Hello, bloggers! I’m writing to ask for help and share my own little thoughts on how to teach students about key signatures.
My school district has a long history of prioritizing elementary full orchestra. Playing in this setting requires students to quickly learn to play in new and unfamiliar key signatures, often using notes and fingerings not typically taught in beginning band or beginning strings.
Directing elementary full orchestras has forced me to improve my skills on teaching students how to read key signatures. I’m getting better at it, but so far, I’d still only give myself a B- in terms of being creative or explaining the concept in clear, consise terms that connect with 5th and 6th graders.
The best idea I’ve come up with so far is “Simon Says.” The key signature is Simon. Did Simon say to play F#s? Or Bbs? What did Simon say to the alto saxophones? What did Simon say to the clarinets and trumpets? The strings, flutes and low brass?
The key of C is a challenge for flutists and trombonists who are used to playing Bbs and Ebs. Since key signatures only use sharps and flats and not naturals, it’s a bit of an abstract concept for those players.
A colleague one taught me to teach the order of sharps as “Ford Cars Go Dead At Every Bump” (F C G D E A B). If a student sees 3 sharps in their key signature, they say “Ford Cars Go; F Sharp, C Charp, G Sharp.”
No brilliant thoughts yet on the order of flats. Any great ideas?