We keep the recorders for each class in a clear tub labeled with the homeroom teacher's name. The tub travels back and forth to the classroom, so students can take recorders home and return them to the tub during homeroom.
The challenge for new recorder players is learning to get a nice sound. We have a PowerPoint slide with a few pointers that we display on the screen to help students remember a few important tips:
We spend the first class working on soft breath, covering holes, and tonguing. We only play the pitch b, so there is less to think about. I tell the students to blow on the palm of their hand, as if they are blowing out birthday candles. The air is cold and forceful. Next, I ask them to breathe on the palm of their hand, as if they are fogging a mirror. They discover that the breath is now soft and warm, which is different from blowing. I also point out how they raised the soft palate to achieve the soft, warm breath.
When students blow too hard, I remind them to "breathe," not blow. I tell them to think about breathing "warm, stinky breath" on a sibling. They think that is funny, so it is easy to remember.
For students who are struggling with tonguing, I have them hold the recorder in front of them and whisper "tuh, tuh, tuh..." As they continue whispering, they bring the recorder to their lips. Hopefully, the tonguing continues and they hear and feel the difference.
Do you have favorite tips for helping students get a nice sound on the recorder? Try the "stinky breath" technique. You'll be surprised how well it works. :)
Update (March 2016): I have found that these tips seem to help students visualize ways to improve their sound in the following situations:
- Too much air? Tell them to imagine breathing just enough air on a birthday candle to make the flame flicker, but not go out.
- Playing each note too forcefully and separated? Speak or sing a sentence in the same manner. Ex.: "We! Don't! Sing! Like! This! So! Let's! Not! Play! Like! This!"
- Leaky holes? This is usually from a lack of fine motor skills or an understanding that they should be using pressure. Walk up and take the recorder out of their hands while they are playing. Then giggle and give it back, but tell them to cover holes and hold it tightly enough that you can't get it again. Next time you will merely need to say, 'Don't let me get your recorder!"