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How to Structure Your Ukulele Unit

The ukuleles have arrived. They are unpacked and waiting for the next step. The question is, what is the next step? Where do you start? You’re probably asking yourself all the things . . . how do I store them? . . . how do I get them all tuned and ready for my students? . . . what should I teach them? . . .

It’s a lot, especially if you’re only a beginning player yourself. Don’t worry, you’re secret’s safe with us. As music teachers, we know that you only need to be 3 lessons ahead of your students to be able to effectively teach them to play an instrument (at least at the elementary level).

Today, we’re going to walk through the first steps you should take when starting your ukulele unit.


If you’re like most music teachers, you probably don’t have a lot of space. So it’s important to find a spot for your ukes that is safe but also doesn’t take up too much room. Below, you’ll find some creative ideas for ukulele storage. Don’t they look like so much fun??


Tuning is always a big concern for music teachers. Tuning can be as long of a process as you want it to be. Here are some tuning options:

  • Teach your students how to tune their own instruments – many music teachers use this method. It is, of course, the easiest and quickest way to get your instruments tuned, once your students know how to tune. However, the process of teaching them to tune can be frustrating, and if your unit is only a couple of weeks long, you’ll want to spend time letting your students play their instruments rather than teaching them how to tune.
  • Tune once at the beginning of your first class and then only as needed (if you have perfect pitch, this method will probably drive you crazy).
  • Tune at the beginning of each class. You can walk around the room, take each student’s uke, and tune them all in about 5 minutes.

One great tuning option is Guitar Tuna. It’s a free app that can be set up for guitar or ukulele. You press each string, and it plays the note until you press the next string. You’ll want to open the link on your smartphone.


Choosing music is probably the most important choice you’ll make, especially if you want your students to enjoy playing. Don’t get me wrong, just putting the instrument in their hands will create lots of excitement for the first maybe 3-4 weeks. But once you get past the 1 and 2 finger chords, some of your students may decide it’s too much work and start complaining.

Choosing music that your students know, like, and will enjoy playing will set you up for success. (Think the sometimes dreaded pop music). There are plenty of great options that are appropriate for school and only use a couple of easy chords.

You can totally do some of the old standards like Twinkle and Mary had a Little Lamb, but be prepared for some pushback . . . if you teach at a school with a challenging population, be prepared for lots of push back. Instead, be like Elsa and let it go!

Differentiating your lessons

Planning for students with different capabilities can be easy, if you plan ahead. Start out slow and easy, and build gradually. Each time you add a new skill (chord), let your students know that if they need to just play the chords or notes they know, that is totally fine. When your students are playing songs with several notes, tricky rhythms, or 3-4 chords, it is OK if they skip some of the chords. Just let them know that if they are skipping chords, they shouldn’t play at all.

Planning Your Unit

While this is, of course, a much bigger conversation, here are some questions to ask when doing your planning

  1. What age group will you be teaching?
  2. How long do you have to teach your ukulele unit?
  3. What skills will be enhanced by playing ukes?
    • Rhythm skills
    • Note reading skills
    • Note values
    • Steady beat
  4. What kind of relationship do you have with your students?
    • Are they totally yours because you’ve been teaching them for years?
    • Is this your first year at the school, and you haven’t had a chance to establish much of a relationship with them?
    • Are you struggling to find common ground?

Teaching ukuleles to your elementary students, even the littles, can be lots of fun for everyone. Just be sure you take some time to plan ahead. Be flexible, and be prepared to pivot when necessary.

Need more info, about how to structure and plan your ukulele lessons? Be sure to sign up for my FREE masterclass, where I’ll teach you why these questions are important and how to use your answers to plan your uke unit. You can sign up here.

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