The Reflective Recorder: Teaching Recorder in the music classroom

Having taught music in Ontario classrooms for almost 25 years, a special love for the recorder grew into a desire to guide my students towards independant musicianship, not only on recorder, but in all areas of their musical journey.

My own journey as a music educator led me to develop my book, The Reflective Recorder in response to the needs of inclusive and diverse classrooms.

While teaching in a small rural public elementary school with few resources, I began writing little tunes for each new skill the students were learning. They required generous options to help develop these skills as they progressed on the instrument. I wanted them to have the time and opportunity to truly understand the notes, fingering, rhythms, tone production and ensemble playing before the class moved on to the next step.

Our modern classrooms are very diverse.  We have students who might join part way through the year and have no recorder experience or some might have come from a school where they had a great deal of experience.  We also have fully integrated classrooms.  What about a split grade?  How do you address the needs of the students who have already had a year on the instrument and those who are beginners?  You certainly don’t want to have the experienced players repeat what they already know.  Yet, you may have students who have experience but just aren’t ready to take on all new concepts.  You might also have beginner students who are able to jump ahead of the class. What a conundrum!  How on earth do we deal with this?  How do you keep the interest of the students at all levels?

These are the very questions I faced as I began developing the idea of a dual programme meant to dovetail different levels of playing.  My first level, having been tweaked over and over for many years seemed to suit beginning students in a public school setting.  However, when faced with a split grade 4/5 class, I knew that the grade 5’s needed something more.  As a result, I began writing duet parts to the level 1 tunes, introducing new notes to the more experienced players.  Some beginners were eager to learn the level 2 notes and music and some experienced players were quite content to review and work on the level 1 parts.  As a result, all were learning at their own level and able to take part in class activities.

The reflective parts comes from the hope that students will develop independant musicianship and be able to monitor their own progress.  Throughout the book, there are periodic “Pause and Reflect”  checklists for each student to self-evaluate as they work on their performance practice.

I’m grateful to Catherine West for her kind and generous forward to the book and for sharing it in Ostinato (the journal of Carl Orff Canada).

The Reflective Recorder is available from