It's barely October as I sit here putting the final touches on this post about Thanksgiving - a post which I started in August - and frankly, it feels surreal to be thinking about resources for a holiday that is still 8 weeks away, but that's what we music teachers do right? We plan Halloween recitals in July and sing Christmas carols in September all in the name spreading the joys of each season through the gift of music.
Christmas is starting to pop up everywhere this time of year. Walk into any store and you're bombarded with a combination of ghoulish and adorable Halloween decorations along with red and green lights, cinnamon brooms, and gigantic blowup Santas.
Now before you think me a Scrooge, I LOVE Christmas with every fiber of my being. But Christmas is at the end of December and there's another holiday between then and now that I also love.
Oh yes, I love Thanksgiving.
One of the main things I love about Thanksgiving is that it hasn't been commercialized to death...granted Black Friday has been creeping it's way in the last few years...but it is still all about family, friends, and above all thankfulness for all the many blessings we have.
Today I'd share a few of my favorite Thanksgiving piano activities, music, and of course recipes.
Piano Activities & Worksheets
Susan Paradis (SusanParadis.com) has a plethora of Thanksgiving themed games, activities, and worksheets. My personal favorite is Color Mr. Turkey
Andrea and Trevor over at TeachPianoToday.com have a great Save the Turkey practice tool.
Piano Sheet Music
Wendy Stevens of ComposeCreate.com has composed a beautiful elementary piano piece called A Thanksgiving Prayer. It's available for purchase as a single use or studio license for this digital download.
Kristin over at EarTrainingAndImprov.com has a cute composition activity that gets kids thinking about what they're thankful for.
Pineapple Lime Cranberry Sauce
I came across this recipe several years ago in an old Country Home magazine and it has been a perennial hit. It also bakes nicely into cupcakes. Yum!
Honey Garlic Chicken Thighs
Not everyone is a turkey person. This slow cooker recipe can be made as written to create a beautiful standalone meal or you can eliminate the veggies, add a few more chicken thighs and you have a non-turkey meat option for your guests.
Looking for more Thanksgiving activities for your lessons or music classroom? I recently created a Thanksgiving Pinterest board with many games, songs, and activities that I will be trying this year and in the future.
What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving Resources? Let's keep the conversation going in the comments!
This October we will be having our 7th annual Candy Corn Challenge! I know candy corn is a hotly debated candy, but I promise this is a challenge that works!
A little while back I wrote about how I use sticker cards as an ongoing incentive program.
This program had worked splendidly for 5+ years of my teaching, but I was noticing that several of my older students were getting frustrated at how long it took for them to complete 25 pages of music...especially compared to the little ones.
Then, something I've known for a long time finally hit me. If I'm to reach my students where they are, I must acknowledge the importance of instant gratification in addition to delayed gratification in their lives.
Every generation experiences a faster paced and more stimulating world than the one before it. It's only natural that this generation needs immediate feedback more than I did growing up. Now I run a studio-wide incentive program every few months that provides them with instant feedback.
For the first Candy Corn Challenge, I put together personalized theory packets for each student. At the time, it seemed like a good idea, but putting them together took ages and keeping track of those packets turned out to be a nightmare.
Last year, I overcompensated for my mistake and played Halloween themed games. It was fun and the planning was easy, but in addition to taking up a lot of lesson time; the older one's were bored with some of the games and the little one's hadn't learned many of the concepts yet.
This year's version of the Candy Corn Challenge is a hybrid of the last two. I've laminated some of the theory sheets I created that first year and added some letter name and interval cards. Starting next week, all students of the academy will start their lessons with a level-appropriate theory task. Every correct answer and every wrong answer that they fix on their own earns them a piece of candy corn!
Still wondering why candy corn?
1. You get a lot of candy for a little money. 4.5 pounds for under $10 at BJ's. Score!
2. They're small candies, so I don't feel badly giving even the little ones a few pieces.
3. I don't like it, so I won't be tempted to eat it. :)
Head over to my Teachers Pay Teachers store on October 1st to get your own copy of these Halloween themed worksheets & games.
You know you're a music teacher when you're thinking about Halloween in August.
This year I'm planning a Halloween recital, so I've been thinking about it extra early. I love writing holiday music for my students and I have several Halloween pieces in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Today I'll be discussing some of them, but also sharing music for other instruments and fun activities.
Songs & Improv
Midnight Masquerade is a song I wrote for a student who just discovered she could reach octaves! This piece comes with 3 versions, one with and one without octaves, as well as a simpler pre-reading version.
Halloween Piano Improv
I’ve been using this resource from Teach Piano Today since it came out 5 years ago. The simple teacher duet part combined with the creative phrases make for a fun time creating at the piano.
This song is perfect for beginner piano students! The simple repeated patterns make it easy to play and the minor key makes it sound especially Halloween-y. This piece comes with FOUR versions: two pre-reading arrangements in A minor position and two staff reading in D minor position. It's currently free on my TpT Store, but only for a limited time.
Activities & Games
Skin & Bones
Have you ever heard of the song "Skin & Bones"? I first learned this song when I was teaching elementary band. The vocal teacher in my school had her students singing it while playing a circle game. I've since found that it's wonderful in private voice lessons. The repeated "Ooo" is especially useful in helping students explore vowel shaping. I also found this Orff arrangement for classroom music teachers.
Addams Family Cup Passing Game
My students LOVE cup activities. I have no idea who came up with it, but it is brilliant! Someone created this visual and there’s a YouTube follow along video. This year I’m going to challenge my students to perform it with a frown like Wednesday Addams….and let’s be honest, there’s nothing funnier than seeing kids trying not to smile!
Weesing's Halloween song book includes a minor version of Looby Lou with new lyrics. It got me thinking about all of the other children's songs that can be sung in minor to make them sound "spooky".
Bats & Cats Notes
Oh my goodness, how my students LOVE this game by Susan Paradis. It’s easily adaptable to intermediate students. No joke, I had a student request it twice this summer. Definitely a must have!
What would Valentine's Day be without a little music teacher love? Here are 5 of my favorite music activities that I have used with my students over the years:
1. Valentine's Composing A couple of years ago I came up with the idea to have my students compose their own pieces for Valentine's Day. Not all of my students were reading on the staff, so I put together this little composing activity for them to use.
2. Puppy Love is an adorable note reading game from Andrea & Trevor Dow over at TeachPianoToday.
3. Valentine's Cookie Memory I love the many different levels this game incorporates. I'll be introducing a lot of new symbols to some of my little ones and testing the memories of my older ones. I decided to print the black and white version onto 2 sided color card card stock, then I laminated them. Personally, I think they're adorable, thanks Sara for this freebie :)
4. Susan Paradis has a plethora of awesome piano and music activities, games, & songs on her website, I won't list them all today, but here's where they can be found.
5. I have no idea where I got this worksheet from, but it's a hit every year!
Do you do holiday activities with your students? Have you used any of these?