Some of these could be fleshed out to full lessons and some of them are just accompanying activities... but all of them could be a ton of fun! Maybe you teach one of these at one grade level and use another more advanced activity with an older grade. Feel free to add a comment at the end of the blog post about how YOU use this song in your classroom!
#1 - Sing the Song... and that's it
#2 - Sing with visual supports
So instead I would show them a powerpoint with some visual aids and a few little tricks to help them. Here's an example of a powerpoint that I made to help my students feel more successful with the song. This powerpoint presentation has clip art images of the various presents/animals/items in the song. Using these clip art pictures as icons, the kids remember the words a lot faster and don't get stuck in the process of reading all the words. Also, they have a ton of fun looking at the different kinds of animals and putting a word to an image. Struggling readers (especially English Language Learners) can really benefit from a presentation like this!
#3 - Divide and Conquer
The Muppets did a really wonderful version of this song with John Denver where each muppet gets a little part of the song. Check out this video to see how they sing the song and you'll understand the strategy that I'm talking about when I say, "Divide and Conquer."
One really hilarious extension to this idea is to encourage each mini-group to come up with a creative movement or action to go along with their word. I tried this once with my class and I almost couldn't sing or play the piano because I was laughing so hard. A group of three boys got the milking maids and one acted like the cow while the other milked him and the third was the milking stool that the maid sat on. This wasn't as bad as the "leaping lords," where two kiddos in the group kneeled down and the third leapt over them whenever we got to their part.
#4 - Bunches of Birds - Giving Context
I also love giving kids more information about each of the gifts. They might be able to tell you the different between a goose and a swan, but I bet they couldn't pick a partridge out of a lineup. That's when I pull out this version of the song with real images of the birds (and all the other gifts). We compare the clip art versions to the real birds and in this PowerPoint I also have a slide with embedded sounds so that kiddos can hear the birdsong of the partridge and hear what the turtledoves sound like. It's amazing when their faces light up as they say, "I HAVE heard those before! I didn't know that's what those birds sounded like!"
#5 - Act Out the Story
#6 - Change the Context - Modernize
#7 - New Gifts -- New Story
#8 -Discuss Cumulative Form - With the Muppets!
With this song I make sure to point out the cumulative form. We keep adding and adding and filling in new words. Another great example of cumulative form is "I Had a Rooster" where you keep adding new animals that the farmer owned and fed. Kids love cumulative songs as they feel almost like a challenge to them. I love to throw in this slide that talks about how the "true love" is giving away a lot of different animals if they really are accumulating all those things!
#9 - Sing and Learn the Alternate Melody
One thing that I like specifically about this version is that the music doesn't change after the 5th verse. In the "traditional" 12 days song, the melody is different and repetative for verses 6 through 12 but after the 5 golden rings gifts 4 through 1 have a different melody. With the alternate version I mention here, all the gifts have the same melody througout the entirity of the song (which might make the 12 Days a little easier to sing in some situations).
Why sing a different melody? Well, it's fun to show how variation works and how even a familiar song can be done in a different way. It would be super cool to sing this version of the song alongside the traditional version for a concert or if you go caroling through the neighborhood. It would probably be totally new and novel for an audience to hear.
#10 - Sing and Play - Memory Game
#11 - Add in INstrument Exploration
#12 - Video Extensions
f you liked the visuals or ideas that I've included above you might like these resources:
This “Favorite Carol” kit is intended to help you teach the song and reinforce historical content and vocabulary at the same time. The set could be printed out and posted on a bulletin board or used as reference cards as you teach the lesson. I know there are some folks on carts or who primarily use digital projectors so I’ve included a PowerPoint format of the set as well.
Many students don't really know what a partridge, milking maid, turtle dove, or swan look or sound like! So, in this PowerPoint I included REAL pictures of the animals/characters that we sing about as well as REAL sounds that those animals/people make! I've also included a set of slides with clip art images in case you'd like to teach the song that way.