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From The Ukulele Yes! Vault
Re-prints of vintage Ukulele Yes! articles

Bonnie Smith's short, to-the-point primer for ukulele teachers is as relevant today as it was over thirty years ago. Reprinted from Ukulele Yes! Vol. 2, No. 1. (1977).

Use of the Ukulele at the Elementary School Level
by Bonnie Smith

Ukulele Yes! Vol. 2, No. 1. (1977). p. 11

Suitability for Elementary Music

The ukulele can be handled readily by a grade 3 student. Guitars, even in grade 6 are large instruments and require advanced development for reasonable results. The hand position, chord patterns and fret distance all contribute to making the ukulele more accessible to younger students.

How Do You Keep Interested?

The success of ukulele classes has been in the use of the method for teaching Classroom Ukulele developed by Mr. J. Chalmers Doane, Supervisor of Music, Halifax Public Schools. The Doane method is not the easy answer for the music teacher looking for a book or gimmick to solve his or her problems, but instead requires a belief on the part of the teacher that the ukulele is a valid musical instrument which must be played and taught well.

1. First develop one’s own playing skill:
Prior to teaching a ukulele class, a person must learn to play – melody, harmony and rhythm by ear and from musical notation. One must also acquire a basic knowledge of music theory.
2. Pedagogy:
Next, a teacher must learn the pedagogy – the "how to" and "why" – of ukulele teaching. To quote Mr. Doane, "I can tell you 20 things, some as basic as how to set up chairs, which will make your ukulele teaching easier, and any one of which done incorrectly, could cause the failure of your ukulele program." This information is best acquired through workshops and adult ukulele classes for teachers.
3. Self Improvement to Insure Quality:
Continuation of one’s own ukulele lessons is a must for the teacher interested in developing a successful student program. To insure that personal playing skills improve, the ukulele teacher will be committed to lessons, workshops, performances and/or regular jam sessions so that one will "find time" to practice. This regular contact with clinicians and other ukulele teachers provides the opportunity to expand personal standards and consequently continue to upgrade student ability.

A veteran ukulele teacher and the founder of the Island Ukuleles ensemble (Victoria, B. C.), Bonnie holds a Master's Degree in Education from the University of Victoria. She currently specializes in curriculum development and design as well as web design and distributed learning.

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