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Uke Can Do It!

Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Date Posted: 8/06/2018

This year I decided that I wanted to bring music into my kindergarten lessons. I love to sing already (I am not the best), and my husband has been asking me for years to learn to play guitar (I have 2 guitars and a mandolin). I picked it up again, and then somehow fell down the ukulele rabbit hole.

In September, I got my first ukulele, Stella.
I taught myself basic chords by using several YouTube tutorials and began using Stella during kindergarten story time. I LOVE Ukulele Storytime and her videos! I also love The Martins. He also has a great blog with tons of resources at Tales of an Elementary School Librarian. I also joined the Librarians with Uke Facebook page. (Do you see why this has been an awesome rabbit hole?)
In October, I got Pete, my first ukulele.
I then had students ask about the ukulele, and I realized what I wanted to do next. I wanted to create a ukulele club! During my last class for my master’s, I had to work on a grant, so this was a perfect time to do the research and get a grant going.

I got a ton of ideas from this article.

Our school district has a foundation where teachers can apply for grants. They have a special one called Irving Schools Foundation Spark Tank where you can take your idea to a panel. You get seven minutes to present. I collaborated with my music teacher, and we were slotted a time.

What we asked for and how we presented it:

-We asked for 20 ukuleles, 20 beginner ukulele books, 20 tuners, 20 chord charts, 20 ukulele bags.
-We asked for 20 books. Each book had a musical connotation to it. I worked with my Perma-Bound reps to help me find great books with this theme in mind.
- I pulled in the music teacher and two students, and we learned how to play two simple chords on the ukulele. The students actually played during the presentation. (Murphy's Music did a great job of making sure that we had materials to present with!)

The Idea:

-Students would join in a six-week program. During that time, students would meet weekly after school and learn basic chords. They would each get a ukulele to take care of for the six weeks. Each ukulele would be named after the main character in the book with the musical connotation. At the end of each six weeks, we would end with a small performance.

We did not get all the ukuleles the first time around, and after working with the first bunch of students, I was OK with no more than 10 ukuleles going at once. BUT—we got the grant!

After we got the grant, we started working on getting the materials, and the first Uke Can Do It six-week program began. The Irving Schools Foundation also asked us to perform at their meeting on March 8.

During the Program:

-Students learned how to tune their ukulele and take care of it.
-Students learned how to play simple chords (but were encouraged to work on their own as well).
-Students learned how to play several songs.
-Students learned about the people in their books.

When the first round of students finished the program, we had a great small performance that parents, family members, and teachers attended. They did FANTASTIC! The students also talked about how they wanted to continue to play. 
Rather than students starting the program over again, we are talking about having a “jam session” day where students can come and just play. I have also had teachers and parents show interest in the program as well. We are only in the beginning stages, but I can't wait to see where it goes.

During Texas Librarian Association Conference, I had a poster session where I shared how I have worked with my music and art teacher in the library.

Some of my resources
-Application Form
-Ukulele Club for Tweens and Teens
-Howard County libraries to launch lending ukulele kits
-I also LOVE learning from Cynthia Lin Music

I still have lots to learn and lots to organize, but I already love seeing how excited and motivated the students have been with the ukulele. I am thankful to my husband for getting me started on the musical-instrument kick, a music teacher who doesn't mind trying something new, and a principal who lets me try new things in the library!

Next up—storage for the ukes!
Andrea Keller is a middle school librarian, a wife to an executive chef, and a lover of volunteering and technology! She was the 2011-12 TCEA Teacher of the Year and was named one of the National School Board Associations “20 to Watch.” She blogs regularly at http://beeinthebookends.blogspot.com/ and