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Have you accumulated inside jokes with your students over the years? You know the kind. Where it takes only one word to have the whole class smiling and giggling. If so, you’re not alone. I built up a wealth of strange sayings to teach procedures. As ridiculous as my phrases may have sounded to an outsider, they worked. So today I’m sharing them with you, in the hopes that you’ll gain some new ideas for teaching recorder basics, and possibly add to your own repertoire of inside jokes.


Don’t Burn Your Back on the Lava (sit forward)

–To begin, I modeled sitting on the front of a chair versus leaning back and/or slouching. I  taught all aspects of posture without a recorder, then added it later. Once I modeled the correct posture, and the students had imitated me, I told them to pretend that the back of their chair was made of lava. Apparently, lava is a serious threat as a kid, and I can’t refute that considering how often I furniture-jumped with that exact premise in mind…


Pull the String Tight (no slouching)

–I stole this idea from my high school choir teacher. He would tell us to pretend that we had a string running through each vertebrae of our spine and out the top of our head. If the string was pulled tight, we sat up straight. If the string was cut, we slumped over, like a puppet without strings. I always modeled pulling the string tight and then cutting it. The more exaggerated I was with my movements, the more they were entertained, and the more it stuck with them. Later, when they began playing music on the recorder, I could silently “pull the string”, and my students would immediately sit up straight.


No Slides (feet flat)

–First, I modeled sitting with my feet flat on the floor. Then, I straightened my legs, and observed that they looked like a slide because of the angle they created with the floor. At some point in my career, that observation turned into a story about how little children could slide down my legs. My students found this ridiculous story entertaining, so I stuck with it every year after.


Recorder on Chin (no “accidental” squeaks)

–This isn’t really an inside joke, but it is a great tactic for teaching fingering silently, without all those “accidental” squeaks. I instructed students to fit the curve of the mouthpiece on their chin, while I showed them how to hold the recorder. From then on, students knew to practice silently by placing their recorder on their chin.


Make the Tissue Wave (soft air)

–I modeled blowing on a tissue (halfway pulled out out of a tissue box) softly enough that it waved, but didn’t completely bend over. Then, I went around the room and asked students to do the same. It was easy enough that most were able to do so on the first try, and they were all genuinely surprised by how carefully they had to manage their air flow.

Download my black and white set of fingering charts by clicking on the image below. If you have brightly colored decor in your classroom, you’ll want to check out my complete set HERE.


I hope some of these crazy sayings help you as you move forward with recorder instruction. Please share some of your unique teaching phrases in the comments section. I’d love to learn about them!