This is a guest post by one of our blog writers, Katherine Miller.
The holidays can feel like a merry marathon because when the weather gets frightful, so does a music teacher’s calendar! With all the special events, performances and changes to normal school schedules, it can be nice to find some easy musical ways to celebrate the season.
I have put together a list of the top music-related and holiday-themed movie recommendations that educators have shared via Facebook and other social media platforms. Most of the movies listed can be found on Youtube or your favourite streaming platform. Some are still available on DVD if you have access to a DVD player.
5+ Ways to Create Active Music Listening
It is important to ensure, no matter the repertoire you choose, that students are actively listening, or listening with a purpose. Active listening requires students to not only hear but also listen and process information. For example: How does the performance make you feel? What instruments do you hear in the performance? What musical elements can you recognize in the performance? In short, why are we spending our time viewing it? What should I be getting from it?
Students could do this by:
- Answering questions to check for comprehension
- Illustrating elements of a song/story
- Visually sketching a song they heard in the story
- Completing a glyph, or pictorial representation, of musical elements in a song within the story
- Work in teams to observe certain elements of music (For instance, one team is working on looking for examples of tempo while another team is looking for examples of timbre or one team is looking for examples of solos while another teams looks for duets.)
- Taking time to pause the performance to ask questions to encourage discourse about what students are seeing and hearing
Active listening not only allows for a more engaged audience but also creates a clear purpose for a special musical experience that might be different from the normal day to day work in your classroom.
Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links which will earn me a very small commission (at no extra cost to you!). These are all quality products that I recommend and any commissions earned go back into supporting the upkeep of this site.
Holiday-Themed Movies to Show Music Students
This is my favorite holiday movie! The Snowman is a wordless story about a young boy who builds a snowman that comes to life and takes him to the North Pole to meet Father Christmas. Based on a wordless children’s book of the same name by Raymond Briggs, the only sounds students will hear is the melody “Walking on Air”.
Run time: 30 minutes
This is a classic story that can also be used to introduce students to ballet. With so many versions to choose from, many educators on social media have suggested the 1993 film version that features child actor Macaulay Culkin. Even so many years later, students will recognize him from Home Alone.
Run time: 1 hour and 32 minutes
Another great option is The Nutcracker Prince which is influenced by the ballet. Tchaikovsky‘s music is used as the main instrumental soundtrack.
Run time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
This movie is a musical, stop-motion adaptation of the well-known movie, Elf. It tells the story of a human who was raised in the north pole and travels to New York to find his family. It can be reminiscence of some other more popular holiday movies like Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town that are still shown yearly on TV in the United States.
Run time: 43 minutes
Based on the popular book of the same title by Chris Van Allsburg, this new classic has the amazing original story of a young boy on Christmas Eve who boards a train headed to the North Pole as well as super fun, original music. It is almost impossible to not sing along with those elves belting “Rockin’ on Top of the World” or “Hot Chocolate” as it is being served to the children travelers aboard.
Run time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
A retelling of the classic Charles Dickens tale most commonly known as the “A Christmas Carol”. It tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his encounters with Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. As with most things Muppet, this story is a great mix of hilarious and heartwarming.
Run time: 1 hour and 25 minutes
This movie is a very short but equally as colorful version of the Dreamworks hit Trolls. This TV short could be appealing to those who work in communities that are aware of many different holidays that occur during the winter season and try not to just focus on one. In this movie, the Bergens have no holidays to celebrate. The plot is focused around giving them a holiday to celebrate.
Run time: 25 minutes
Maybe not your conventional, seasonal movie choice but Beethoven was born in December of 1770. This movie tells the story of Christoph, a boy who has rented out the upstairs room to a very famous boarder. At the time of the story, Beethoven is composing one of his greatest works, his Ninth Symphony.
Run time: 51 minutes
Finding amazing performances is great for all students to see the possibilities of where their learning can take them. An example of this is a live performance recorded for students to watch again and again. This particular one features a professional a cappella group best known for their version of “12 Days of Christmas”.
Run time: 59 minutes
Is it really the holiday season without music and singing? This Disney film features all your favorite characters and holiday songs. Students can sing along with the words that appear on the screen, karaoke style.
Run time: 54 minutes
Looking for a different way to ring in the New Year?
There are many other ways to create engagement with students during the holiday season. If movies aren’t for you, perhaps one of these other holiday-related activities will get you through to the New Year!
Instrument Play Alongs
You can find a great selection of ready-made instrument play alongs online that can be a fun way to play in the holiday season. Musication is just one of many you can find on Youtube:
Test your students knowledge of well known Christmas songs by handing out this quiz. Students can work alone or in groups to decode the name of the song by using the emoji clues. This is a favorite for older students in my classroom.
Kahoot is a popular online trivia style quiz tool that my students request over and over again. Kahoot has so many fun options for the holidays from trivia to testing their knowledge of lyrics to well-known carols and holiday songs. Here is just one example:
Just Dance/Move It!/Go Noodle
Dancing in the holidays is also a great option! You can use any of the resources listed to get your students up and moving in your classroom.
Maybe your style is a little different. Listening glyphs can be used to create a quiet, active listening experience for students. Glyphs allow students to make a visual description of what they are hearing.
What are your favorite activities?
I would love to hear some of your classroom holiday traditions! Please share some of your favorite music-related holiday themed movies or activities that you use in your classroom.
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About the Writer
Katherine (Katie) Miller holds a Bachelor of Music in Education degree from Otterbein University (Westerville, OH) and a Master’s of Educational Leadership from Antioch McGregor Midwest (Yellow Springs, OH). She has 14 years of professional musical experience as a music educator and performer.
She is currently employed by the School District of Waukesha in Waukesha, WI where she teaches K-5 General Music and serves as a district model tech classroom.
Looking for More Resources for Music Teachers?
Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.
I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.
I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.
If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community.