Recorder Hero


When I started this school year I never thought that I would be teaching music. I had a short music methods course as part of my year at UBC and have danced my whole life but have never had any formal music training. The last time I took a music class was in grade 7!  So when I learned that I would be teaching grade 5 recorder I needed to do some research, I started off the year reviewing what they had done the previous year and playing as a group then realized that this approach was not working! Some students needed to go slower and spend more time on introductory concepts while others were ready for more challenging music, this lead to a lot of off task behaviour because it was either too hard for students or not challenging enough. I needed to find a way to differentiate for all on my students, not just to meet the needs of one or two.  So I began to research mainly on pinterest where I found a large amount of links to resources and others blogs to help me get some new ideas and get started.  I also got to talk to my awesome mentor teacher (I’m part of my districts teacher mentoring program and am teamed up with a fabulous mentor) who is not only a classroom teacher but also teaches music including the recorder.


From all my research I found two programs that I liked and ended up combining the two to do what I needed, I found that both had what I felt to be fairly large jumps in the skill level needed to go between levels in the program how ever when I merged them together they covered everything I needed nicely.  Students earn belts/ awards for completing specific levels and challenges and they must play the songs for me in order to go to the next set of songs, a level or challenge can be made up of anywhere between 2 and 7 pieces of music.  In my way of doing my recorder program students choose when they feel ready to play for me for the next belt. I do check in with every student every class however they do not have the deadline of being ready to play a specific piece by a certain deadline. My goal is for students to feel confident playing their recorders and to feel like they are able to do it. I have my students set their own goals for where they would like to be at the end of the month and the end of the current term. I feel that this allows them to have some control over at least some of their learning.

My students move at their own pace through each belt or award. They decided when they feel ready to share with me and I give them feed back on how I think they are doing, it may be sending them back to work on a specific section that just needs a bit more practice to giving them their next set of music and their belt. I do use a physical reward system for their belts and awards. The belts come from the Recorder Black Belt System I bought here ( this program not only has the 9 of the major levels that the students work through to get to their Black Belt it also has many of the challenges that we do to go beyond the belts. I also use The Recorder Hero system ( I find this set to be very appealing to me as it includes many modern songs and songs the students hear on the radio. When my students complete a level they get a belt, I use the rubber bands for the rainbow loom as my belts. May systems I looked at suggested using beads and yarn to tie around student’s instruments however those require more storage space than is available to me. My rainbow loom bands are small, compact and light plus all the bands I need for every level fit into 3 small storage boxes from the craft section of my local dollar store. The loom bands also come in an amazing array of colours and patterns and can be found fairly cheaply both online and in stores, I also get several hundred of a colour for a dollar, this is enough to last me years of teaching this program! When my students complete a level they get a loom band to put around the bottom of their recorder.

Here’s how I organize the levels and the belts that go with them. Some band colors will be decided as the year goes on and I pick up more bands. I usually buy bands when I find them in dollar stores or can order them cheaply online.

Belt Colour (loom band colour) Recorder Hero Level (loom band colour) Song or challenge name * challenge (band color for challenges) Song Number
White (white) Na Cherry Pie 1
Old Mother Witch 2
Kardos Canon 3
Yellow (yellow) Bounce High Bounce Low 4
Rattlesnake 5
See Saw Margorie Daw 6
Orange (Bright Orange) Hot Crossed Buns 7
Good News Chariot’s Coming 8
Hop Old Squirrel 9
Review Yellow – Orange Fan (Pink) The Clock and The Moon 10
Hot Crossed Buns 11
Sleep, Baby, Sleep 12
Merrily We Roll Along 13
Au Clair de La Lune 1 14
All Through The Night 15
Green (bright green) Rain Come Wet Me 16
Mary Had a Little Lamb 17
I see The Moon 18
Blue (bright blue) Chinese Song (On the Yangtze) 19
Phoebe in her Petticoat 20
Corn Song 21
Review Blue – Green Groupie (pale orange) Star Light, Star Bright 22
Lucy Locket 23
Acka Backa 24
Back Stage Pass (Navy Blue) Who Has Seen The Wind 25
Purple Belt (purple) Shake Them ‘Simmons Down 26
Old MacDonald 27
Old Brass Wagon 28
Red Belt (red) Lavender Blue 29
Button You Must Wander 30
Brown Belt (brown) Land of the Silver Birch 31
My Good Old Man 32
Black Belt (black) Ode To Joy 1 33
Ode to Joy 2 34
Beyond The Belts Roadie (peach) Mary Had a Little Lamb 35
Opener (Green Sparkles) Lightly Row 36
Ding Dong Merrily On High 37
Record Deal (Silver) Skip to My Lou 36
Paw Paw Patch 38
Polly Wolly Doodle 40
Challenge Level 1 Baby* (pale pink) 41
Bunny* (pale green) 42
Cat* (caramel) 43
Charlie Brown* (2 yellow) 44
Chicken* (2 white) 45
Christmas 1* (red / white striped) 46
Dance* (turquoise) 47
Dog* (2 brown) 48
Dreidel* (blue and white striped) 49
Freedom * (red / white striped) 50
French* (strawberry) 51
Halloween* (black and orange) 52
Harlem* (2 lime) 53
Lego* (blue glitter) 54
Lord of the Rings* (yellow glitter) 55
Military* 56
Olympic* 57
Piñata* (pink / purple) 58
Rainbow* (tie die) 59
Riddle* 60
Sheep* (white / yellow) 61
Shrek* (olive) 62
Symphony 1* 63
Tutor* 64
Wolf* 65
Challenge Level 2 # 1 Single Down By The Station 66
Jolly Old St. Nicholas 67
Hush Little Baby 68
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star 69
Touring Artist Happy Birthday 70
Yankee Doodle 71
‘This the Gift to be Simple 72
Aura Lee 73
Beautiful* 74
Canadian* 75
Call Me Maybe 1* 76
Chinese New Year* 77
Christmas 2* 78
Cow Boy 79
Frozen 2* 80
Feast of Stephen* 81
Happy Birthday 2* 82
Hobbit* 83
Lone Ranger* 84
Mountain 1* 85
Piñata* 86
Pirate 1* 87
Oh Canada* 88
Star Wars 1* 89
Tangled * 90
Thanks Giving* 91
Under The Sea* 92
Challenge Level 3 Valentine* 93
Sold Out Show Chatter With The Angles 94
Itsy Bitsy Spider 2 95
Ode To Joy 2 96
Alouette 2 97
Home on The Range 98
Beauty and The Beast* 99
Disney* 100
Frozen 1* 101
Irish * 102
Mountain 2* 103
Pirates 2* 104
Silent Night* 105
Symphony 2* 106
Wedding 107
Zelda 108
Recorder Hero Frere Jacques 109
Auld Lang Syne 110
Challenge Level 4 Duet* 111
Harry Potter* 112
March* 113
Mexican 114
Piano 115
Round 1* 115
Round 2* 116
Round 3* 117
Star* 118
Unlocked Songs Star Wars 2* 119
He’s A Pirate (Pirates of the Caribbean) 120
Pirates of The Caribbean 2 121
William Tell Overture 122
Call Me Maybe 123
Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter 124
Donkey Riding 125
Titanic Theme Song 126
Wake Me Up When September Ends 127
Mario 128


Yes there are 128 songs! I have found more that students can play if they want to however my goal for most of my students is to reach song 69 by the end of the year.


One of the ways that this program allows me to differentiate is to have the students work in groups that are all working on the same level or set of songs. This helps me to focus on just what each group needs, with some of my groups needing a specific skill taught such as counting the rhythm of a piece or learning the fingering of a new note. My groups shift most classes as students master a specific skill or piece they move to the next group. Students may spend a class or two in a group or they may be in a group for a month or more, it is up to the student when they feel ready to formally play the music in a level for me. Working in small groups also give students the opportunity to practice playing for each other in a smaller setting as well as giving and receiving constructive feed back.

While the students play mainly in small group they do get the opportunity to play for the whole class. Students do not play on their own for the whole class, they play in their current group and I choose the song that they will play. The students are typically given a one or two classes notice before they play for every one. I feel that our in class sharing’s have as much value on building performance and audience skills as playing for larger groups how ever it limits the stress on many of my students who have said that they do not feel comfortable preforming. Preforming is still part of many arts as it is a way of sharing your work however it does not need to be as high pressure as a concert.

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