Thankfulness doesn’t end with the start of Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). As we begin our excursions to the mall, start to remember and help children remember that the best things aren’t found in big gift boxes.
Activity: Big Things Don’t Always Come in Fancy Boxes
Art Activity: Decorate one side of a piece of paper as a gift box. Fold the paper in half. On the other side encourage the children to write, have them dictate to you, or draw something that they can do this holiday season to help someone else.
Remind your children what whatever they may celebrate in December: Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Chanukah…giving a gift from the heart is a universal message for everyone.
Written by Caroline Figiel
Listen to a short sample of Little Things in the audio player, below.
Fun Thanksgiving Activities from Months of Music
by Karen Rupprecht & Pam Minor
The Thanksgiving Shopping Game
A Fun Fingerplay: A Turkey is a Funny Bird
A turkey is a funny bird
(Hold up one hand.)
Watch him wobble wobble
(Sway your hand)
All he knows is just one word:
Gobble, gobble, gobble!
Make Your Butter for Thanksgiving Bread!
Thanksgiving will be here soon, but there is still time to introduce new, related songs and activities in the classroom. As the holiday season approaches and students begin to get restless, I am open to anything that will catch and keep their attention!
One of those sure-fire songs is "The Ten Days of Thanksgiving". It is based on the familiar tune, "The Twelve Days of Christmas", so when I begin singing it, everyone instantly recognizes the melody and becomes attentive. Here are a few other reasons why I love incorporating this song into my lessons:
I must say, this song is a challenge for the teacher, too! When I first started using it in the classroom, I had a little cheat sheet taped to my guitar so that I could remember the order of verses. But now, after singing it so often (mostly at the request of the students!) it is deeply ingrained in my memory. The day has just begun, but I have no doubt that I will sing this tune no less than six times before school is over!
This article was written by Rachel Rambach
Listen to this song from Listen & Learn: Thanksgiving in the audio player, below.Play Audio:
Along with topics such as gratitude, food and family, Thanksgiving is a good time for learning and teaching about Native American cultures, including their rich and diverse musical traditions. As a nation, we have thankfully come a long way from the simplistic and offensive ways in which Native American music was sometimes represented in times past. It can sometimes be daunting to find materials that are respectful of the complexities of the various Native American nations (or tribes), which are also accessible to young children.
Ya Ha Haway is an inter-tribal greeting song. It is not associated with one particular Native American nation, but has been used as a cross-cultural welcoming song. This song also features a drum part that is fun to play on either drums or body percussion (clapping, stomping, patting, etc.)
There are many wonderful Native American game-songs. Wee Hee Nah is a “duck-catching” game played in a similar fashion to “London Bridge.” Two children (the duck-catchers) make a bridge with their hands outstretched high towards each other. The other children are the ducks, and they walk in a circle going clockwise, passing under the bridge. At the end of the song, the two duck-catcher children bring their hands down to catch whichever “duck” happens to be under the bridge at that point in the song. Some versions have the caught child excluded from the game or sent to sit in the middle of the circle, but I prefer to have the “duck” take the place of one of the duck-catchers.
Children often ask “what do the words mean?” and this can be confusing with many Native American songs. The lyrics of both Ya Ha Haway and Wee Hee Nah are “vocables” – sounds that cannot be translated into specific meanings in another language.
In addition to music, there is a rich tradition of Native American stories, and often stories and songs are combined in mutually enriching ways. There are a number of wonderful story-song combinations in the book The Singing Sack, including “Gluskabi and the Wind Eagle” (Abenaki) and our favorite, “The Boy Who Lived With Bears” (Iroquois).
Hey, Hey Watenay is a beautiful Ojibwa lullaby, which has made its way into the repertoire of folksingers such as Sally Rogers and Claudia Schmidt. The minor pentatonic melody is both haunting and comforting, and this song is accessible in both its original form and in English (“sleep, sleep little one...”).
There are also many songs about Native Americans and related subjects. Older students will learn a lot from Fred Small’s song “The Heart of the Appaloosa”. Nancy Schimmel’s 1492 and Two of a Kind’s Columbus Revisited both deal with the irony of “being discovered”.
I have heard a number of Native American speakers make a plea to educators that we teach children that Native Americans are alive and present in today’s world – not merely a part of past history. The vibrant traditions of Native American songs and stories can help to bring this point home.
This article was written by Two of a Kind.
Thanksgiving is approaching quickly and it’s a great time to look at the meaning of the holiday, going beyond the turkey and mashed potatoes. When we think about giving thanks, we think about what we value in life.
A number of years ago, David worked with a class of first-grade students and had them brainstorm ideas for a Thanksgiving song. They came up with the song Thank You for Thanksgiving. The first verse goes like this:
Thank you for Thanksgiving
Thank you for everything
Thank you for the Indians
Thank you for the Pilgrims
Thank you for the space and the stars
Thank you for Jupiter and Mars
It’s a very simple song, and has some of the wonderful kid-like lyrics that you might expect from a group of 6 and 7-year-olds. Using that song as a framework, you can have your students brainstorm their own ideas. The rhyme scheme is “abcbdd.”
Thank you for ________ (a)
Thank you for ________ (b)
Thank you for ________ (c)
Thank you for ________ (b)
Thank you for ________ (d)
Thank you for ________ (d)
Some other great songs on this theme include Raffi’s “Thanks A Lot” and “All I Really Need” on the Baby Beluga album. Also, Betsy Rose has a wonderful song called “I Can’t Imagine.” The first verse begins, “I can’t imagine life without popcorn.” You can substitute different words for popcorn such as family, water, chocolate, etc. Once again, this allows the children to voice their opinions about the things that matter to them.
Combining these songs and songwriting activities with original art is another way students can express themselves. Once they’ve written their own lyrics to the Thanksgiving song they can illustrate their song. The song with illustrations would be a wonderful gift to parents. Happy Thanksgiving!
Listen to a short sample of "Thank You for Thanksgiving" in the audio player, below.
Purchase the song with printable lyrics.
Music is a great way to teach children social skills!
In a time when face-to-face social interactions are often being replaced by social networking online, it is increasingly important to teach these skills to our children and students. Social skills can be especially difficult for children with developmental disabilities because these children often are unable to pick up common social cues, such as saying “hello” and “goodbye." Music provides a safe, predictable place to practice skills that may be anxiety-producing; songs make these teachable moments fun!
One important social skill is saying “hello." Our society gives high social marks to people who appear to be friendly. Many children don’t understand the importance of this skill at first, but upon becoming better at it, they often get the positive social reinforcement that allows this behavior to become more habitual and natural.
Beginning the day with a “hello” song is a great way to start the day! Here are a few ways I use a “hello” song to teach this skill:
Listen to a “hello” song while drawing what the song is about. Go around the room and allow children to share their drawings if they would like. Talking about songs has the added benefits of teaching children to take turns and of expanding their vocabulary.
After singing or listening to a “hello” song, make a plan to say “hello” to three people throughout the day. Adding a visual picture or drawing can be a great way to support songs as educational tools. Make a board with a variety of pictures of people that we can say hello to.
Sing a “hello” song. Go around the circle as each child says hello to the person on his/her right. I look for a positive aspect of their behavior and share this with the students. Then if additional skills need to be reminded, these can be “sandwiched” into the comment. For example “What a beautiful smile you had as you said hello, but let’s hear you say it a little louder so they can hear you. Your words are important and we want everyone to hear them.” Or “Well said, Tony. Remember to look towards their eyes. That way they will know that you are with them.”
I can say hi to my Mom when I wake up in the morning.
I can say hi to the bus driver on the way to school.
I can say hi to my friends when I see them in the lunchroom;
and when I meet someone new, saying ‘hi’ is good to do.
Refer to the song if someone new should enter the classroom by saying “Remember that the song teaches us that people like it when we say 'hi,' or even try humming a bit of the song, as a reminder.
Listen to a short sample of "People Like It When I Say Hi" in the audio player, below. (from My Turn Your Turn)Play Audio:
The countdown to Thanksgiving is on! It is only a few weeks away, so I know I'll be packing my lessons full of songs related to the upcoming holiday.
Although teaching the history and meaning behind Thanksgiving is essential, it seems that my students are mainly interested in the food they'll be gobbling up on November 26th. So I came up with a fun way to end my Thanksgiving lessons; not only it is centered around the big meal, but it comes with movements!
"Turkey Dinner Dance" involves four different foods: turkey (of course), gravy, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. For each verse in the song, I demonstrate the corresponding move and ask my students to do it along with me.
Tuck your thumbs under your armpits and flap your arms (turkey-style).
Hold your right arm in front of you, curving it to make a half circle (this is the pot). Then use your left to "stir" inside the pot.
I'm sure you all know this basic dance move, where you pump your fists up and down in front of you.
Hold your arms out in front of you, curved at the elbow, and twist back and forth at the waist.
Or even better, make up your own dance moves! Ask your students to come up with "choreography" for this song and take turns sharing with the rest of the class. If you really want to get creative, add other Thanksgiving foods and corresponding moves. Just make sure you do this activity right before lunch, because singing and dancing to this song is guaranteed to leave you hungry!
See all of Songs For Teaching's Thanksgiving Songs
Childhood obesity is a national problem that we can help prevent.
It's a lot easier to instill healthy habits during early childhood then to repair your teenager’s bad nutritional habits later on!
Exposing a child to teachable moments throughout the year is always beneficial. So during this time of Halloween candy, turkey, yams, Christmas cookies and Chanukah latkes, let's take a moment to teach a few “nutritional nuggets."
Introduce the big idea: “Let me see your muscles,” you say with great admiration.
“Put your thinking caps on. Whoa, you need a bigger cap! Your brain is growing,” you say in amazement.
Discuss with your class how what we eat fuels brains and builds muscles.
Children learn through the senses. Here are some lesson ideas that use many of them:
Math and Science Activity: Follow a recipe using many of the fruits harvested in the fall. Some of the more popular in-season fruits include apples, clementines, cranberries, pears, pomegranates, and tangerines. As you measure, weigh and change the composition of foods, you can connect these concepts to their math and science lessons.
Musical Phonics Activity: Let’s Go Shopping is a fun and interactive song that combines initial phonemes with food. Have your students call out alphabet letters starting with "A" as an adult leader or the recording responds to the call by answering with the shopping items.
Enjoy singing the chorus (especially the “yeah, yeah, yeah” part) !!!
Choreography tip: When the cash register sound effect occurs, have the children raise their hands over their heads and tap their thumb and index fingers together.
Language Arts and Science: Encourage children to expand upon the grocery list by thinking of other items alphabetically. As a follow up for older students, let them categorize their grocery list by food groups.
Physical Education and Language Arts: Have your students form two lines that face each other. One line is the “letter caller”, while the line that faces them has to respond with a food that corresponds to the initial phoneme.
Example: Call: “A” Response: “Apple”
To designate whose turn it is, a ball can be passed between the two lines. To extend the activity, form two groups and have a relay.
Listen to Let’s Go Shopping in the audio player, below.
For many educators, the start of a new month means a new educational unit or set of lessons. I always plan my lessons in monthly blocks, using Mondays to bring new songs and activities for my students. November is a wonderful month for themed lessons; the message of giving thanks is prevalent, which opens the door to so many different learning opportunities.
There is definitely no shortage of concepts that go hand in hand with the theme of giving thanks. Sharing, observing the golden rule, and caring for others are just a few concepts that can be taught and emphasized through song. And of course, the Thanksgiving holiday is the highlight of November. The history, food, and meaning behind this holiday are great lesson topics, and there are songs for each.
The first song that my students and I will be singing on Monday morning, and all month long, is my November song. It includes all of the month's special events in order, the perfect way to lead into all of the other songs and activities for the new month!
Listen to "November" in the audio player below, from Listen & Learn: Months
See all of Songs For Teaching's Calendar SongsPlay Audio:
Halloween costumes have been a popular subject of my "Sharing Songs" (short, musical invitations for students to share an event or story with their peers) since October began. But this week, it seems like that is all anyone wants to talk about! I have been quite impressed with the creativity of some of these costumes, which range from popular celebrities and characters such as Michael Jackson and Hannah Montana, to the classic witches, ghosts and princesses.
And now that I've heard about them, why they were chosen, and how they were put together (all of which make wonderful topics for songs and consequent discussions), I can't wait to actually see them. Luckily I'll get to do so next Friday, when my school hosts its annual costume parade and party.
I still remember the costume parades from my own preschool and elementary school years, and my mom even has pictures! I love the idea of using a song to accompany such a parade, which is why I wrote "Costumes on Parade." It can be used to help students prepare for the parade, and you can even substitute the costumes I list for those that the students will wear.
If you aren't having a parade, you can still sing the song; use the current lyrics or ask the students to suggest the costumes to be included. I can guarantee that your students will come up with much more creative and entertaining ideas than I did! They can even draw pictures of them as an art project.
See SongsForTeaching's Halloween Songs.Play Audio: