This post may contain affiliate links. You pay the same and I get a small commission. Yay! (Please see my/our full disclosure for further information.)
With all of the holidays that happen at the end of the year, I have to say, Thanksgiving definitely gets looked over. The fact that the stores were already covered in Christmas decor by mid-October suggest that. In my elementary music lessons, I definitely look over Thanksgiving. I see my students for a week at a time, so it’s much easier to pull out all of the Christmas, Hanukkah, and Winter activities and skip over Thanksgiving. So what about the Thanksgiving music lessons?
Well, upon reflection, there are a few fun Thanksgiving activities that we do– and some that are Fall, so I’m going to say they count as Thanksgiving music lessons.
After reading this post, you’ll have 8 ideas for Thanksgiving music lessons that will take you through November– plus a few books you can use with your students. Make sure you keep reading because there may be a freebie awaiting you in this post…
5 Fat Turkeys
If we’re talking about Thanksgiving, we have to talk about 5 Fat Turkeys. This little song is super cute and absolutely hilarious. It is a counting down song where you start with 5 turkeys, and then one gets eaten and you only have 4…. And so on.
When we do this song, we start by doing some actions that my second graders came up with years ago.
- 5 fat turkeys are we– hold up 5 fingers
- We slept– put hands together by head like you’re sleeping
- In the tree– hands out like tree branches
- When the cook came around– walk
- We couldn’t be found– hand on your forehead like you’re looking
- That’s why we’re here– hand out like shrugging
Usually we end up doing this after Thanksgiving because I have a super weird schedule, so I’ll ask a kid: Did you have turkey for Thanksgiving?
They typically say yes, and we move on to 4 fat turkeys and so on.
Sometimes I have students come to the board and write out the equation 5-1=4 and so on.
Next up, a game!
- Sing or play the song on an instrument. I typically play on the piano.
- While you play, have the students “sneak” around the room on tip toes.
- At the end of different phrases, stop. When you stop, the kids stop. (I do it at the end of different phrases each time.)
- If someone is moving, the cook (you) will catch them, and they are out!
- Continue playing until there is only one turkey.
This game gets extra points, because the students can play it moving around the room or in their seats. I always like where there is a calm version of the game— like where they have to stay in their seats.
You can also purchase the lesson if you’d like to get the visuals with the words, the rhythm, game directions, and osinati for instruments.
Next up is a Thanksgiving music lesson for the older kids– and it’s free! My fourth graders are working on having correct beats in measures, so I wanted to have a way to assess them– but I wanted to make it fun.
Enter: Pumpkin measures.
This is literally a pumpkin made from measures. Yes. It’s amazing.
Here’s how to do it:
- First, get the freebie by clicking here.
- Next, have students pick out their time signatures. I let them choose 2/4, ¾, and 4/4. They need 6.
- Have students write their measures out of the strips. You can also have them decorate if you wish.
- Once they are done, have them bring them to you. I like to have them read them to me, and I’ll jot down if their measures are correct or not as a quick assessment (correct= correct number of beats)
- Staples the strips at the bottom, with each one going out a different way.
- Gather strips at the top and add a leaf– then staple!
It’s just a much more fun and exciting way to make your rhythms. Bonus points if you print in color or use orange paper.
Great Big House in New Orleans
Ok, this next Thanksgiving music lesson might be a stretch, but I’m rolling with it. Great Big House in New Orleans is such a fun song– and it talks of pumpkin pie!
Pumpkin pie = Thanksgiving
Therefore I’m calling this a Thanksgiving song.
I like to introduce this song with a line of questioning. The kids will keep the beat while I sing, and then I’ll ask them one of the following questions. I’ll sing again and ask another.
- What city are we in?
- How many stories high is the house?
- What is the house filled with?
- What kind of house would have that much pumpkin pie?
Now, obviously that last one is a just-for-fun questions, but I love adding these more creative or critical thinking questions so that students actually have to think– and they come up with such fun answers!
We also use this one to make different patterns! We use different types of pies to create rhythmic patterns, and we’ll sing then play the patterns, etc.
I also saw someone on Instagram use this piece as a game. She gave all of the students different pie fillings, and at the end called out a pie and those students had to switch spots. You could even make it an out game by having odd numbers of students! (If you know who it was that came up with this, please tell me! I forgot to save it and have been looking and looking! DM me at @beccasmusicroom)
Pumpkin patch solfa
Next up, more pumpkins!
In October, we just introduced sol mi in second grade and la in third– which means that November will be all about the practice!
One of my favorite ways to practice solfa is with these digital games. I have a bunch of different ones, but for this month, we’re using the pumpkin patch games.
Each one is a Google Slides lesson where students see a pattern and click on the correct notation on the staff. They immediately see if they were correct (and move on) or wrong (and go back).
This game is perfect for review, and there’s a few ways to play:
- Whole group: This is where we start. I’ll put it up on the board and have students hold up one or two fingers to show me if the answer is one or two. Then I write it down as an assessment!
- In teams: The next step is typically teams! I’ll have the students split into two teams. Each one has 10 seconds to answer their slide, and if they get it right, they get a point. If not, it goes to the next team.
- Individually: Assign this during centers! Send it to students via Google Classroom, or create a QR code on a free website like this one. It only works in present mode, so they only have to be able to view.
Oh My, No More Pie
Yes, we have more pie songs. What Thanksgiving music lesson would be complete without it?
I don’t have anything super inspirational about this one. Typically, I throw the words up on the board. It’s a call and response song. Students will trace the melody. Then we’ll talk about all of the rhyming words.
Maybe this year I’ll get really crazy and put on the xylophones. We shall see.
I use this piece with 2-3 graders.
Over the River and Through the Wood
Over the River and Through the Wood is a Thanksgiving song– like it actually says Thanksgiving in it! That makes it a perfect Thanksgiving music lesson.
I like to use this one with 3rd grade. I will read them the book (I have this book), and at the end of mine it has the sheet music. I’ll act all surprised that it’s there and ask if they want to hear it sung.
Then I’ll sing through it– sometimes twice and on the second time they join me. Then I’ll put up a sing along video on youtube with the words for them to follow along with.
Super simple but also cute. And of course, you could totally add jingle bells to it.
Speaking of sleighs and bells… did you know that Sleigh Ride is actually a Thanksgiving song?
So of course I had to add it.
There’s a million things that you can do with Sleigh Ride (I talk about four of them in this post about Sleigh ride lessons), but let’s focus on the form.
(We focus on the form in this FREE Google Slides lesson! It includes videos to show the things below. Click here to sign up for the freebie!)
The form for Sleigh Ride is: intro A B A C A B A coda
I usually use this with jingle bells.
We use jingle bells for this activity. We sit in a circle, and do the following actions:
- A section: Shake bells to the rhythm
- B section: pass bells to your right on the beat
- C section: Start at the ground and shake bells, get louder as the song gets louder.
Now, last year we had to adapt this to cups (because we were home), so my fourth and fifth graders did this one instead.
- A section: Cup game from Pitch Perfect
- B section: Toss + catch the cup on the beat
- C section: Tap on top of the cup in a crescendo, and clap on the slap stick part
Instead of trying to explain all of that… You can watch this video that shows it in great detail.
PS Did I mention you can get a whole google Slides lesson about the form of this one as a FREEBIE!? Just click here to gain access to the free resources library– and you’ll get this presentation (along with embedded videos showing how to do it!) as well as many other free lessons!
I almost left this one out… but I couldn’t. If your kids love GoNoodle as much as mine do, they’ll love this Thanksgiving turkey line dance. Rather than explain, here’s the video.
Books for Thanksgiving
And finally, books are always good. Here are a few fun Thanksgiving books to add to you Thanksgiving Music Lessons. My personal favorite is Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving, but they are all fun. Click on the cover to view on Amazon (affiliate links)
What are your favorite Thanksgiving music lessons? DM me on Instagram @beccasmusicroom and let me know!