Last year, my tin whistle portion of class was a big flop (or so I felt) and I always had a headache coming out of class! We had tin whistle last and the 4 year olds were always too tired to pay attention well, which resulted in a lot of cacophony.  I plan on being much better prepared this year, now that I know what to expect.  (Last year was my first year tutoring and I had never been part of Classical Conversations before that.)  I’ve perused my Foundations Guide, and Half-a Hundred Acre Woods’s list of resources, and come up with a plan.  Like my art plans, it is likely that there will be too much planned for the 30 minutes available for class.  However, I feel much better not getting to it all than having to think on the spot.

Week 7: Introduce Tin Whistle Instrument and Musical Symbols

Vocabulary: discord, cacophony, mouthpiece, fipple, finger holes, barrel, finger code, notes, note names, staff, melody, symphony and harmonize.

1. Train them to start and stop with the conductor (see video).  Allow students to play on the tin whistle, but watching for the conductor’s sign.  Discuss cacophony.  Discuss importance of waiting for the signal from the tutor to play.  Put tin whistle to bed in colored paper pouch (from the tin whistle instruction video)  and the three tin whistle positions (lap position, chin position, play position)
2. Identify the parts of the tin whistle (finger holes 1-6, fipple, mouth piece, barrel).
3. Play a quick game of Simon Says with the parts of the whistle and the positions.
4. Show proper tin whistle hold  (you can put tape on their left hand and say tape on top to help the younger ones remember).  Teach Finger positions 1, 2, and 3 on left hand and stress importance of flat fingers to completely cover the holes with the pads of fingers.  Play Simon Says.  Teach Positions 4, 5 and 6 and then play Simon Says with all the finger positions.
5. Musical Staff introduction and notes on the staff.  Each note has a name – teach them using the diagram on page 159 of the Guide.  A scale is 8 notes from D to D.  A musical alphabet only goes to G then starts again.
6. Teach finger positions with the name of note and play Simon Says with the note names.
7. Teach about little puffs – one steady stream – think of saying “da,da,da” as you puff.
8. Model playing one note and they copy it.  Can try page 163 of Foundations for a short melody.  Refer parents to that page so they can practice at home.

Note: The kids are really going to want to play the tin whistle! The introduction to the vocabulary etc will be touched upon only and be kept brief so we can get to the playing part.  The beauty of Classical Conversations is that the students will get tin whistle again more than once as they go through Foundations and each year add layers of learning and understanding.

Week 8: Left hand exercise and Musical Symbols and Meanings

1. Vocabulary:  staff, treble clef, bass clef, notes (half note, quarter note, eighth note, whole note, dotted half note, head, beam) – use the Rhythm Pizza from the Susan Paradis web site as visuals for the length of notes.  Also play fly swatter game and memory with the “Teaching Notes” cards (from CC Connected).
2. Review the role of the conductor.  Practice with our mouths.  Say “aaahhhhh” and have them stop when you do the “cut off” with your hands.
3. Let students blow freely until they see signal.
4. Review note names and have them mimic you (repeat after me) in chin position (see video starting at minute 5:03)
5. Then repeat #3 but actually blowing into the tin whistle.
6. Try Left Hand Exercise, 3 notes at a time (found in Foundations book).
7. Start teaching them Mary Had a Little Lamb – say the finger names to the melody.  Then sing the note names to the melody (as you do the finger positions in chin position).
8. “Repeat after me” – say and play 3 or 4 notes in a row and have them repeat.

Week 9:

New vocabulary: rhythm, time signature, measure, bar lines.
1. Review the whole note, half note, etc. from last class by playing a round of “Find a ____”.  (I printed these notes off on cardstock (about 4 copies of each note is what I ended up with) and taped them around the room.  When I call out the note, the children run to the spot on the wall where that note is.)
2. Review the length of time each note is held by clapping and speaking aloud (see page 165 of 4th Edition Foundations guide to know what I mean about the speaking aloud).  Introduce measure and time signature and that rhythm is the pattern that the notes take when played.
3. Clap Mary Had a Little Lamb rhythm.  Clap Happy Birthday (it has quarter notes).  Clap Twinkle, Twinkle.  (You don’t need to clap all of them – choose one.)
4. Play rhythm matching game.
5. Teach Right Hand exercise.
6. Practice any songs you have been learning (Mary Had a Little Lamb, if you are following this plan.  See Week 8 for the hows.

Week 10: tutorial video part 1, part 2 I highly recommend watching her videos if you are a tutor.

1. Review vocabulary learned so far. Teach new vocabulary: scale, octave, sharp, flat, tempo.
2. Clap Mary Had a Little Lamb rhythm.  Clap Happy Birthday (it has quarter notes)
3. Review treble clef names (notes on a space spell FACE and notes on a line = Every Good Boy Does Fine)
4. Explain to the kids a scale has 8 notes and teach the students the word octave (ask what else they know starts with “octa/octo”.  Demonstrate scale.  Have each child try the scale.
5. Teach sharps – show it on the board how we write it on the staff – that the sharp sign always precedes the note, but it is said note name first, sharp second (F sharp, C sharp)
6. Show how to write a flat.  (E flat) Again flat sign goes first.  Sharp raises a note half step and a flat lowers a note one half step.
7. Teach Right Hand Exercise (by reviewing note names in the exercise 3 notes at a time and having students mimic you (:repeat after me”) in chin position and then in play position (playing).
7. Review notes for Mary Had a Little Lamb in chin position, then have students play one by one or two by two while others listen.

Week 11:

1. Crescendo (getting louder, gradually) and Decrescendo.  Use Mary Had a Little Lamb – every time we get to “Little Lamb” we will crescendo and on white as snow, decrescendo.  Demonstrate by singing then have class sing it with you to demonstrate the dynamics.
1b. Play fly swatter game with the rests after teaching half, whole, eighth, and quarter rests.
2. Staccato (disconnected and short notes) and Legato (smooth and connected).  Sing Mary Had a Little Lamb in a staccato way.  Play on tin whistle staccato by closing the puffs with your tongue.  Sing it legato.
3. Rests – whole rests and half rests – show how they are drawn on third line of staff – whole drops down, half sits up.
4. Practice Left Hand and Right Hand exercises and Mary Had a Little Lamb two by two.

Week 12:

1. Vocabulary : Piano (p), forte (f), mezzo piano (mp), mezzo forte (mf), – Sing and then play Mary Had a Little Lamb at the different volumes.
2. Review vocabulary from other weeks.  Play Left Hand exercise staccato.  Play fly swatter game.  Clap out rhythms using songs from the Foundations Song Library.
3. Play the D scale.  Play the D scale piano, then forte, then staccato.
3. Play Mary Had a Little Lamb as a class.

Last year, my students were not practicing at home.  I had to reteach every week.  I’ve planned for this to happen in the above plans.  However, if the students learn faster this year, I’ll simply move on from Mary Had a Little Lamb to Hot Cross Buns or Jesus Loves Me or another song from the Foundations Song Library.

If you have a post on tin whistle or have any tips on teaching tin whistle, please leave a comment!
Written by Julie Cerdas
I'm a stay-at-home Catholic mom who loves playing with and teaching my two children.