Last week I was telling you about my top favourite traditional Christmas songs for quick and easy time saving lessons. (You can read Time Saving Christmas Lessons right here) But don't we all have those students who shun the beautiful traditional Christmas songs and carols (or SHOCK HORROR have never heard of them!!!!) and are only interested in the more rock/pop/modern hits.
I am sure, like me, you have found that the majority of these songs are actually quite complex to play and can create quite a lot of workload to take down to a level where students can learn independently.
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So here are some quick and easy ideas on how to approach the trickier songs.
Yes, Christmas songs will persuade even the most reluctant of performers to open their lungs and belt out some good old (or new) classics. Why not start with some class karaoke, then split into groups and ask students to prepare their own song? You could download a karaoke track from Spotify or Youtube onto CD, google drive or Spotify (depending on your setting's level of technological advancement...) and give groups 20 minutes to prepare a performance.
Or if you have competitive classes, launch a karaoke competition and ask them to add in some moves too.
I really like this THIS MEDLEY as it incorporates old and new with a bite size portion of each.
There is a fully comprehensive playlist on Youtube HERE that will allow students to choose their own piece (if they can access Youtube) and work very independently.
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree has always gone down well with my classes. The first thing I do is show them the video - you can watch it here - as it gets them all in the Christmas mood and introduces the song.
Next, go for karaoke to help familiarise them with the melody. There is a good version right here with the lyrics too.
Then moving on to performance I like to do this as a class jam. Have a group on percussion to keep the beat, then a group with the bass groove and a group with the melody. Clearly it all depends on the age and ability of your class as to which instruments you use and how basic or complex this becomes. I have found that an average KS3 class can manage basic percussion groove (even better if you have a drummer), bass line on bass guitars, harmony riff on xylophones and melody on the keyboards. I have also heard this done very well with boomwhackers.
I love this project because students get the chance to work independently, experience different instruments, work together as a team and improve their listening and performing skills. It is also a great way to finish up term and could take 2-3 hour long lessons. It also fits very well after a topic about Blues or Rock 'n' Roll.
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If you read that and literally thought "no way I'm getting into that much noise and equipment so close to the end of term" then perhaps this one is more you!
I have to admit, much as I enjoy whole class music, the silent-inducing-headphone-keyboard-lesson is also very much a favourite of mine. It is also much preferred by some students that just do not like noise (particularly some additional needs students) and by those who find it hard to focus with lots of movement and "organised chaos". Some students will really excel in the quiet and peaceful environment and will make much better progress.
"All I Want For Christmas" is a good keyboard staple. It is wildly popular and brings out the Mariah in everyone. A great opportunity to teach about song structure and melisma, why not start with singing - the original is HERE and the karaoke version is HERE - as an introduction to the song and a lesson starter.
Then on to the keyboards. There is much to discuss here with students if you would like to make this a higher level lesson or have a GCSE class analyse it. Lots of accidentals, key signature, use of arpeggios to shape the melody, syncopation, triplets, melismatic and syllabic lyric setting and of course song structure. You could even ask your higher ability students to analyse the chord structure as there are some trickier moments such as the E7aug and D11 towards the end of the chorus.
When performing it can be differentiated by parts:
1. Simplified melody
2. Simplified melody and bass line
3. Simplified melody and chords
4. Full melody with any of the above
If you are looking to save time and workload at Christmas, by far the easiest way is singing. And with the magic of Youtube karaoke you don't even have to print out lyric sheets or learn piano parts. Don't feel bad for teaching a simple lesson. Singing is a complex and excellent skill to learn and to have.
Remember you can still teach about physical and vocal warm ups, the importance of looking after our voices and how to create great tone. You can also remind students that singing is great for mental health, a thing that goes a long way for all of us at this time of year.