One underrated but totally fun carol to teach about is "O Tannenbaum" from the German holiday carol tradition. Below you can find some of the fun things that I do with this carol (usually with my 3rd graders) and some extension ideas I had while planning for next week.
Long and Changing history
If you do want to talk about the transition to English and even sing the words "O Christmas Tree," you definitely can do so if you talk about how the tradition of the Christmas tree evolved. Giving historical context to this songs highlights its connection to people and culture. This song and the tradition of bringing evergreen trees into the home is a wonderful example of cross-cultural adaptations as the English took on the traditions of the Germans and even began to sing some of their music.
is this a Christmas song? What do these words mean?
Possible extensions and activities
Syncopation - The A section has lots of syncopation through the phrases and is a great contrast to the smoother B section. It would even be a great time to show them the notation (providing they're ready for it) to have them identify the dotted eighth and sixteenth pairing.
Form - This is a fantastic, clear example of an ABA form. A friend in my district calls this the "Oreo Cookie" form with an obvious beginning (A), differing middle section (B), and repeat of the first section (A). If you ended up talking about form, you can break out the FREE form letters that I offer in my TpT store. Get them for free HERE.
Movement and Dancing - Create your own form!
Once we had all those actions down we talked about the form of the song and decided that it was an AABA form: A- O Tannenbaum and B- In lovely green... We went through the song once or twice with all our actions and then we moved on to make it even more fun.
I stood at the white board and said that our BIG A section would be the singing of the first verse. Everything we had just done was our "BIG A section" and we were about to add something new. I told half of the class to stand and do their best evergreen tree impression and the rest of the class was supposed to walk around and admire them. I mean, this song was originally about the Germans and how much they loved and admired evergreen trees. So, I played a little interlude music while half the class stood like trees and the other half admired. We called this part BIG B.
So far, we have ABA (A- sing, B- stand like trees, A- sing). Then we got really creative and came up with PART C! In this part of the song half of the class stands like evergreen trees and then other half of the class goes to cut them down and take them inside to decorate. The kid thought this was HILARIOUS. We finished off the song with another singing A section. So in the end we had ABACA: A-sing, B- stand/admire, C- tree/cut them down.
Crafting Activity for you and/or your Students
Here are my thoughts/modifications for a musical paper Tannenbaum! You could take old musical scores with lots of different sizes and shapes of notes to create the green needles for your tree. Or grab your music textbooks and make copies of the kids' favorite songs from the first semester and copy them off in different colors. You could even use different shades of green like this or you could do them in any color. I imagine green trees and red trees in my room in varying shades of color. And don't let the colored copy paper dilemma stop you. You can easily copy onto construction paper which gives you a ton of options for color shades (learn about copying onto construction paper in this post). Then you can cut the paper up and paste it to your tree.
Need further help with this? Here's a link to something I found on Pinterest that seems similar. Great ideas here for home, but maybe a little too complicated for a classroom.