There are many teachers out there who absolutely love to integrate the seasons and holidays into their lesson plans. I must confess, I’m not exactly one of them. While I love the change of the seasons, and I love the holidays, I don’t usually do that many songs and activities that are dependent upon the time of the year. Part of this has to do with the curriculum—depending on whether I had the students the year before (since I teach with another music teacher), I may be teaching ta and ti-ti to my first graders in December one year, and in another year it might be November or January. I don’t want to have to completely change my lessons around just because there is a holiday coming up.
I know, I’m a Grinch!
Another reason, though, is that I’ve had students in the past who, for religious reasons, can’t celebrate holidays. If I do a holiday song while that student is in class, he/she has to be dismissed to another location, or they have to have an independent assignment with headphones. So usually, I just don’t teach to the holidays. Until, that is, my singalong.
The holiday singalong at my school happens in the thirty minutes before their winter parties, the last day before break. I have done a singalong every year since I’ve been in this district, and it’s very fun! There’s nothing quite like the whole school community (including kids, teachers, parents, and grandparents) singing together.
Preparation of the students doesn't take too long–just the week of the singalong and the week before. Then, the afternoon of the singalong, the entire school comes down to the gymnasium. On the stage, I have a large screen on which I project a powerpoint with the lyrics to all of the songs. Some of the songs are accompanied (I either use CD accompaniments from the textbook series or play along on piano) and some of the songs we sing a cappella. We sing songs for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. This year, we will be singing:
Upon the housetop
Winter Fantasy (a partner song with “Jingle Bells”)
When oh When (a Hanukkah song—more info below!)
Frosty the Snowman
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Jolly Old St. Nicholas
Che Che Kodaly (an African folk song for Kwanzaa, to celebrate African heritage)
S’vivon Sov Sov (a Hanukkah song)
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
“When oh when” is one of my favorites, and is definitely one of my students’ favorites. In fact, just recently, I had a student ask me not when we were going to sing “Jingle Bells” or “Rudolph,” but when we would sing “When oh When.” I learned this song from my friend Naomi Cohen, at a Jewish music workshop she presented for TRIKE. The song is below:
Second verse: When oh when…the one with dreidels spinning spin? Shouldn't it be…now that winter nips at my chin?
Third verse: When oh when…the one with gifts for me and you? Shouldn't it be…now that slush creeps into my shoe?
Fourth verse: When oh when…the one with latkes sizzling hot? Shouldn't it be…now that all my windows are shut?
The song was originally from a recording by Leah Abrams, recorded in Cedarhurst, NY by Tara Publications. (Update: It used to be available on oysongs.com, but now it's not there.)
There are many things I love about this song: the melody is enchanting, the riddle is fun, and let’s face it—it’s so much better than “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made you out of clay”!
On a side note, if your district or your local chapter is interested in learning more about Jewish music, I highly recommend Naomi! She has a rich knowledge of Jewish culture, songs, and dances, and is a joy! Her email address is email@example.com.
What do you do for the holidays? Have you ever tried a singalong? Or are you thinking about trying it now?