It’s hard to believe there are just a few more days until Christmas! For today’s listening lesson, I’ve picked the song Carol of the Bells. It’s a very well-known song, and chances are your children will recognize the tune when they first hear it. There have been many covers of the song over the years, so it should be easy to choose a variety for your listening lessons, if you’d like to do a compare and contrast.
When I do listening lessons with students, I like to begin with having them listen to the chosen piece without giving any information. If the piece isn’t very long, I’ll play it through in its entirety. If it is longer, I’ll just play a short clip. With younger children, I will sometimes have a movement activity for the initial listening.
After listening to the piece once, it’s a good chance to talk about what they’ve heard, and to give some background information about the music.
Here are some things you might say:
Discussing Carol of the Bells
- how many of you have heard this song before?
- What kinds of things did you hear?
- Were there voices, or only instruments?
Behind the Music: Carol of the Bells
- Ukrainian folk song composed in 1914 by Mykola Leontovych
- originally about birds, not bells (this is the most fascinating part to me)
- Wilhousky is the author of the English lyrics
1. Vocabulary review
- bells (jingle bells versus handbells, etc.)
- ostinato (4 note pattern that recurs throughout the piece)
- onomatopoeia (ding dong imitates the sound of the bells)
- during one of the listening times, give them a a blank paper to color while listening
- check out some of these bells coloring pages
3. Listening pages with variety of recordings
- you can print off this pdf for children to fill out while listening: carol-of-the-bells listening
- compare/contrast different versions (check out Pentatonix’s version and Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s version for two very different versions)
4. Additional activities
- pass out bells, if you have any (handbells, jingle bells, etc.), and do a play along with the music
- come up with movements to do during the listening, like alternating standing and sitting each time they hear the 4 note ostinato play
You could end your listening by playing Home Alone and let them hear the song in the movie!