Submitted by Martha Stanley, Tallahassee, Florida

Idea posted March 14, 2008

The idea: teach the words "legato," "staccato," and "slur" (with Music K-8's "Legato Staccato," of course) before beginning the recorder unit. Make sure the kids understand the differences and similarities.

Then when introducing the instrument, make it clear that the tongue is the 11th finger. It's the one that does the rhythm, the fingers do the melody. I made a PowerPoint showing "thoo thoo thoo" (legato), "thoot thoot thoot" (staccato), and "thoooooooo" (slur) as the way to tongue. I made legato the default. "Unless I say differently, play legato for every piece. That means tongue it like this ...'thoo thoo,'" etc.

(Frankly, I used "thoo" rather that "doo" because I didn't want to deal with the hilarity. I can do "ta titi," but I really wasn't ready to have "doo" spelled out on the screen. So instead, now that they are getting "thoo" well, I'll just suggest verbally the "du/doo" tonguing and explain that it's a gentler sound and it's time to try it.)

Using the vocabulary notebook ideas provided by Systematic Vocabulary Instruction, my kids worked on those word in verbal and non-verbal written ways. This was a very powerful tool that REALLY nailed down their understanding.

Let me tell you - they can play legato, staccato, and slur! It has made a really big difference in their playing. When I hear "hoo hoo hoo," I can say, "Where's the tonguing?" They are really getting the difference with their listening, too.

Just about everything we do, we do it all three ways on purpose, and then settle into the legato version. Of course, the third graders are still working on B and A, but they can articulate.

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