Music at Brighton College Nursery and Pre-Prep School has always been an important part of the curriculum but now it is even more dramatic and colourful.
Several years ago I was looking for a way to make lessons more fun, build a love of sound and encourage greater pupil participation. Violin, trumpet, fife, cello and guitar were already optional to learn with a specialist, and recorders were used to teach pupils how to read treble clef notation. But I felt that something was missing.
After watching a friend perform with a local group, The Ukes of Hazzard, I realised that ukuleles held exciting possibilities as a classroom instrument. A small instrument with four strings, ukuleles are easy to hold and make a pleasing sound from the outset. They are easier to play than other stringed instruments, are affordable and come in a variety of colours that appeal to children.
The teaching is done by ear, which adds freedom for all children - particularly those on the dyslexic spectrum - and enables them to explore melody, tempo and rhythm. Skills practised include singing, picking, strumming and ear training.
Ukes are now a firm favourite at my school. Try these lessons:
Lesson 1: Introduce the ukulele, naming each part. Get pupils to make a labelled drawing, including the strings' letter names.
Lesson 2: Show pupils how to hold the ukulele correctly. Get them to practise plucking strings individually and performing a basic strum.
Lesson 3: Explain what a chord is and how the pitch of each string can be changed by shortening the length of it. Teach pupils the finger position for the chord of C and practise strumming between open strings and C.
Subsequent lessons could incorporate the DVD Ukulele for Kids by Marcy Marxer, which progresses sequentially.
Sam Dixon teaches class music at Brighton College and is the creative force behind www.songchest.com
Guess the musical instrument in sarahcon's PowerPoint quiz. Pupils listen to sounds and click on the corresponding picture. bit.lyMusicalSounds
Use The Blagmusic Project's touchscreen piano to explain chord theory or get pupils performing to the class.