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Class Prep

A throwaway comment leads to starting a handbell club in a primary school, but how to go about it?

While this was all being negotiated, I was busy doing some research.  Our potential new ringers were absolutely new to the Exercise, so we had to find a way of explaining change ringing without reference to a bell tower.   We had to find a way to do that explaining without a lot of standing at the front of the ‘class’ and talking at them.

What I found was not very much.  The standard manuals for change ringing on handbells really do assume a previous knowledge of ringing, or at the very least, a grownup audience capable of processing the difference between the bell number and the place number.

Where people have done some handbell ringing in schools, it has been at secondary level, and that allows for some reasonable conversation about patterns and maths, and makes it possible to introduce more conceptual ideas.  Experience quickly showed me that placing ‘the numbers’ in front of them was the quickest way to convince the children that it was too hard.

Within the world of ‘English handbell ringing’ as tune ringing calls itself worldwide, this is all very different.  There are books, web pages, certifications, qualifications, exercises, and research studies all centred on teaching young children to ring tunes with handbells.  There is even a book about health and fitness issues to be aware of when coaching handbells (mostly to do with wrist, arm and shoulder strength).   Little of this was directly applicable to teaching change ringing, but I borrowed a lot of ideas about games and alternate activities, which could be adapted.

Plus I asked around for some advice.  Judith Frye, who teaches handbell tunes to primary aged children in Dunblane, came up trumps, and gave me a lot of very useful advice on age-appropriate learning techniques, exactly how long I could expect to do a single activity, and most importantly, a warning on that ‘left’ and ‘right’ is not all that firmly established in that age group.

Next: The Taster Sessions