Recorder is a valuable tool for teaching music literacy and often the first wind instrument that most children encounter. As teachers, we want all children to have this experience, however due to certain limitations this is not something that all children can do with ease. With some careful thinking and planning, we can bring the opportunity to touch, hold, and experience playing the recorder to all children, then adapt our course of instruction to ensure their future success.
The national standards state, “Children will perform expressively, with appropriate interpretation and technical accuracy” but it does not state how or with what instrument. Often teachers worry that they are not meeting the objectives if they omit an instrument like the recorder. Classrooms all over the nation do not have the same instrumentation but are able to meet the National Standards in their own way. For this reason, the standards are very non-specific on how you are to achieve the objectives.
I still want my students to experience recorder, what can I do? There are several options out there for you:
Aulos Soprano Recorder comes in an adaptable version for students who have finger disabilities. You can assemble the recorder or cover holes to meet the needs of student and then glue the pieces in place. This is a wonderful option for students to feel included in their class and making music on recorder. Some draw backs to the recorder are intonation concerns if it is not assembled correctly and the pieces could come apart if the glue stops holding. I have not used one of these recorders in my classroom, so truthfully I’m not certain how well it holds up to the test of time and use. I can only imagine that it works well in theory and could be an option for students who have finger disabilities.
Adapting the Recorder Yourself:
There are some ingenious people out there who have adapted an existing recorder by closing off the bottom row of holes or covering certain holes with tape. One gentleman even created entire devices for the recorders in his class, see his video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUxn99LwIwo . You know your student’s needs best and can get pretty creative with altering the recorder to meet their needs.
Adapting the Classroom and Instruction:
I chose to adapt the classroom and my instruction for the students. I use a variety of different instruments during recorder instruction so students never feel that they have been isolated or are different. I just know that this is going to be something that this particular class will need and I build it in from the start. For example, I teach the recorder fingerings and note names to everyone using visual like the Magnetix Recorder Fingering Set and the Magnetix Notes Set. The Magnetix are trimmed in Boomwhacker colors so that later I can incorporate the music literacy aspect of recorder playing using Boomwhackers and the notes on the staff.
This is an example of music I would present to my students. The B’s are pink, A’s purple, and G’s green to correspond with the Boomwhacker brand of instruments.
I would divide the class and have some students on Boomwhackers and some students on recorder and then switch always leaving my special needs student on Boomwhackers. By this point in their education students are aware of their own needs and know that recorder is not something they can be the most successful on so they happily play Boomwhacker without there even being a discussion. Another option is to use the ChromaNotes 8 Tone desk bells for the student who needs it and to have the rest of the class play recorder. This has worked very well in my class and the student on bells loves to play them!
Recorder is a valuable tool in the classroom. You can teach a variety of concepts using the recorder, however you do not have to have all your students all on recorder at the same time. Once the children are established recorder players, you want to use the recorder as another tool in your toolbox. I hope this helps you come up with some ways to include all children in your recorder class. If you have any questions, just ask!