November could easily be retitled “No-direction-ber.” The candy-fueled excitement of Halloween is over, and the holidays aren’t yet here. How can we keep students on a successful trajectory when we’re entering one of the most distracted times of the year? Here are some tips (and one fail) that will leave your November lessons turkey-level stuffed full of fun and progress.
1. Tip: Play the blues.
At our flagship Philadelphia music school, one song consistently earns the title of all-time student favorite: Turkey’s Got the Blues. I came up with this simple blues song years ago. It is simple and easy to play for all levels – even beginners, and is oddly addictive. This is a guaranteed crowd pleaser (and a fun song to show off to family over the Thanksgiving Holiday)! Get it here.
2. Tip: Create a food parody song!
Two universal truths: everyone loves food and everyone loves food parodies (a tradition as old as “On Top of Spaghetti”). The key is to choose an easy song to parody, or one that is already mastered so that students can feel successful and focus on the creative, lyrical side of the project. Each Thanksgiving, we fondly revisit one Meridee Winters student’s infamous song, “Butterball” – a brilliant parody of the Oasis hit, “Wonderwall.”
The original lyrics:
Because maybe, you're gonna be the one that saves me
And after all, you're my wonderwall.
His parody version:
Because maybe, there’s going to be a lot of gravy
And after all... It’s a butterball
3. Tip: Create a gratitude song.
Create your own song from scratch (try Chord Crash Course to find a great chord progression and accompaniment pattern), or change/add thankful lyrics to a pop or lesson book song you’re already working on. My Favorite Things can be customized to your student’s actual favorite things (“sledding on snow days and sausage on pizza…”). “What a Wonderful World” can be re-written with your own wonderful descriptions. Keep the “attitude of gratitude” going!
4. Tip: Fend off the flu!
It’s been proven that sugar lowers the immune system, and even though Halloween is behind us, the whole sugar-filled holiday situation is going to get worse before it gets better. So, our practical tip here is to keep some hand sanitizer, well… handy, review your sick day policy and also request all students wash their hands before touching instruments.
5. Tip: The hand-tracing turkey is always a classic.
For young students, make a version of this grade school classic with labeled finger numbers. Then use it to drill them!
6. Fail: Stick to the same old, same old.
Of course, in addition to our tips about what does work for November lessons, we also have some insight on what doesn’t work. A fall “fail” would be sticking with the predictable cutesy beginner pilgrim songs. These basic songs don’t hold up when compared to awesome food parodies, originals and blues songs. Today’s informed and socially aware kids are also quick to point out these songs’ frequent historical inaccuracies. Instead, focus on food, fun and flu-free music-making.
With a little forethought, and some creative materials, November doesn’t need to be directionless at all. Rather, you can keep going with the momentum you gained from the back to school season. After Thanksgiving, things inevitably slow down for the holidays, so build as much success as you can now. Remember to include frequent small “wins” and make sure you have an organized homework book with clear goals. Our Homework Book and Practice Trackers help structure things for you with pages for goals and dreams, repertoire lists, practice trackers and more.
And if you do write a fantastic food parody or poultry-themed blues song, we’d love to hear it! Share it on our Facebook page (and while you’re there, check out Butterball and Turkey’s Got the Blues)!
Holiday gift ideas for budding musicians!
About Meridee Winters: Meridee Winters is a professional educator, musician, author and director/owner of a successful Philadelphia area music school. Meridee began her journey as an educator teaching elementary students in a Florida public school, where she discovered the curriculum and school system left little room for divergence and creativity. She made the bold decision to leave and attend graduate school to study Music Composition, eventually starting her own private music school. Today, that school has spent two decades introducing thousands of students to not just music, but to Meridee’s trailblazing method that encourages creativity, play and higher-level thinking with each lesson. As a composer and professional musician, Meridee has instructed at all levels – from professional recording artists working on albums to computer music classes in the recording studio, and from young beginners taking their first steps on their musical path to intermediate students writing their first songs. Meridee is a dedicated advocate of creative intelligence whose foremost passion is empowering creative and authentic self-expression in each individual. She now spends her time developing new materials and books to nurture these. She does her work as an author, as well as director of the school, from her home in Delaware County, PA.
© 2018 Meridee Winters. All Rights Reserved.
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