Following my studio’s winter recital, we had one more lesson left before the winter holiday break.
Some of my students were eager to learn new pieces after having practiced their recital pieces for quite some time.
For the rest of my students who were ready for a break from the same ol’ same ol’, I wanted to use this opportunity to engage in an activity that would be fun, seasonal, and help them develop overall musicianship skills.
If spending an entire lesson on the Christmas Composing activity is not feasible, then by planning ahead, you can work on the project in bite-sized pieces over 2-3 weeks and complete the final steps during that last lesson before the holidays (and if you’re reading this any other season, you can get a composition activity for any season here).
The Christmas Composing activity turned out to be the perfect activity to wrap up our fall semester. There is so much teaching that can be done within this composition project, so it is best suited for completion under the teacher’s guidance.
In this post I’ll be sharing how I used the Christmas Composing activity in my studio for the last lesson before the winter holidays.
Simplifying the Christmas Composing Activity
The Christmas Composing activity packet is 25 pages, but it’s not necessary to print the entire packet for each student.
Below I share my tips on how to simplify what to print vs. what not to print, to keep things as simple as possible for planning purposes.
We want to make sure that the idea of doing this activity with your students doesn’t make you feel overwhelmed – you don’t need to print hundreds of pages.
Christmas Composing: Print a Teacher Copy to Use for Reference
- You can use your copy as a guide to use with your students: pp. 7-32 (color) or pp. 33-58 (black and white version). This copy can be printed once and used year after year. (I skipped printing pp. 9, 11, 13, 24-27, 31-32)
- The music notes flash cards on pp. 15-20 function best if printed on card stock – so they lay flat on the music stand – but it’s certainly not a requirement. These cards look really engaging if you can print them in color. The teacher keeps these to reuse with each student.
Christmas Composing: Pages to Print for your Students
- Print your choice of staff paper, choosing from the designs within pp. 24-27; make enough copies depending on how many students will be doing the activity. I found that most students only needed 1 page.
- Print a title page for each student: p. 31 (optional)
Christmas Composing: How I Completed the Activity with My Student
- Use your reference copy as a guide
- Brainstorming (steps 1-4) can be completed on the back of the student’s staff paper
- Students use the teacher’s copy of the music note cards for step 5, placing them and rearranging them on the music stand as they figure out how to compose their melody
- Help your students write their melodies and lyrics (step 6 and 7) directly on their copy of the staff paper
- Have students write the title of their piece at the top of the page, or using the optional title page
I hope you find these tips useful. I’m excited to be able to complete the Christmas Composing activity with my students again next winter! I’m sure that their compositions will look drastically different next year. Perhaps they will even compose longer pieces.
What I like about Christmas Composing Activity
What I really like about the Christmas Composing activity is that you can do this with your youngest students who aren’t reading music yet, as they can compose their melody using the Christmas music alphabet cards.
Once you help your pre-reading students notate their melodies, feel free to write in the letter names underneath the notes so they can play their composition at home.
There are so many teachable moments within the activity as it helps students to understand the thought process behind composition.
I think it’s easy for non-musicians to think of composition as this very spontaneous process, and yet it requires thoughtful preparation because it is a mixture of math and sound aesthetics.
Concepts a Student Learns with Christmas Composing Activity:
By participating in the Christmas Composing activity, my students have learned so much!
- Describing what they see, hear, smell, feel, and taste in the imagined scenario.
- Gaining an understanding of how there is a rhythm to language as they translate their words into rhythms.
- Combining rhythms into a structure (meter).
- Training their ears through creating and editing a melody, and in some cases, figuring out what chords work well for certain bars.
- Discriminating between sounds.
- Notating melodies within the framework of a time signature.
- Creating and writing lyrics as well as titling a piece
Purchase the Christmas Composing activity to help your students learn the steps to composing their very own Christmas composition. If you didn’t get a chance to use this before the holiday break, this Christmas composing activity could still be used in January.
Students will likely have even more ideas after they have experienced their holidays. Perhaps they can write/compose about their experiences, or gifts – either given or received – they are excited about.
If you want to get another look inside the composing activity, read the blog post, Easy Composition Activity for Beginning Piano Students.
The Christmas Composing activity is a great option to include for that last piano lesson before the winter holidays – especially if you have students who are burned out and wanting to do something fun, yet educational.
What do you do for your last lessons before Christmas?
Do you stop lessons at Christmas recital? Finish up a few lessons after recital?
Have you done a Christmas composition before? If so, how did it go?
Comment and share your ideas!