Time Saving Christmas Lessons

Love it or hate it, Christmas is on its way and as music teachers we all know this is going to be a big time of year.  Personally I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!  Concerts, carol services, community singing, what's not to like?   And you have the added bonus that you can do all the boring admin style jobs whilst singing some timeless and cheery Christmas hits!

On the downside the extra extra-curricular may result in you having to set the dreaded cover.   Or just being far too busy/tired/exhausted to plan amazing lessons right up to the end of what will have been, quite frankly, an interminably long term.  (When was the summer?  Can anyone even remember it now??) . Time to do anything else at all becomes a major problem doesn't it?  

So why not spend a couple of lessons focussing on keyboard skills?  I find the old ones are the best when it comes to finding accessible Christmas tunes for students to learn independently.  And you have the added bonus that the vast majority of your classes are likely to know the melodies without you even saying anything.  

Depending on your students you could extend this task to guitar skills or even ask them to form a small band with keyboard, bass, guitar and percussion and create a performance. That's 3-hour long lessons sorted right there!  And why not reduce your workload a little more and make your final lesson a class Christmas concert?  Have one student be the MC and ask some others to set up a little stage in your classroom.

You may be thinking 'just give them tunes to play?  What a cop out!'  But NO!  Think of all the skills they are improving right there.....performance, independence, resilience, leadership, teamwork......  the list goes on.   

And if you are setting cover and absolutely DO NOT want students doing practical work (I hear you - who wants to be repairing and tidying their classroom after a Christmas concert???) then book a computer room and have students research the history and context of these songs.  This could form part of their performance presentation. 

Or they could create an artistic backdrop for their performance, or create their own Christmas album (not quite so inspiring but sometimes you have to consider your own workload too).

So here are my absolute favourite traditional Christmas songs.  Tried and tested, the students love these as they are achievable, well-known and put everyone in a festive mood.  

And don't forget, if you've signed up for my newsletter you'll be receiving some lovely straightforward sheet music arrangements of these for keyboard, guitar and bass.  For FREE!  Yes, just because I love making you stuff to help you save time and reduce your workload!  Not signed up yet?  You can do so HERE!


Silent Night

A classic and well-known carol, many many students appear to have had to sing this in German at some point at primary school.  Start off with some class singing, perhaps in different styles and listen to some different examples.

I've saved you time and found you 3 contrasting versions right here.....

King's College

Pentatonix A Cappella version

Pop Punk Version

Listening exercises finished, do some class singing and be all cross-curricular by tackling the German lyrics too.  Then on to performing this great hymn, learning about 3/4 time signatures, dotted rhythms, chord sequences and broken chords.

If you have a GCSE class give them tasks such as transposing it to a different key or transcribing it into 6/8 time signature.  


Jingle Bells

Who doesn't love the idea of dashing through pure white snow in a sleigh whilst jingling some bells?  Again, start with singing and some compare/contrast listening exercises.  

Here, I've reduced your workload by finding you the examples.....

Traditional with lyrics

Rock Version

Traditional Instrumental

Then performance work could focus around 5 finger position, tonic-dominant bass lines, 4 bar phrases and 4/4 time signatures.  Ask higher ability students to label theory points of interest on the music.  

Team up with your art department - or if you're primary do this as a topic plan - to create a backdrop for your end of term class concert.  This could be a giant image of a sleigh made of collage or a picture created from 30 independent pictures (that's probably got a technical name but I don't know it.....).


We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Have you ever managed to sing this with a class without someone making a great big 'shhhhhhh' on the word 'Wish'?  No, me neither. 

Anyway, it's a jolly song to sing as a class and extend through composition work by having students write some new verses based on their Christmas experiences in school (or at home if appropriate for your students).

GCSE students can revel in the marvel of the sequences and work on performing it in different styles.  Set them a challenge to re-harmonise it in a minor key or create an atonal version of it.  

Younger students could work on actions and a dramatisation of the song.  Or even create a class dance, learning about traditional waltz or more modern hip hop styles. 

And with clear links to food technology, why not make some figgy puddings?

For compare and contrast style listening exercises try these versions:

Traditional Version

The Drifters

Rock Version


So there you have it.  Hopefully that's given you lots of ideas for lessons and cover work, and I have saved you some time and reduced your Christmas workload somewhat.  Christmas shouldn't be a stressful time of year, so please do sit back and enjoy the excitement.  Delegate jobs to students wherever possible and remember to sing a Christmas song at least once a day.

Thinking about January already?  Not sure what to teach?  Have a look at this list of 100 Curriculum Ideas for some inspiration and receive a new resource every week in your inbox!


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