an electric ukelele called a Konablaster) to class to play a simple song for my students.  The tune was “Happy Birthday”.  A simple task, you say?  Not even close.  I had only learned half of this very short song so far, but I wanted my students to hear me making mistakes, struggling with the notes, moving my fingers to the right strings when I plucked the wrong ones.  Yes, I was sweating, and yes, I was a bit nervous, but isn’t that something akin to what my students go through every day in my room — putting themselves out there — being brave?

I muddled my way through the first half of the song …

… and everyone clapped.  Loudly.

I made mistakes and my timing was way off, but my students showed me true support!  You could feel the excitement in the room.  My students couldn’t wait to hear me play again!

I vowed to them right then and there to bring my ukelele in each Friday to show them how I was improving.  I told them I would practice every week and (with any luck) they would be able to hear my improvement each week as the year goes on.  And sure enough, last Friday, I brought in my uke and played the whole song (with two mistakes, and remember, it’s okay to make mistakes!).  Two students even asked if they could video me with their phones to show their parents!

The moral of my story, so far, is that what I ask of my students (to make goals, to practice, to do their very best) is what I wish to show them right back.

Stay with me, and I will continue to update you on the lessons they learn, the lessons I learn, the mistakes that are made, and the fun we have on this journey together!