Introducing the Ukulele

Years: 1 – 6Classroom ukulele

Materials/Resources needed: 

  • Interactive White Board
  • Class set of ukuleles – tuned
  • USB with song sheets
  • Packet of coloured stickers to indicate chord shapes

Learning sequence – focus on strumming and singing:

Introduction:

  • Show students ‘rest position’ (students hold ukuleles vertically in their laps, sound hole facing outwards with both hands around the fret board).
  • Discuss the physical features of the ukulele: strings, tuning pegs, sound hole, frets etc.
  • Talk about chords and demonstrate position of the C major chord (prior to the lesson mark the C chord position (1st string, 3rd fret) using a red sticker on each of the class ukuleles).

Modelled playing:

  • Demonstrate a nice even strumming of C major chord for students to hear.
  • Strumming should be near where the body meets the neck (not over the sound hole).
  • Ask students if they can hear the different tone achieved by strumming with the thumb or other fingers.

Guided playing:

  • Students begin strumming the C major chord.
  • Guide the students until a nice tone and even strumming pattern is achieved (go around the room and make sure no other fingers are touching the fret board except the one holding the C chord).

Independent playing:

  • Once a nice steady strum has been achieved, start singing Row, Row Row Your Boat. Students maintain their strumming and join in the singing.
  • If students are managing this, you can split the class into groups and sing as a ’round’.

Extension:

  • For added variety the class can also strum and sing ‘Are You Sleeping’ followed by the french version, ‘Frere Jacques’. These songs are also canons and can be sung as rounds.
  • Add dynamics – get some of the class to play loud and others soft.
  • Have a student come out the front and conduct the class (keep the beat, indicate louder and softer, faster and slower).
  • For added variety (and inspiration), the teacher can play the melody while students strum and sing.

Links to Australian Curriculum (Music):

Stage Two:

Practise singing, playing instruments and improvising music, using elements of music including rhythm, pitch, dynamics and form in a range of pieces, including in music from the local community (ACAMUM085).

Reflection:

The focus of this lesson is for students to achieve a nice even tone and regular beat while strumming – and also to get them singing and strumming at the same time. It might seem easy, but it actually takes a lot of coordination for our brains to do all these things simultaneously, particularly at first.

Although Kindergarten students can achieve the outcomes of this lesson, it works better with Year One and onwards. Playing a stringed instrument can be quite tiring for little fingers, so they’ll need regular breaks. If your student’s say their fingers are getting sore, ask them to put their ukuleles down and rub, shake and scrunch their fingers to get some blood flowing into them. This often helps and the students enjoy it.

Resources: