General music teachers are bringing ukuleles into their classrooms now more than ever! And many of you are like me, and never really played the ukulele before bringing it into your classroom. And although I’m not a huge fan of the instrument myself, I can definitely see how powerful it is in my elementary school classes. The kids love feeling like little mini-guitarists, but the size and the feel are way more accessible to their little hands. They don’t take up all that much space hanging on a wall, or on any number of homemade racks I’ve seen people using (examples further down).
I know there are a lot of resources out there, but at the beginning, I found myself looking at dozens of sites in order to get everything I want. To save you from that time (and all those tabs, if you are anything like me), here’s a roundup of my top three comprehensive resources. These can be used by both you AND your students.
The only three sites you need
One really great all-around resources for ukulele is Little Kids Rock. This site features everything from your first time touching the instrument to a variety of play-alongs. It gradually introduces chords, and has jamming tracks to support students in learning at their own pace. You could definitely use this as a whole class, but it could also be a great (FREE) self-paced course for kids in a 1:1 environment.
UkeAbility is a cool resource, espeicially for those who might be introducing chords in a different order from a lot of the typical resources. This is another one that students could use at their own pace, or even from home. You just add the chords you know, and it will generate a list of songs using those chords, linked to play-along videos.
I think a lot of people are familiar with Bernadette Teaches Music. Bernadette is a music teacher with a good sense of how to break things down both for students and teachers. If you’re looking for a pedagogical perspective,this is a great place to start. I suggest poking around her YouTube channel to see what works for you, and you can pick and choose what to use with your students.
If you are looking to buy ukuleles, some brands I can recommend would be Kala and Makala—great sound, and they hold up to classroom use. I would NOT recommend Westwood, as these tend to fall apart pretty easily.
About sanitizing: I don’t try to sanitize the instruments because I don’t want to damage the fingerboards. Instead, I have the children sanitize their hands on the way in and out of the room.
Ukuleles are easy to store. You can hang them on the wall. You can use or modify a variety of shelving units or build something out of PVC pips and pool noodles. You can even store them in magazine holders!
If you want to number your ukuleles, use a Sharpie to write the number on the back of the headstock. That’s a place where it’s unlikely to get rubbed off, and isn’t visible when the kids are playing.
One final note, as ukuleles become more popular by the minute. I grew up pronouncing “ukulele” with a great Midwestern “yoo” sound, the comfortable pronunciation of the colonizers. And even though it still feels a bit awkward to me, I work really hard to use–and teach–the correct pronunciation of the word. Just like you don’t pronounce the “t” on “ballet”, you don’t add a “y” sound to the beginning of “ukulele”. I have had a lot of pushback from people on this one, who say that it’s hard (it’s not, it literally uses sounds that are already part of English), or that it’s “become” an English word, and that’s how language works. But if you still need convincing, let me give you a few examples of words whose borrowed pronunciations you have held onto: pizza, fjord, lingerie, chic, fillet, tortilla, alma mater, potpourri, rendezvous…and the list goes on and on. Let’s honor the culture that has given us the ukulele by pronouncing it “oo-koo-leh-leh”.Ready to try ukuleles in your music class? Check out this easy guide to getting started. Click To Tweet
If you weren’t sure before that this is a great way to engage your kids in music making, then I hope you are convinced now! The toughest part is getting the instruments, but I know a lot of teachers who have gotten grants for the initial investment. Best of luck on your ukulele adventure, and if you know of any other indispensable resources, let me know down in the comments!