We first learn the song and I play the melody on the piano. I ask them if they’ve ever heard that before and lots of hands go up. We talk about where they’ve heard it: the store, the radio, the TV, their friends, etc. Then I have a quick disclaimer about how I teach this music to them because it’s so popular and such great music (we had some Jehovah’s Witnesses in our school a few years ago and I had some important discussions with their parents when it came to holiday music time- I shared, they shared, and in the end everyone was happy). I tell my students that I don’t teach holiday songs because I think that they should celebrate Christmas. Everyone celebrates the things that they think are important. I teach them the song because it’s something they’re going to hear all over in this country anyway and I want them to know what it is and how to sing it so that they can feel like part of the group.
Learning the Song
When we’re ready and have sung ABA with actions and the piano we move on to the next part. I run over to my desk and start putting on my coat and scarf and talk about how people go around from house to house with their friends to sing carols. “Carols are special songs for holiday times and you can really only sing them at a certain time of the year. I mean, would you sing about Rudolph during July? No! And because people love the songs so much sometimes they get together with friends just to sing. And if they want to share their music, they put on their coats and hats and scarves and walk around outside and stop at other people’s houses to sing their carols. AND if they’re really good or nice, the person at the house might give them something warm and yummy to eat as a thank you.” This perks them up. We talk about things they could give us to eat and then I tell them about figgy pudding. What makes it awesome? It’s sweet, it has fun fruit in it, and you get to light it on fire! They are intrigued, so we learn the music.
Of course, when we learn the new music we figure out that it's different than before, so we put up another new picture to help show the form. Now it can’t be ABAB form because we’ve got a C in there… must be something new. We learn “Now bring us some figgy pudding… and a cup of good cheer” and then learn actions. We make it a story and pretend that we’re at someone’s house and asking for the food. We smile and hold out our hands and then I say “Well, we’ll give you time to go to the kitchen and get our pudding. While you go get it we’ll sing a little ditty for you.” And then comes the recurring A for our Rondo form. Now we’re up to ABACA
IF they bring us pudding we say thank you and sing A again for them to show them that we're nice, but if they don’t bring us pudding we scowl, cross our arms and sing the new verse in an angry voice, “we won’t go until we get some!” We stomp and cross our arms and they think that’s a hoot. This of course gets a new picture and letter. Now we have pictures and letters for ABACAD on the board. If they finally bring us pudding (or something else just as good) we sing a final A section and call it good. I identify this new form as a Rondo form since the A keeps coming back with new material in between. We talk about it, then we move on to something else for the rest of the class period.
At this point I reinforce the actions that we’ve learned, making sure to remind them that good carolers keep their hands behind their back, say nice things, and always smile.
CAROLING TO THE OFFICE
We line up with our hands behind our back and we walk out quietly smiling in the hallway, saying nice things to anyone we pass. When we finally make it to the front office I mention to the kids that I think that our secretaries might love a little song and that we should try there. We walk in and the secretaries feign surprise and delight at our little crew. We sing a cappella for them and when we get to “Now bring us some figgy pudding….” The secretaries look surprised. One says, “Well, I’m so sorry kids, but we don’t have any pudding here…” and we look angry and sing, “We won’t go until we get some!”.
When we get back we watch a video with John Denver caroling with the Muppets and singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” They get their candy, I get a little break for those last 5 minutes, and the secretaries are pleased as punch. Oh yeah, and it’s cute as all get out! Most of all the kids remember it as a great experience and also remember the idea of caroling. In our little Hispanic community people generally don’t do as much caroling, so this is a fun and learning experience for everyone.