How to Start a Successful Ukulele Club!

How to Start a Successful Ukulele Club

Before really taking the plunge into teaching ukulele in the elementary classroom I wanted to try teaching ukulele to a small group of students. I had taught ukulele in the middle school grades, but had never attempted to teach a class full of 3rd graders. 


In this post I will tell you how I launched an ukulele club that gave me the skills and tools I needed to teach ukulele in the classroom

The added plus was that my ukulele club kids got so good at their instrument that they even performed at information sessions for potential parents (this is a private school). The kids even went on to perform at the Okinawa Convention Center.




Begin with the end in mind.

Actually, begin with an end in mind. A potential end could be that your ukulele club students host a lunchtime performance (3 songs) for the school office staff and custodial staff. It is important for their first audience to be a very warm and welcoming audience that will boost their confidence and give them the desire to perform again. 

Set a date that is 2-3 months away, set a time, and ask the right people for permission.


Prepare your curriculum.

I start all of my students on Peter Edvinsson's arrangement of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for ukulele. It doesn't matter how old or how young they are. Everyone I have met has heard the song, which means that they know what the ukulele should sound like when they play it. 

My favorite site that offers free printable PDF songs for ukulele is www.capotastomusic.com
Now that my students are getting better, I am also using www.doctoruke.com

Start the kids off on tablature and chords.
For your first songs, choose repertoire that:

  • only tabs 2 strings
  • only has chords that require 1 or 2 fingers


Recruit committed individuals.

Even though the Ukulele Club is for kids in grades 1-3, all interested students must fill out an application form.

Benefits of having students fill out the form:

  • Students get the real-life experience of filling out an application. 
  • I get the instrument checkout form signed by the student and their families. 
  • This filters the students who are really interested and willing to complete the form. 

Don't have an application form?
Use mine. You can download it for free at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Click here: Ukulele Application & Instrument Checkout Form

 Ukulele Club Application & Instrument Checkout Form



Test the students often

I keep track of how many songs each students has memorized.
In order to "earn" sheet music for a new song, students must test out of their current one.

How to test the students:

  • Students must memorize the piece they want to test on
  • Students will play the melody
  • Teacher will play the chords/accompaniment part. 
  • If students do not "pass" the test, they can try again! 

Students test one-on-one with me. These tests give me the opportunity to give the students individualized feedback, correct hand position, and play with the kids.


Peer mentoring

Peer mentoring is a huge help if your ukulele club grows too fast or you admitted too many students to begin with.

Choose students who have good habits and the heart of a teacher.
Do not choose mentors just because they're good at the ukulele. They may not make the best mentors!

How to set up peer mentoring:
  • Host a meeting with your most talented students
  • Let them know you have chosen them because they have gained so many skills on the ukulele
  • Ask the students if they are interested in helping other Ukulele Club members learn from them 
Once a few students have agreed to be mentors, set some expectations. Here are mine:
  • Always use kind words
  • Correct bad habits, but don't correct the students so much that it is discouraging. 
  • Play songs together
  • Ask for Ms. B's support if you need it!


Practicing for the Performance 

Pick a student volunteer to introduce the group on the day of the performance.
Here's a sample dialogue for the student MC:
Hi! We are the Ukulele Club. Today we will be performing 3 songs for you. Our first song will be 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Our second song will be 'London Bridge', and our last song will be 'Au Claire De La Lune'. We hope you will enjoy our performance! 

Have the group practice the entire set, from beginning to end.

  1. Student MC introduction
  2. Students perform their set
  3. Student MC thanks the audience
  4. Everyone stands up and bows

Record the rehearsal and have the students watch it and answer the following questions:

  • Something I did well was...
  • Something I can improve is...
Then perform again and videotape yourselves again. 



CONVERSATION

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