Singalong & So Long (Until 2011)

hope school holiday singalong

Today is one of my favorite days of the entire year.  It started with the entire school gathered together for The Hope Institute’s 4th Annual Holiday Singalong, a tradition I started way back in 2007.

And it’s not just me standing in the front of the room, strumming my guitar and leading the singing….oh, no.  We go all out around here, with a full band (guitar, bass, keyboard, drums) made up of Hope employees and lyric sheets for everyone in attendance.  This year, the Singalong included 16 of our favorite holiday songs and lasted a little over a half hour.  Lots of singing, dancing and merriment for all!

Now that the Singalong is over, there are just a few more hours until I walk out the door for Christmas vacation.  Two whole weeks of it.  This is one of those times of year where my husband is VERY jealous of my teacher’s schedule :)

So how will I spend my vacation?  Thankfully, both of our families will be here in town for the holidays, which means no traveling for us.  Just lots of quality time spent with our nearest and dearest, including hosting our first Christmas…yikes!

And as much as I LOVE my students, I’m very ready for the down time I’ll have — especially during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  But of course I’ll be so ready to see everyone again come January 3.

What are your plans for Christmas vacation?

Sunday Singalong: Red & Green

With less than a week remaining until Christmas, I’m squeezing in every last holiday song I can around here! This one comes to you by request, though the coordinating outfit was completely my idea :) I mean, how often do I have the opportunity to wear a ridiculous hat in my videos?

“Red & Green” has been around for the last couple of years, and lends itself very well to all sorts of color-centric activities. Here is the original post I wrote about this song.

And now I’m off to perform an entirely different genre of holiday music: Handel’s Messiah.  My church choir is joining forces with another church’s choir to sing the Christmas portion of this masterpiece, and wow, is it glorious.  Hallelujah, indeed!

Friday Fave: The Season of Giving

Friday Fave Season of GivingI absolutely love giving gifts.  In fact, I have a special savings account for Christmas money to which I contribute all year round, just so that I’m sure I can give everyone the “perfect” present come December.

However, I am not opposed to DIY gifts — I actually prefer making things myself rather than buying them.  I flex my crafty muscles each year when it comes to gifts for my 30+ students. This year’s gifts are pictured above; I’m giving them music note or treble clef ornaments (gold for the boys, silver with sparkles for the girls) with handmade initial tags tied with ribbon.

Last year, I had special postcards made and wrote an individual note to each student.  Then I laminated it and wrapped it up with candy and a cute little reindeer.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures to illustrate :(

Two years ago, I made ornament magnets for each student with his or her initial.  This was quite a labor-intensive process, which involved gluing the magnet to the back of the ornament, tying and curling the ribbon, and placing the initial on the front.  Of course, I had to make some for my husband and I, too:

ornament magnets

My husband and I also do DIY gifts for family members and friends.  Zach is the photo book expert of our family; he uses Apple’s iPhoto to create beautiful photo books of various events, which he gives frequently as gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas.

We’re trying something new this year for my Grandma’s gift: she lives in Florida, so we are going to make a DVD wishing her a Merry Christmas and also surprising her with the news that we are coming down to visit her next month (she has no idea!).  I know she’ll love it more than anything we could possibly buy her.

Throughout the holiday season, I encourage my students to talk about giving more than receiving.   I use the song If You Could Give a Gift to get them talking, and they always have extremely interesting and sweet gift-giving ideas.

What about you?  Do you DIY your gifts (I’d especially love to hear about creative student gifts) or stick to store-bought goodies?  Please share!

Singable Stories for Snowy Days

frosty-snowman-bookFrosty is a popular guy around this time of year, having his own holiday-related song and all.  But did you know that there are several children’s books based on the familiar tune?  I own this one, and it is a staple throughout December.  In fact, I’ve discovered quite a few singable stories that are perfect for the winter months; here are some of my favorites.

snowmen-at-christmas-bookSnowmen at Christmas tells the story of how snowmen spend Christmas (while the people who built them are sleeping, of course).  It’s actually a spin-off of this wintery favorite…

snowmen-at-night-bookSnowmen at Night was introduced to me a few years back by my friend Lisa Casciola (who has pointed me to countless wonderful resources!) and I have included it in my rotation ever since.

cold-lady-swallowed-snow-bookThere was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow falls into the most-requested series of my personal collection (my other favorite “old lady” stories can be found here and here).

If there is one thing I can’t resist buying, it’s a great new children’s book to add to my collection.  My husband can always tell when I’ve gone on an Amazon shopping spree…the big brown box and guilty look on my face are tell-tale signs.  But I always stand by my purchases, because I know how much my students will enjoy them!

Now it’s time for you to chime in: what are your (and your little ones’) favorite singable stories for this time of year?

10 Quick Tips for Caroling With Kids

caroling-with-kidsI’m headed out the door in a few minutes to go caroling at a local nursing home with a group of my students from the Hope Institute.  But before I do that, I thought I’d share a few tried and true tips for successful experiences when caroling with children.

  1. Know your audience (and the students who will be doing the caroling).  This will help you decide whether or not it is appropriate to include sacred songs, or if it’s best to stick with secular.
  2. Choose songs (just about) everyone knows.  Save “The Holly & the Ivy”, “In the Bleak Midwinter”, and the like for more grown-up singalongs.
  3. Have lyrics to pass out.  Just because you’re singing familiar songs doesn’t mean that everyone (carolers included) knows the words.
  4. One verse is plenty, especially if the children are younger and singing from memory.
  5. Keep the tempo bright.  You’ll hold the attention of both your singers and listeners better that way.
  6. Use props.  Santa Claus hats, jingle bells, and other instruments are both visually and aurally stimulating.
  7. But don’t go overboard.  If you’re caroling in a nursing home as I will be today, don’t bring in cymbals and other over-the-top noisemakers.  Be mindful of the environment.
  8. Make it clear that you want audience participation (if that’s the case, which is usually true!).
  9. Don’t wear out your welcome.   Know in advance how long your group is expected to sing, or if it’s a surprise visit, keep it at 5-10 minutes (if that).  Again, knowing your audience and surroundings is key.
  10. HAVE FUN!  Your singing will be appreciated even if there are forgotten lyrics, out-of-tune moments, etc.

Are you doing any caroling this holiday season?  And do you have tips to add to this list?  If so, don’t keep them to yourself!  Please share them in the comments.  In the meantime, I need to dash through the snow over to the nursing home for my own caroling fun!

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