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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Favorite Sleigh Ride Music Lessons

We just got our first snow of the season his past weekend (and it looks like a lot of others did too)! With snow on the ground (or in the forecast) and holidays on the horizon, Sleigh Ride is the perfect song to keep kids engaged. It talks a lot about snow and feels "holiday-esque" without actually referring to any holidays. Today I wanted to share some of my favorite lesson ideas using Sleigh Ride. I hope these ideas help you enjoy these last couple of weeks before break!

Cup Routine

I've shared this idea a few times before but it's worth including here because it is so much fun and it's a great way to review steady beat, rhythms, and form! I saw another music teacher post an idea for doing a cup routine with Sleigh Ride several years ago (here's the video) and loved the idea, but the routine was way too hard for my elementary students (I think it would be great for middle or even high school!). I created this simplified version, which can be done with kids as young as kindergarten (or with older students without much practice time, which is perfect for those concert days or that last day before break!). 

The key to teaching these cup routines (and the best way to reinforce the form of the piece) is to teach one section at a time. Start with the A section and go through the entire piece performing only the A section actions, resting and listening for the other parts. Then add B, and finally add C. Students will quickly figure out the pattern of the Rondo form that way.


I shared a similar idea last year in my post about lessons for The Nutcracker. Basically I show my students several different versions of the piece (I try to find the most disparate examples possible) and we discuss the different arrangements. Just this step alone is perfect for reviewing musical concepts and vocabulary, whether it's instrument names, dynamics, tempo, tonality, or articulation. But I have also taken it one step further with some of my older grades and had them create their own arrangement in small groups. In this case I have them use just the A section. Here are some of my favorite versions of Sleigh Ride to show, but there are many others out there you could use!

Paper Plate Skating

The idea of paper plate skating is probably not new to most of you, but I'll explain just in case: basically you give each student 2 paper plates and they put one under each foot so they can glide along the floor like they're skating. This works best on carpet- if you have hard flooring but have some kind of rug you can use that (just call it the "skating rink" and tell kids not to get too close to the edge). This is a great one for practicing half notes because they can glide along with each foot on the half notes. Here's what I have students do, but you can change it up depending on the age of the students.

A section: alternate feet on quarter, quarter, half note pattern
B section: all half notes
C section: jumps, spins, and tricks (I tell students to do some figure skating tricks in this section. Some of them can jump in the air, turn around, and land back on their skates, others do different spins with the arms in different positions or try skating backwards etc. What's really great is to get kids to try to do something where they land on the slapstick notes!)

A great variation I found recently on O for Tuna Orff Schulwerk's Facebook page is to cut skis out of laminated paper and use those the same way you would use skates- if you're logged in on Facebook you can see the video where she talks about them here (and oh my goodness you guys, did you know she started her FB page about a month ago? She has been sharing some fantastic videos with teaching tips! Just search O for Tuna Orff Schulwerk on Facebook to find her page and go follow!). 

Instrument Play Alongs

I've done this several times with whatever rhythms we're practicing in that grade level- I just throw one 4 or 8 beat rhythm on the board for each of the 3 sections and have the students play the rhythm as an ostinato with the music. I label the rhythm with the section names (A/B/C) to help them keep track. If you can, it's even more fun to have students switch instruments for each section. Either give every student 3 instruments, or have half of the class use one instrument to play all of the A section parts and have the other half use 2 different instruments to play the B and C sections.

If you want to stick with very simple rhythms (quarter notes and quarter rests only), you can have students play along with this video!

I hope you find some useful ideas here to use with your classes- I love finishing out the last few days before break with some fun lessons like these (and hey, the students are still learning). If you're looking for more ideas to use this season, be sure to check out my post from last year on lessons for The Nutcracker:

I send timely ideas and resources like these to my email subscribers every month, including an outline of the concepts I'm planning to teach for each of my K-6 general music classes for the month ahead. Click here to sign up for the Organized Chaos newsletter!


  1. Thanks for the shout out about my Facebook page! Loved all your ideas, too! One of my favorite pieces of music!!

    1. I have LOVED seeing your ideas in your videos- the skis are genius! ;)

  2. What arrangement of sleigh ride do you use in the cup routine?

    1. This is a band arrangement I found on YouTube: