Thursday, January 24, 2013

Recorder Karate Question

This question was posted the other day and I thought it may be something that others were interested in:

I am starting Recorder Karate for the first time and looking for an idea pertaining to the belts that is more cost effective. I see you have yarn. Can you explain how you utilize the yarn as belts and what holds it into place?

I hear you on cost effectiveness. My school started out at just under 600 total population and now we are at around 900. I have always used yarn for belts and honestly, I have not had to buy new yarn in the 6 years I have been doing recorder karate.  When I first purchased the yarn, I stocked up (2 packages per color).

Since I only use this with my 4/5 graders, it takes a while to go through. If you want to go the yarn route, I would buy the larger packages of yarn. JoAnn's/Michaels/Hobby Lobby coupons are great. I took several trips in order to get all the yarn I needed. You can also ask parents for donations. Since this isn't one of the more expensive items, I have had parents donate a package here or there. 

As far as tying the belts on, the kids just double knot them onto the end of their recorder. If they don't have their own, we staple them to their recorder karate packets. Another way that I save on yarn is by being very stern about not replacing lost belts. If they lost their string, they don't have to start back at that belt, they can continue on but I don't just hand out replacement belts. Instead they have to replay the belt for me and time for this is very limited because I always listen to students trying to earn new belts first. This policy seems to cut down on wasted yarn. 

My kids are in charge of cutting the belts but I have to be specific about the process. When we first start RK in 4th grade, I teach them all how to cut them to the right length. I use a bucket in my RK box as a measuring tool. Otherwise, you'll have to listen to "my belts too short"! :)  Another way of doing this is by cutting the yarn ahead of time but I don't have the patience to sit and do that, so having the kids cut the belts works for me.

Do you have any questions about recorder karate?  I'm happy to share how I have made this work at my school.


  1. I buy embroidery floss and cut it 12 centimeters in length. I usually train a kid that I trust to cut them for me or send them to the volunteer room for a parent to cut. The kids like the embroidery floss because after you tie it you can unravel the strands and make the ends pretty :)Embroidery floss is fairly cheap as well. I usually buy mine out of pocket and go to Hobby Lobby when they have it on sale or take a 40% off coupon.

  2. Embroidery floss is a good idea and I can imagine how the girls especially like to unravel the ends. My girls do that with the yarn. How many belts would you say you get out of one package? It may be a good alternative the next time I have to buy.

  3. Good question! I use cheap Wal-Mart yarn. I bought my yarn about 5 years ago! I pre-cut all the belts. They are in a bucket on top of my piano. When the kids earn their belts, they just go to the bucket and get one! If they lose one, they just get another.

    I have a few friends who use beads. They love them! The kids put the beads on their halo recorder holders. They untie the knots and slip the beads on. My friend Colleen lets her kids personalize their beads. She has letters and shapes. The kids love it! :)

    1. Ooh more great ideas! The beads on the recorder strap is cool. I would imagine the kids are less likely to lose them.

  4. Love your blog. I am on my second year teaching elementary music. And I really want to start with recorders next year. Where do you order yours from. And what grade would you suggest it with, I have K thru 6 (Some of 6th grade are in band too). I am at a loss. I love the Karate theme. And I really think that my kiddos would love it!! Can you help me?? Thanks sooo much :)


    1. Thanks! I order my recorders through West Music but you can order them from many places. Part of why I go with West is because I use recorder sales as a fundraiser. West's prices are lower, so I can charge a bit above the cost of the instrument which covers shipping costs, allows me to purchase extra instruments for low income families and new recorder resources. I only do recorder with 4/5 because I feel like, on my schedule, it's too soon for 3rd grade. I have done recorder with 3rd grade before and it was very successful, it just doesn't work as well with the limited amount of time that I see them, there's too much to fit in. I honestly have not met a kid that did not end up liking recorder karate. Many are skeptical but they end up loving it!!!! Let me know if you have any other questions.

  5. Hi!! I was wondering how you do testing for recorder karate. I'm sure you can relate in that you don't see your kids all that much, and I'm trying to figure out how to fit in testing while keeping everyone else occupied and not taking too much time from teaching!

    1. We're do testing during the last 5 minutes of class. We all line up, I have a music stand with all of the songs color coded by the door and we play until their teacher arrives (we usually end up with 6-7 minutes because teachers aren't always punctual). The rule is be a good audience or we stop for the day. My kids really love earning belts, so they keep each other in check. I find that I am able to get through everyone in two class meetings. I try to keep them together so that no one gets discouraged about playing the instrument.

    2. Thanks!! So, do you have them play in groups or individually? I like the idea of using the last 5 minutes of class!

    3. They play them individually. I don't have a problem with shy kids because I'm very strict about being a good audience as we play. I set this up before we start recorder karate for the first time. Some teachers in my county have the kids play in groups. The benefit of that is you can get through them more quickly. I prefer to have them play solo because they can actually hear when they make a mistake. It works for me because it takes us two lessons to get through a song (first week learn the melody, second week add orchestration) and it usually takes as long for me to hear the whole class.

    4. For White - Purple Belt songs, I try to test 2-3 students at a time. I find that I am able to still hear individuals while getting through my class more quickly. I have trained my students to just stop if they get behind or have made too many mistakes and let the others finish. If this happens, I will then give that student the opportunity to test individually immediately after. (By the way - I test White 1st, Orange 2nd & Yellow 3rd - as students have an easier time playing melodies they know before tackling a new Melody, and Yellow is tricky for many beginning students.) During testing for the first 3 songs, students quietly finger the song while others are testing. I think it is very valuable for all students to hear me model positive affirmations as well as constructive advice (tighter fingers/softer air/cover finger holes completely/etc.). Once most/all the class has gotten through White, Orange & Yellow Belts, I move to music Centers. While students are working at centers, I call students over to test!

  6. Sorry - another question - as I said I am new to all this - I'm fine about individual testing as I do this now - but what is the criteria for them moving up to the next level and getting a "belt" - do they play 3 different pieces at that one level first??

  7. Don't think I first question was put up - so... I'm new to this method - I've taught recorder for many many years but am thinking of changing to this - what book/series do you use - do the kids have different books for each level - or cards (like music centres?? - and I'd love to see a summary of what notes are covered at each level

  8. Hi Robyn, I use a rubric to determine whether or not they move to the next belt. Students have a choice of two songs they can play to earn their belt and the belts test the same concepts, sometimes it's melodic, sometimes rhythmic. For example, I use my purple belt to assess understanding of syncopa. They have to be a level 3 or 4 on the rubric in order to move to the next belt. A three is demonstrating proper recorder technique, correct rhythm and melody. At this level they may pause or restart the piece and still earn the belt. Level 4 means they play it straight through without pauses or restarting.

    I've used the recorder karate series in the past but a few years ago I changed it up and pulled pieces from a variety of resources which fit with the order of my instruction better.

    Here is a summary of the belts:
    White-BAG stepping
    Yellow- BAG skips
    Green-BAGED, 3/4 time
    Purple-BAGED, syncopa
    Silver-compose your own piece using BAGED in 4/4
    Blue-BAGED, 1st and 2nd endings
    Red-BAGED, ties
    Brown- D'BAGED
    Pink- E'C'
    Gold- perform a duo


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