By November, the school year is flying by and the winter holidays are right around the corner. With two major holidays and a few days off of school, November is a short month. These favorite elementary music activities are multitasking lessons to help you be efficient with your limited class time.
You will want to plan carefully to maximize each lesson. Not only are these activities jam-packed with music literacy skills, but they are also FUN and incorporate seasonal themes.
Read on for some inspiration and ideas that are sure to become your favorite elementary music activities for November and beyond.
Note: Hanukkah is early this year.
November Holidays & Observances
- November 2 – Cookie Monster Day
- November 4 – Diwali (A Festival of Lights )
- November 6 – Saxophone Day
- November 8 – STEM/STEAM Day
- November 8 – International Tongue Twister Day
- November 11 – Veterans Day
- November 13 – World Kindness Day
- November 25 – Thanksgiving
- November 28 – December 6 Hanukkah
- November 29 – Square Dancing Day
- Week 1 National Cat Week
- Week 1 National Polar Bear Week
- Week 2 National Children’s Book Week
- Week 3 Random Acts of Kindness Week
- Week 3 Game and Puzzle Week
- Native American Heritage Month
- National Drum Month
- National Model Train Month
- American Recycles Month
- Peanut Butter Lovers Month
Native American Heritage & National Drum Month go well together and can easily be recognized simultaneously in the elementary music classroom.
Patriotic Songs ALL American Citizens Should Know
Patriotic songs should be woven into lesson plans throughout the year. But, they work especially well for Veterans Day. Having a core repertoire of patriotic songs already learned makes it much easier to prepare students for programs such as Veterans Day, Presidents’ Day, 9/11 Remembrances, Memorial Day, or the 4th of July.
Click to read about Developing a Core Repertoire of Patriotic Songs.
Thanksgiving | Harvest Song with Orff Accompaniments
The Mill Wheel K-5 Orff Arrangement provides the simplest rhythm reading patterns for grades K-1 and challenging ostinato patterns for grades 4-5. All grades will enjoy the optional activities which include reading, writing, singing, playing pitched and unpitched rhythm instruments, and recorder. Younger students will enjoy the game which reinforces musical concepts.
This multitasking lesson also includes a history of mills and optional video links to tours of real working mills.
Celebrate Train Month
There are SO many fun songs with train themes. Below are a few standards.
- Engine, Engine #9
- Down by the Station
- Get on Board (Little Children)
- This Train (is Bound for Glory)
Don’t forget all the favorite train storybooks. My favorite is still the old standard, The Little Train that Could. It is a fun way to help teach students grit, determination, and perseverance. That is a skill that is needed now more than ever.
Multitasking Lessons | Orff Accompaniments
I have A LOT of favorite songs! That is probably why I am a music teacher. But if I had to pick just one for the month of November, it would be this one – Land of the Silver Birch. I remember singing it when I was little. You know a song has become a favorite for MANY students when you hear them singing it on the playground or the bus.
The differentiated Orff arrangement includes attainable performance activities while also providing challenging experiences for more advanced students.
Note: This song is a Canadian folk song. It is not a song of Indigenous peoples.
Interactive Rhythm Flashcards
You don’t have to make a choice between focusing on music literacy skills or celebrating a holiday theme. These interactive rhythm flashcards in PowerPoint format are differentiated into 8 different levels for grades K-5. Level 1 includes iconic reading for your youngest students, while levels 2-8 build sequentially using standard rhythmic notation.
For fun ways to use rhythm pattern cards, check out this post – 10 Ways to Use Interactive Rhythm Pattern Flashcards.
Games & Puzzles
The third week of November is “Game and Puzzle Week”. That might be the perfect time to play some card games using a few sets of PRINTABLE Music Playing Cards. The decks are perfect for centers or stations, fast finishers, or even indoor recess. You can print and laminate several decks to use with the entire class at once.
Digital & Printable Puzzles
These versatile puzzles are PRINTABLE or your students may complete them in a DIGITAL format. Have you tried using Easel, TpT’s digital online tool? These no-prep worksheets are ready-to-use on Easel.
Download this FREE Brass Instruments Puzzles and assign to your students virtually or as a printed worksheet.
Winter Holidays | Multitasking Lessons for Classroom or Performance
This time of year many music classes are working to prepare for holiday programs. Several of my favorite elementary music lessons are holiday songs and activities. Like many districts, our area schools have diverse populations. It is VERY important to mirror that diversity in our music programs.
Even if you teach at a school that is rather homogeneous, it is still important to learn about other cultures and traditions. Check out this blog post about using Diverse Winter Holiday Songs in the Elementary Music Classroom. (You don’t want to miss this post which includes links to several FREE songs with mp3 accompaniments.)
It is hard to find songs and activities that have musically rewarding performance opportunities for varied ages and abilities that also teach music literacy skills. So, over the years, I have collected songs and created my own Orff arrangements for the elementary classroom. Click to listen to each K-5 differentiated Orff arrangement below.
These diverse holiday arrangements are sure to become some of your favorites, and more importantly, some of your students favorites as well.
Planning Ahead | Black History Month
Even before Thanksgiving music teachers are planning ahead for second semester. The birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. is celebrated in January. And, Black History Month is traditionally celebrated in February. However, any time of year is a good time to learn about Black History and the heroes of the civil rights movement.
These are truly some of my favorite elementary music lessons of all time! The short biographies are written in two different versions, one for early elementary and one for upper elementary grades. This makes these differentiated lessons accessible for grades K-5.
These Orff arrangements of African American spirituals may be used all year long.
One Day at a Time
The holiday season can be a very hectic time, especially in today’s teaching environment. Save some time for yourself. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every year. Hopefully, some of the resources here will become some of your favorite elementary music activities too!
Plan ahead, pare down, and enjoy!