Script from an Unpublished Orffsite Show Podcast:
A couple of Thanksgiving Ideas


This is the Orffsite Show Podcast. In an Orff-Shulwerk Approach environment, a story is helpful in getting students to buy in on the musical piece that comes out of the story. Holidays have the advantage of having a background story on which children can relate. It is not the point of this podcast to get into the discussion of whether or not you use or choose not to use materials of a religious nature. I tend to agree with MENC and their statement concerning the use of religious materials, but you and your district ultimately make that choice. The point of this podcast is to share some things that I use. If this doesn't relate to you, well, maybe you just listen and apply the musical principals to some other lessons you wish to teach. Here we go: Thanksgiving is a holiday that most all Americans recognize and, if not celebrate, can relate to the concept of gratitude and giving thanks to God or at least to take time to express gratitude for good things in life. I recommend that you find at least one or two songs that express this. I'm not saying don't use Turkey songs, I'm just suggesting that you don't miss the original meaning of this national holiday and only sing silly songs about turkeys.
First, I have two songs or one song and one rhythmic speech piece that students enjoy. The first one is a variation on the African-Spiritual, "AMEN". A bonus in teaching this song for Thanksgiving is that you can use it again in the more familiar setting as a Christmas piece. Let me sing it for you. You'll notice a slight change from the traditional melody, that makes the song a bit easier to sing and allows you to use it in canon. "We---give thanks---We--give thanks---We give thanks for friends and food. A----men, A---men, A--men, Amen, Amen.
My process for teaching this song is as follows: First, just sing the song by yourself and tell the students to just listen. I also sometimes start with just the words and show motion with some easy body percussion. I have the students listen again and just do the motions as I sing. I next have students echo a phrase at a time. I sing the whole song again and have the students audiate, or sing it in their brains, as I explain it. I finally have them sing the whole song without me singing it. Once they are confident with the song in unison, I have them sing the part one of the canon, while I sing the part 2 entrance. I next divide the class and have the class sing it in canon. The trickiest part is getting part 2 to enter on a "do" instead of a "mi" with part one. This takes lots of repetition and different approaches such as sing the first part of the song on solfege, numbers or lai, lai's. Soon the are singing in two parts, and some classes will successfully move on to 3 parts.

    The next chant is a jump rope rhyme.  Here is their original poem. "Mabel, Mabel, set the table, don't forget the_________. I teach the poem just like that with body percussion and a big long rest. The students need to learn not to say anything here. Next, I ask several students to tell me what might be on that Thanksgiving Table. Answers include, plates, silverware, bowls, tablecloths, and of course all kinds of food. After everyone has decided on an item, we say the rhyme together and let one at a time fill in the blank with their item. If they hesitate a second, we skip them and roll on to the next person in rhythm. I get some funny expressions when they get skipped, but hey, I warned them! ha. I go back at the end and let the skipped ones say "Turkey" or "Plates" just to let them practice filling in the beat.
   My next step is to have them just clap the rhythm of their selected word why we, as a group, just audiate and pat the Mabel, Mabel section. Finally, I let a few of them put their empty 2 beats on barred and unpitched percussion.

  Finally, a fun game song to do is Shoo Turkey Shoo, a version of which can be found in The Book of Beginning Circle Games by John Feierabend, GIA Publications. This is a great call and response song. I first use pictures of my call and have them only sing Yes, Sir (Yes, Sir can also become Yes, Ma'am when girls in the circle begin to sing the "call" part. The game we play while singing the song is just Duck, Duck Goose. I use a bean bag to slow the game down even more and make it less likely for someone to end up in the mush pot or knocking someone done during the chase. Here's the song. Little girl, little, boy Yes Sir, Are you going downtown, Yes Sir, Will you buy me some eggs? Yes Sir, Will you bring them home? yes sir, will you bake me some bread? yes sir. Will you save me some? Yes Sir, Then------Shoo Turkey, Shoo, Shoo, Shoo Turkey Shoo. They have to wait until the Shoo Turkey section before they drop the bean bag. Game continues with new person walking around the circle. After we've sung this a dozen times, I then let volunteers sing the Call section. Great opportunity for solo work. They really like this one.