//A Pre-Thanksgiving Choral Lesson “Virtually” all students can be Grateful for!

A Pre-Thanksgiving Choral Lesson “Virtually” all students can be Grateful for!

The landscape of teaching is quite different this year, but we can still find a way to embrace Thanksgiving with a meaningful, stand alone rehearsal. This blog post is here to provide you with an adaptable lesson plan that uses the Thanksgiving/Fall Gratitude Round, which I am providing complementary for all readers!

Musically-speaking, Thanksgiving is an often overlooked holiday and yet it is embedded in the fabric of family of American culture.

This pre-Thanksgiving lesson plan has all the fixins needed to serve up a meaningful and memorable rehearsal for your singers. It will work for virtually ages: elementary, middle school, and high school because it focuses on universal concepts that can be easily adapted. The overall concepts that will be addressed in this lesson are: pinpointed articulation, written solfege, sung solfege, and a group discussion about gratitude. Not only will this lesson work at all grade levels, it can also be successful in-person, fully remote, and hybrid.

The Round itself

Besides the musical elements of the song that will be explained, there is one positive, teachable theme that this round embraces: gratitude.

I created the Thanksgiving/Gratitude Round as a means to teach the two “th” sounds (voiced and unvoiced), both of which require a very forward tongue position. Thrown into the lyrics is the reinforcement of the ‘tr/ch’ consonants from the Trick or Treat round.

This round can be sung throughout the fall season as it makes no direct mention of Thanksgiving. Also, it is a great choice for a performance and it is written with a beautiful ending chord, naturally infused into the round.

If sung in a mixed choir it is recommended to be sung first in unison. Next, the suggested entrance order would be: Bass, Soprano, Alto, Tenor. This will allow for the best ending chord. All parts should sing until the last entry reaches the very end.

This lesson will not require our singer’s to break up into a round (unless there is time to do so).

Here’s the Lesson Plan:

Download a complimentary copy of the Thanksgiving/Fall Gratitude Round (and make as many copies as you need). For students who are both remote and in-person, the best way to distribute is through google classroom: create an assignment and give each student their own copy of the round. If this is too challenging, you can easily share your screen for all students to see or hand out physical copies to students in-person.

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1. Speak the words and focus specifically on the consonants.

The lyrics to this round were intentionally written to focus on the ‘th’ sound, both voiced and unvoiced; both ‘th’ sounds require a forward tongue position. I rarely hear high school choirs consistently pronounce these two sounds.

Notice in the third line there are the words ‘treasure’ and ‘cherish’. The ‘tr’ and ‘ch’ are often confused. ‘Tr’ should sound different than ‘ch’, as a ‘tr’ begins with the tongue, not the lips.

The Thanksgiving round is a follow-up to my “Trick or Treat Halloween Round”, which focuses intently on the difference between ‘tr’ and “ch”.

Here are the lyrics to the Thanksgiving/Fall Gratitude Round with highlighted consonants to focus on:

There are tons of things to be thankful for.

Things that we’re grateful for, we should give thanks for all.

Think of ththings that we treasure and cherish

Those are ththings we should thank every fall!

I suggest speaking the lyrics through call and response and in the rhythm that the round was written. If this is a fully virtual lesson and you really want a feel for how actively your singers are responding, you can create a Flipgrid assignment and require them to record their live responses.

In addition to the call and response, I would recommend specifically speaking all the “th” words, one after another, ensuring our singers become hyper-aware of each specific sound and it’s production.

2. Label the pitches using solfege

This can be accomplished equally well remotely or in-person. When sheet music is distributed as a google “assignment,” all students will have access to their own online copy; as they fill out the solfege, you will be able to see if they are labeling correctly in real time. If students are in person, you can always opt to distribute physical copies.

In addition to labeling the solfege, you may also choose to have the students label the rhythm. Since the entire round consists of quarter notes and eighth notes, students of all levels can successfully label the rhythms.

3. Sing the round on solfege

They’ve labeled their music, so now they should collectively be able to sing the song on the proper solfege. If your students struggle with the solfege, you can opt to teach the melody on solfege, line by line, by call and response. Remember, even if this feels like spoon-feeding, your singers still labeled the pitches to acquire the relationship between written pitches and solfege; now you are helping them to place the sound with the use of sheet music in front of them.

I believe call and response could work really well virtually whereas requiring in-person singers to solfege would work effectively. In a hybrid set-up, I would have the students focus on their sight-singing; while I’d be attending to the students in front of me, the students at home would have the opportunity to engage in every aspect of this experience.

4. Sing the round in unison on the words

Now it’s time to connect the articulated words to the pitches. Students have spoken the words in proper rhythm. They have also sung the melody using the solfege syllables in proper rhythm. Now we must be a stickler for the clarity of those consonants as they combine the two. Call and response will work well for clarifying any weak articulation.

If your class is solely remote, I would again suggest using Flipgrid or any recording method to hear how your students are performing. Since you wouldn’t be able to hear live what each individual was producing, I suggest asking volunteers to demonstrate lines for the class. I’d also recommend demonstrating line by line the clarity of the words within the sung melody and ask them to repeat. After class, I would listen to the completed Flipgrid assignments to ensure our singers were actively engaged in developing the skill.

5. Use the lyrics to foster a class discussion

Gratitude is a theme that is worthy of discussion, especially prior to Thanksgiving. I would suggest posing a question to our singers either related directly to their experience in our choral program, or a more generalized question about gratitude.

If all students were remote, I would create a “question assignment” on google classroom that says the following:

There are tons of things to be thankful for. Things that we’re grateful for, we should give thanks for all. Think of the things that we treasure and cherish. Those are the things we should thank every fall.

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What are we grateful for, and why? (this could be related to your experience in our choir, our school, or anything that you are grateful for). Please remember to explain WHY you are grateful.

As I watch their responses arrive in real time(which would only be viewable to us), I would then begin a discussion around their responses. The intent would be to conclude our pre-Thanksgiving rehearsal with a positive, connected feeling within our choir. If rehearsing solely in person, I would pose the question and ask the students to write a response, which will help them to formulate their thoughts; after they completed their response, I would engage in the class discussion.

My Words of Gratitude

I have so much gratitude for my readers and supporters of the Choral Clarity Blog. If you like this round, I hope you will checking out my Valentine’s Day Round and Trick or Treat – Halloween Round as well; they too are intended to teach articulation. The Valentine’s Day round teaches the different between the voiced ‘v” and the unvoiced ‘f’ and again reinforces the proper ‘tr’ sound that is taught in the Trick of Treat round.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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By | 2020-11-22T22:27:06-05:00 November 22nd, 2020|Holiday & Caroling|

About the Author:

Adam Paltrowitz is a master educator, composer, conductor, and clinician. During his 23-year tenure as the Director of Choral Activities at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in New York, his groups have toured throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States. He also has pioneered a philosophy that every student is a soloist. Adam's choral program has also gained great acclaim for the cultivation of eight student-run a-cappella ensembles; some of these ensembles have performed on national and local television programs. His compositions and arrangements have been performed by choirs around the world. Adam earned his B.S. in music education from New York University, M.A. in vocal pedagogy from Columbia University - Teacher's College, and Ed.M. choral conducting from Columbia University - Teacher's College. ​Adam resides in Manhattan with his wife, Blair Goldberg, a professional Broadway actress, and their daughter, Lyla, and son, Nolan.

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