Winter Holiday Songs | African Noel

Are you searching for winter holiday songs for music class or performance? I LOVE African Noel.  It is such a joyful song. With the K-5 differentiated activities in this arrangement, the song becomes simple enough for kindergarten but still provides challenging opportunities for 5th grade students. African Noel can do double duty as a Christmas song or to celebrate Kwanzaa. It is perfect for all-school performances.

Winter Holiday Song with Rhythm Instruments | African Noel

This arrangement of African Noel includes guided instruction, a simple step dance & Orff accompaniments. It is available at Frau Musik USA on TpT.

Listen to the Orff arrangement below.


Differentiated Activities

This arrangement contains three different levels of differentiation. I have included suggested activities for each grade level in the teacher note pages. Due to differentiation options that may be used between or within grade levels, the activities themselves are not labeled with levels. Use whatever activities fit each class at your school.

Activities Included in Lesson

  • Song to Learn & Sing
  • Form – ABA
  • Simple Step Dance
  • Vocabulary – Introducing Ties
  • Interactive Flashcards | Note Values & Ties
  • Ostinato 1 – Tambourine
  • Ostinato 2 – Bongos
  • Xylophone 1 (or other barred instrument)
  • Xylophone 2 (or other barred instrument)

Teaching Tips | Winter Holiday Songs

Pace the lesson. Don’t try to teach everything in one class period.

  • Song & Form. Teach form & song at the same time. Identifying the form will help students learn the song.
  • Step Dance. Add movement near the middle of class. Young children “check out” if they sit too long.  The simple step dance breaks up long class periods.

Introduce ties. Check for understanding by using the interactive rhythm flashcards. Make sure all students are engaged by requiring all students to answer. (This is the topic for another blog post. Check out Tips to Involve ALL Students All of the Time. You will be glad you did.

Unpitched Percussion | Body Percussion

Practice the tambourine/bongos parts using body percussion before playing on instruments. Use the body percussion outline below to imitate the movement of playing the instrument.


  • If your students are ready, read the rhythm pattern first. If not, learn the patterns by rote and go straight to body percussion.
  • Use the following vocal pattern to guide students as you practice together with your hands. Clap, Z, clap, Z, clap, Z, sha-ake.
  • Note:  Z = rest


  • Read the rhythm pattern first.
  • Identify student’s left knee as the the low pitch of the bongos and their right knee as the higher pitch. Practice on knees while reading rhythm patterns and/or the accompanying lyrics. (Be sure to reverse the pattern as you demonstrate.)

Instrumentation: Pitched Percussion

Xylophone 1

  • Read the Rhythm. Even though the rhythm is simple, don’t skip this step.
  • Form. Draw attention again to the form of the song. Teach each section separately and show how the accompaniment matches the form.
  • Low/High. If your students are not reading treble clef notes yet (and even if they are) this is a good opportunity to draw their attention to high/low and how the pattern matches the instrument. You can use this mantra to help students remember, “low notes are low, long, and left”

Xylophone 2

  • Learn each pattern separately.
  • Read the Rhythm.  If ties are new to your students, begin by reading the rhythm without the ties, then demonstrate how the ties simply slide into the next note without re-articulating. If you are using Kodály rhythm syllables, pattern 1 & 2 would sound like this, ti-ti ta, ti-ti ta, ti-ti, ti-tiahah.
  • Sing the Pitches.  To provide for differentiation, the music is notated both with and without note name prompts. Slides may be printed to assist individual students if necessary.
    • Demonstrate & “Air Play”.  Use the xylophone template provided in the lesson to demonstrate what the patterns LOOK like. Direct students to turn their fingers into mallets and “air play” while they sing the pitches.
      “Air Play” practice will save you so much time.  Further directions are included in the lesson.

Xylophone Template

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, African Noel has always been one of my favorite and one of my students’ favorite holiday songs. My older students especially love the harmony of pattern 2. If you give it a try, I know it will become one of your favorites too.

Check out this post if you are looking for more winter holiday songs for music class or performance. 

Don’t forget to like my page and  “Follow Mi” on TpT so you don’t miss any new resources as they are posted. New lessons are 40% off the first 24 hours. It pays to follow mi.

Auf Wiedersehen!

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