With the introduction of the new music curriculum, which requires children to play ‘tuned instruments musically’ in KS1 and to ‘perform in solo and ensemble contexts’ in KS2, there’s a real need for good classroom resources such as these robust tuneful Ocarinas. I was keen to try them out too; as a veteran of many years’ recorder teaching, a colleague assured me they held less headache-inducing potential – particularly when played as a whole-class orchestra.
A quick glance through the ‘1-2-3 Ocarina Class Music Pack’ sent in for review showed: 36 Rainbow Ocarinas and 36 Play your Ocarina books Flashcards, teaching notes and CD-ROM software 36, 1-2-3 Ocarina class music books 1-2-3 Ocarina Teacher book (with two CDs)
There was much excitement in my Year 6 class when the box of cheerful little ocarinas – a rainbow of them, in fact – arrived in my classroom. I allowed the children a brief, tantalising glimpse of the goodies before I whisked them home (where the box caused an equal amount of joy with my own children). I wanted time to browse the resources in my own time and have a go myself before trying them with the class. For most children, the ocarina represents a simpler option than the recorder. With only four holes to cover, the two strongest fingers on each hand produce an immediate octave of notes. There are fewer fingers to get in a muddle for those who struggle with coordination, yet there’s still plenty of potential for musical challenge and learning.
The 1-2-3 Ocarina book introduces 10 ocarina notes, along with staff notation, rhythm, ‘tonguing’ the notes, and a step-by-step guide to playing 31 new songs. After the initial commotion caused by handing out the multi-coloured music makers (purple is the flavour of the month, it seems), and familiarising ourselves with the ocarinas, we set about the course with gusto.
Most of the children quickly mastered how to get a surprisingly appealing note out of the ocarina and made rapid progress through the ‘1-2-3 Ocarina’ book; the end of each lesson resulting in numerous requests to play what they had learned in assembly. The jolly backing tracks livened up the early single-note tunes, and all of the children finished the lessons flushed with success and reading music well.
The teacher’s book contains simple piano parts for all the songs, as well as ocarinateaching tips, progress charts, ideas for creating interesting ensemble performances incorporating percussion and other instruments, plus two audio CDs. What’s more, the flashcards and CD-ROM can be used to create tailor-made music lessons to suit the needs of your own class, whether infants or juniors.
Now, after a run of lessons in class, I have found myself with a core group of enthusiasts ready and raring to continue, something I am more than delighted to do.
Ocarinas are great value, being both virtually indestructible and attractive for children and adults. They provide a user-friendly alternative to recorders, suitable for specialists and non-specialists alike. The teacher’s resources are clear and simple, the music fun to play and, at £15 each for an Ocarina and two music books per child, this is a great addition to the family of school instruments
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