I have now been teaching guitar to Year 5 for the past half term and I can give a bit of feedback as to how it is going and how it compares to the ukulele.
The negatives to start with. First of all, the guitars have been a nightmare to store as we haven’t quite got the storage right in our school. The carpenters will be building us a guitar storage rack over half term so this problem should be sorted relatively soon. Secondly, the guitars have been a nightmare to tune as there are six strings and there are 28 students in each class. I have started to only tune the first three as we have only been using them to play simple chords. Thirdly, the majority of the children tried and failed to play the simple D chord as they found it way to difficult to put a three fingered chord shape on the guitar. I tried to simplify the process to get D into three stages but that didn’t work either. Perhaps if we plug at it every week we might make some progress. I remember it took me about three weeks to perfect the D chord. Fourthly, there have been some difficulties with physical space as children are too close to one another and cannot hear themselves play. There is not much we can do about that – the room is too small.
The positives. Firstly, 95% of the children can play “Yellow Submarine” using simple chords C, G and G7 and sing at the same time. There has been a definite improvement in attitude and attainment since we had “Yellow Submarine” as the assessment task – they seem to be taking it more seriously and the few students that were treating the guitar as a toy are now treating it as an instrument. Secondly, differentiation is easy in guitar lessons – the extension activity is to play full chords rather than the simple versions.
I still think ukulele would be better for Year 5 than guitar. It would be easier to store and tune and it would be easier for children to take home and practice. The chords are about the same difficulty but you get the satisfaction of playing all the strings rather than just three. It would also take up less space so guitars won’t be bashing into one another and each child should be able to hear themselves play more clearly. And they are easier for small hands to hold.
It’s a closer result than I thought it would be. I would say it’s 2-1 to Uke United.