snacks

Carols of Christmas (Master Class)

By Robin Steinweg

Sara, Maddy, Chris

 

 

 

 

Each year I’ve observed that students are increasingly unfamiliar with the carols of Christmas. It’s important to me to introduce them to as many as possible, and to enable them to entertain or accompany their families and friends with songs of the season.

Many of them start practicing Christmas songs as early as October. I decided to make Carols of Christmas the subject of our December group master classes.

I chose a Christmas instrumental CD to play as they arrived, and we gathered around my kitchen table for snacks. Food makes everything friendlier! I decided to treat them to sparkling grape juice, which most had never tasted. There was also lemonade and apple cider, grapes, cookies, candies, chocolate-covered pretzels…

Christmas CD acoustic guitar

 

 

 

 

While they snacked, I read them stories of several carols’ origins.

Master Class snacks

 

 

I found a number of activities about the carols of Christmas at brownielocks–scroll to the bottom for more.

My biggest challenge was to find those that could apply to a wide range of ages.

I tapped the beginning rhythm of a number of carols. Even the youngest students were able to participate and guess song titles. Of course, I knew what they’d been practicing, so made sure to use those pieces to give them a good chance.

I also sang the first few notes of a carol, without the rhythm, just to see if they could guess—they did pretty well. For more mature students, I had a Carols of Christmas fill-in-the-notes game. I’d give them a few measures of a carol, leaving out a few notes or a measure or two. They could fill in the missing parts.

Ava, Sam

 

 

 

 

There were activity pages concerning lyrics of Christmas carols. “Where would you go to hear silver bells?” “Who danced with a silk hat on his head?” Some questions read more like jokes, but all of it got them thinking more deeply about songs they may hear while shopping, but haven’t focused on. Talking about lyrics brought up the meaning and history of words or phrases usually heard only once a year: deck the hall/don we now/noel/gloria/yuletide…

For a final touch, I had bent some sparkly pipe cleaners into treble clef shapes, and set out a variety of beads that they could thread onto the pipe cleaners, and either keep or give away as tree ornaments.

Madelyn

 

 

 

 

I’ve had reports from various parents how fun it is to hear their children sharing the carols of Christmas with their families.

How do you introduce Christmas songs to your students?

 

 

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well played... and next a bow!

well played… and next a bow!

Life-after-music for teachers might be full of family, work, caregiving, education, etc. For stressful times I recommend a bare-to-the-bones group (master) class rather than anything prep-intensive. I couldn’t have been more pleased with my latest. I use these classes partly to prepare students for a recital, partly to take advantage of teaching in a different setting, and partly to allow them to spend time with others in private instruction (let them know they’re not alone J).

Ahead of Time:

I searched for possible games and found or invented four.

Printed out or gathered materials for games.

Purchased ingredients for snacks and put them together (cookie frosted snowmen and crackers & cream cheese snowmen).

Wrote a list of my goals for the class.

Entered the group/master class into the MTH calendar.

Tasty snowmen

Tasty snowmen

What I Brought:

Four games contained in Ziplock bags (we had time for only two of them, but it’s best to be prepared).

Snack bags for each student (again, I made four extra just in case).

What We Did:

1. Brief discussion of recital etiquette.

I asked for an example of bad etiquette, and my cell phone rang.

Unplanned. Sure, it was funny. But as it turns out, my mother had fallen and

broken a vertebra. My husband was calling from ER.  A neighbor had shown up

as my students were arriving, to tell me about her fall. That’s when I turned on

the phone. It turned out to be a great teaching moment—when is it acceptable to

have a cell phone on?

2. How to bow.

A couple of students demonstrated a simple bow. Then we had a few examples of outrageously bad bows.

3. Mini-recital.

Each student played a piece for the others, and they made positive, specific comments about each performance. One student faltered pretty badly, and someone highlighted what a great bow he’d done!

**Did you notice that up to this time there were no props? Only the piano, which was already in the room.

Around the Clock in 4/4 Time

Around the Clock in 4/4 Time

4. Two group games.

One game to practice reading rhythms, the other to practice naming keys (Most

of those who came were young beginners). They had a blast!

Say 'em, then play 'em

Say ’em, then play ’em

How it Ended:

I handed out the snack bags. The students not only thanked me for them and for the class, but most told me they’d pray for my mom. How sweet.

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How Long the Class Took:

1 hour, 5 minutes.

 

Afterward:

This is when I became really grateful for the simplicity of the event…

I put game materials back in baggies, grabbed my purse and coat.

Closed the piano lid, turned off the piano light.

Turned down the thermostat.

Turned off lights and locked up.

Drove to the hospital.

Ten minutes!

Follow-up:

Mom had an MRI. We’ll see the surgeon later, so all I can report now is that we are thankful for the care she’s receiving at the hospital.

I’m grateful that I didn’t serve snacks and beverages in the fellowship hall afterward. No vacuuming, no washing floor, dishes and tables, no dozen trips back and forth to load up the car.

Keep It Simple, Sweetie! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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