Our lessons are based on recommended Core Knowledge Curriculum by grade. However, these lessons are suitable for a wide range of ages, so we encourage exploration across grades. A few lessons, such as "What Is Sound / Music" overlap between grades, and may have similar content, but are useful to reinforce and expand learning.
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Lesson 1 - Halloween and Mexican Day of the Dead
Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31st. The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats.
The following video is a look at how Halloween is celebrated around the world:
The Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican heritage elsewhere. The multi-day holiday involves family and friends gathering to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and helping support their spiritual journey. In Mexican culture, death is viewed as a natural part of the human cycle. Mexicans view it not as a day of sadness but as a day of celebration because their loved ones awaken and celebrate with them.
"Toccata in D minor" - J.S. Bach - 1704 - Famous classical organ piece. Popular around Halloween for its minor "spooky" sounds.
"Monster Mash" - Bobby Pickett - 1962 - Classic Halloween song with lyrics, sing along!
"The Addams Family" - Theme song to 1964 TV show, and later movie versions. Snap and dance along to this GoNoodle version!
"Thriller" - Michael Jackson - 1982 - Game version to dance along to.
"Dem Bones" (The Skeleton Dance) - James Weldon - first recorded in 1928. Originally a spiritual song, it has been adapted into variations for children like this one.
"Remember Me" - 2017 - From the movie "Coco" - with English and Spanish lyrics.
Minor keys tend to sound more serious, sad or even spooky as in "Toccata in D minor". Songs in major keys may feel more upbeat and fun. Talk about why this might be and what makes music feel a certain way to us.
What are some Halloween traditions in your family, culture or country? If you don't celebrate Halloween, what is a tradition that your family celebrates?
Lesson 2 - Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is a time for many families to get together, have a special meal and give thanks. It originated as a harvest festival, and to this day the centerpiece of Thanksgiving celebrations remains Thanksgiving dinner. The event that Americans commonly call the "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. Although Thanksgiving celebrations dated back to the first European settlements in America, it was not until the 1860s that Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November to be a national holiday.
The following video is a brief history of Thanksgiving:
There are many traditions families may follow around Thanksgiving. In addition to enjoying a meal as a family and being thankful, families may enjoy parades, American football, special shows and the best in show dog contest. What traditions do you celebrate around this time and what are you most thankful for?
"Thanksgiving Song" - Mary Chapin Carpenter - 2008
"I've Got Plenty To Be Thankful For" - Bing Crosby - 1942 - The Thanksgiving tune from the musical "Holiday Inn".
"Home" - Phillip Phillips - 2012
"Humble and Kind" - Tim McGraw - 2016
"What a Wonderful World" - Louis Armstrong - 1967
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World" - Iz - 1990
A traditional Thanksgiving dinner consists of foods and dishes indigenous to the Americas, namely turkey, potatoes (usually mashed), squash, corn, green beans, cranberries (typically as a sauce), and pumpkin pie. However, each family may have their own flair or bring their own culture to the meal. What special food is served when your family gets together?
Charlie Brown is a classic around holidays. The video to the right is a a clip from a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.
Lesson 3 - Winter Holidays
Many families and cultures have different traditions and celebrations as the year comes to a close. There's Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's celebrations and more (including Diwali in fall)! Some people choose not to celebrate as well, and spend holidays just relaxing and being with family. It is important to learn about and be welcoming to all beliefs and cultural expressions. In fact, the authors of the U.S. Constitution thought this was so important, they made it the 1st Amendment!
Not only are there more holidays, traditions and celebrations than we could possibly cover here, but there are different ways to celebrate the same holiday throughout the world. Each country has its own language and variation on common stories. Even the weather can change the feel of traditions. All those songs about a white Christmas? Try living in Australia where Christmas is in summer!
1) "The Dreidel Song" - traditional Hanukkah song and game - 1927 - This children's song is about making a dreidel and playing with it during Hanukkah. Hanukkah is a Jewish festival commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and is observed for eight nights and days by lighting the candles of a menorah.
2) "Feliz Navidad" - José Feliciano - 1970
3) "Kwanzaa Celebration" - Song celebrating and telling about the days of Kwanzaa
4) "Petit Papa Noël" - Little Santa Claus in French - Christmas and other holidays around this time are celebrated all over the world with many variations and languages.
5) "Jingle Bells" - In Japanese with lyrics
6) "Carol of the Bells" - Pentatonix version - 2012 - Compare this to the rocked out version in the "End of Lesson" section.
Many families and cultures have different traditions and celebrations this time of year. Ask students to share what some of their traditions are. Talk about how important it is to learn about and be welcoming to all beliefs and cultural expressions. In fact, the authors of the U.S. Constitution thought this was so important, they made it the 1st Amendment!
While not technically a winter holiday, a great bonus topic is Diwali. Diwali, Divali or Deepavali is the Hindu festival of lights, usually lasting five days and celebrated during the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika (between mid-October and mid-November). One of the most popular festivals of Hinduism, Diwali symbolizes the spiritual "victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance".
End of Lesson Dance Party Songs
"Carol of the Bells" - Trans-Siberian Orchestra electric guitar version - 2010 - Computers are programmed to coordinate Christmas light effects with music.
"Jingle Bells" - Australian (Aussie) version of Jingle Bells - Talk about how Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, so they celebrate Christmas in summer!