Headache-Free Recorder Lessons with Recorder Cat!

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Do you have trouble getting your students passed “Au Clair de la Lune” in your elementary music classes when teaching recorder?  I have been there and have usually ended my recorder unit after teaching BAG and E because I noticed that students were just memorizing the songs instead of reading the notes.    I didn’t know where I was going wrong.  I had gone to various professional developments on recorder and tried multiple method books.

After a few years, I’d had enough.  Over the course of an entire summer, I worked on developing my own recorder method.  It consists of an adorable Recorder Cat guide who leads students through each song by breaking down the musical elements in order for students to earn a new “badge” when they pass each playing test.

This method is sequenced thoughtfully, and paced appropriately for third graders.  One of my favorite features is that each PowerPoint  comes with embedded mp3s.  NO MORE CLICKING BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN THE POWERPOINT AND MP3 PLAYER! My students LOVE Recorder Cat and have learned more this year than ever before!  Best of all, they are reading music, taking pride in their abilities, and having fun!


Recorder Cat works because of the repetition that is built-in to the lesson as it breaks down the musical elements.  Here’s how I teach it.  
  • The best part of Recorder Cat is that there is no set-up or prep (aside from hanging the poster).   Everything you need is in the PowerPoint lesson, including clickable mp3 accompaniment tracks. The lessons break each song down into these steps: 
    • Rhythm: reading, clapping, performing the rhythm on 1 pitch
    • Pitch: identifying notes on staff, singing solfège, singing lyrics
    • Playing: identifying fingerings, practicing articulation, performing song
  • I will use the same recorder lesson for multiple days before moving to the next piece.  When I do move to the next lesson, I will use the previous lesson as a warm-up and to help students who need the review.  If there is just one student who needs their “Frog in the Meadow” badge, we will sometimes go back to that lesson (other students may need the reinforcement as well) and go through the lesson at an accelerated pace.  I direct all of the questions in the PPT to that student. When the student passes, the whole class erupts in applause! The student feels great and also starts becoming more interested in the lessons in hopes of attaining the next badge. 
  • Print out a poster of the Recorder Badge Student tracker and post it on the wall for every 3rd grade class. I put a sheet of fun stickers next to the charts.  The kids start getting competitive with the other classes when they notice that one class has started working on 4th or 5th piece, while they might still be on the 3rd or 4th.  They will beg you to move on the next lesson! 
  • Also, there is no messing around with yarn, belts, bands, ribbons, etc.  Once a student passes their playing test, I just point to the sticker chart and they put a sticker next to their name.  The little sticker books from the Dollar Store and Target’s Dollar Spot work well.  I’m currently using a Lisa Frank book and a Ninja Turtle book.  🙂
    I use the poster maker at my school.  If you do not have access to one, and prefer avoiding Kinkos or Staples, I have included individual student trackers that you could post on a bulletin board.

    • I use a very simple rubric for playing tests.  This is not included, it’s just for your consideration.
      • 5 Points – Posture, hand position, articulation, fingerings, and rhythm are observed with little to no mistakes
      • 4 Points – major errors regarding 1 of the above elements
      • 3 Points -major errors regarding 2 of the above elements
      • 2 Points – major errors regarding 3 of the above elements
      • 1 Point – major errors regarding 4 of the above elements
      • 0 Points – all elements contain major errors
    • There are also worksheets for every lesson.  If a student forgets to bring their recorder, I have them either finger along on a loaner recorder, or fill out a worksheet for the piece (whichever I think will be more beneficial for that child).  I also print out small versions of the worksheets for them to zip into their recorder bags.  
    Each song comes as a stand-alone lesson, but you will get more bang for your buck if you buy the bundle which also comes with the Class Badge Chart and a few additional exercises for new notes. 
    I do let children take recorders home to practice.  Some will buy 2 recorders (1 for home and 1 for school).  I work at a Title 1 school and our county policy is to never allow students to reuse recorders (they must all be brand new).  Therefore, I buy inexpensive ($3) recorders that come with zippered cases.   They can be found here at Rhythm Band.  

    Hello Music Teachers!

    I'm Jane, and I'm here to help make teaching more fun and less stressful by sharing ideas for the general music classroom! I've taught general music since 2009 and now focus on early childhood music.



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    1. Crystal Wyatt

      I love your blog– I even learned somethings about reading music. 🙂 Great way to teach kiddos!


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