Ukuleles Week Number 2

We are well into our second week of ukulele instruction, and things overall are going pretty well.

It isn't ideal to teach classes upwards of 45 students at a time with ukuelele, but we're doing it.

The class periods themselves go pretty quickly, but playing every-other-day doesn't yield the results that daily practice would yield.

Since my last post, we have added the following content:

  • We have played “London Bridge” in F, using F & C
  • We have played “Hot Cross Buns” in F, using F & C
  • We have used three strumming patterns: DDDD, DUDUDUDU, and DUDUDUDU (shuffle/swing)
  • We have just introduced the G chord (imagine running around a room, fixing 52 G chords)
  • I have introduced single notes of C and D, utilizing the forbidden pattern game from Dale Duncan's S-Cubed sight reading method. This works pretty well.

There have been some challenges as well:


  • About 10 students (out of 340) simply are choosing not to paricipate at all. They don't do anything while everyone else in the class uses the ukuleles. They are aware there will be plying tests and are happy to take the automatic 50% that our middle school grading procedure requires.
  • For the most part, students have stopped trying to tune their own instrument without a tuner, and come up during “practice moments” to tune with me. Eventually, I want to tune less and have them tune more.
  • Every day, we review EVERYTHING before moving forward.

New topics in the next week will include:


  • My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean in C (using C, F, and G)
  • Introduction to notes and tablature to the notes C and D which they have already been playing
  • New chords: teaching 7th Chords in terms of function, as they lead to a tonic (G7 to C, D7 to G, and C7 to F)
  • Moving our forbidden pattern game to the notes on the second string (E, F, and G)
  • Playing some songs with the app Ukuoke (makers of Four Chords)

Somewhere after this time period, we will be shifting back to choral music. 8th Grade will be singing an arrangement of Over the Rainbow with ukulele (thank you Andrew Mullen!), and I want to see if I can find a version of Disney's short film “Lava” that was included as a part of Inside Out for my 6th grade students. On a related note, a lot of kids mentioned that “Over the Rainbow” by Iz was played at family funerals. Let's not make such a beautiful song solely into a funeral song!


I see us pulling down the ukuleles on a regular basis for the rest of the year.


One other note: at the end of a musical rehearsal the other day, a number of my students stuck around and pulled down ukuleles off the wall (with permission), and then worked with our chart of chords on the wall (thank you,, for permission to print) and also searched out their favorite songs (21 Pilots is heavy on ukulele right now) to practice.


It was one of those rare moments in middle school music where things were going exactly like you had hoped.


On a related note, I have another boy who has been disinterested in choir since the start of the year who has been taking a ukulele home every night and is learning music on his own–even buying a subscription to Yousician.


I love the moments of success, because the struggles and failures seem to happen a lot more often!


Finally, we needed a new bathroom pass, so I ordered a toy ukulele from Amazon to use as a pass. We're only two days into using it, but the kids are treating that pass far better than any other pass I have used at this school over the past three years. The pass is pictured at the top of this post next to one of our Kala Waterman Soprano Ukuleles (more about that in another post!).



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