I was the music instructor for 5th and 6th grades for the 2016-17 school year at Seattle Girls School. I created, developed, and taught my own curriculum, then evaluated two 6th grade guitar classes of 20 students per class and one 5th grade ukulele class of 14 students.
Since this was a new experience for me and I couldn’t find much help online, I thought I’d share a summary of the main points I covered, in case someone out there needs some general guidance. If there’s a need for more specific lesson plans or other materials for teaching guitar and ukulele to middle school students, I may publish a book of my worksheets and lesson plans.
Middle School Ukulele and Guitar Program:
I focused on developing essential listening skills, establishing thoughtful behaviors in large and small groups, and building basic music skills on the ukulele/guitar. Students were exposed to a variety of music and they practiced identifying several key elements of music. Then, students used those elements of music to analyze and communicate objective and subjective feedback about each piece to the class.
We covered the anatomy of the ukulele/guitar, general care and maintenance of each instrument, and basic notation systems (for chords and single notes). Students were exposed to basic major and minor chords, as well as common strum patterns that can be used to play hundreds of songs. General music skills, including the chromatic scale and basic ear training were used to enrich students’ overall music experience. The students used all of these skills to learn “cover tunes” as well as develop their own song ideas throughout the year in large and small groups.
Guitar students learned to read and notate standard music notation on the first two strings, and they learned the chord shapes and a scale pattern used to play a 12 bar blues. Students learned to construct all 12 major scales and major and minor triads, and how to harmonize the major scale. The classes studied and played five of the most popular chord progressions, then guitar students transposed those chord progressions to different keys and played them. Syncopated strum patterns were broken down and analyzed, then applied to the popular chord progressions in different keys.
If you are new at teaching guitar or ukulele to middle school students and you’d like to contact me, feel free to email: LeadCatPress@gmail.com
Susan Palmer teaches jazz, blues, and rock guitar styles in Seattle and via webcam. Since 2006, she has been the guitar instructor at Seattle University. Palmer created and taught, “The Rock Project” at Cornish College of the Arts from 2010-15, and she was music instructor at Seattle Girls School for the 2016-17 school year. Palmer is the author of, The Guitar Lesson Companion Method Book Series which is used by teachers and students in over 10 countries, including faculty at Berklee College of Music. Her extensive collection of lesson videos and jam tracks are available for free on YouTube. Palmer’s current and former students perform regularly throughout the country, including these Seattle venues: The Comet, The High Dive, Skylark, Neumos, The Hard Rock Cafe, Chop Suey, The Tractor Tavern, The Rendezvous, The Sorrento Hotel, The Crocodile, The Mix, Cafe Racer, The Edgewater Hotel, The Sunset, and other private events.