Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Holidays Are Coming...

Dashing through the standards,
can't wait til break is here,
kids are off the wall,
experiencing Christmas cheer.
How to make the time
meaningful and fun?
Plan a lesson that you're sure 
will be a homerun!
Writing Songs! Writing Songs!
Writing on Display!
Oh, what fun it is to use
the standards in this way. Hey!

How can we meet students where they are as the holiday season approaches and still have a meaningful learning experience? Celebrate the holidays through song writing and review the material taught in the first semester! That's right, on the day before the winter break, I like to have my students write and sing carols. 

I don't provide a whole lot of instruction for my students with this activity. Rather, I tell them to use the knowledge they have learned in the semester and a tune that they are familiar with (holiday-related or not so as to respect those that do not celebrate holidays during the winter break) to come up with an amazing song that they would be willing to perform for their classmates. They choose who, if anyone, they will work with. I typically say no more than five in a group. I set a timer (for about 35 minutes), and off they go. With Christmas vacation starting the next day, the students know they need to get it done in a timely fashion so that they have time to perform their songs at the end of class.

Of course, in order to get them jazzed up about the assignment, you might want to consider providing them with an example, no matter how bad a singer you might be...

Most of the kids rise to the challenge of creating a song and performing the song for their peers.  In fact, I've had a few groups of students that worked so hard on their song and were brave enough to perform for large groups of students in the cafeteria during lunch. One group of students wrote about Susan B. Anthony in a song entitled, "Susan, the Woman Suffragist" to the tune of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Another wrote about the American Indians to the tune of "Jingle Bells". Others wrote and sang, "Lincoln, the President" to the tune of "Frosty, the Snowman." The students blow me away with the creativity displayed in their songwriting and the courage demonstrated by their performances. Another song that I remember distinctly is written below.

"On the History Exam" (to the tune of the "Twelve Days of Christmas")

On the history exam we might be asked about:

12 colonies at the First Continental Congress
11 Confederate states
10 amendments in the Bill of Rights
9 states-a-ratifying
8 geographic regions
7 large continents
6 western territories
5 American Indian tribes
4 border states
3 branches of government
2 houses of Congress
and 1 vote per state under the Articles of Confederation
Having students combine content and fun through song will help to focus all of the energy and excitement that your students will enter the classroom with on the day before a holiday vacation. Students are encouraged to create, collaborate, and step out of their comfort zones as they review previously taught material.