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Teaching Songs for an Elementary Christmas Musical

written by: Laurie Patsalides • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 11/18/2012

In this article of a series about classroom plays for elementary students, the teacher will prepare a shared reading lesson with the selected song or songs for the musical. The example for this lesson is the Christmas musical, "We Are Santa's Elves." The children both read and sing the song.

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    Thus far in the series, we have covered how to plan for a musical or play at Christmas or any time of the school year, and how to choose songs for the performance. This article focus will be to help the elementary teacher to introduce and teach the selected song choice to the class.

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    Teaching the Song

    Start by doing a shared reading lesson with the song. The shared reading pieces are the songs themselves. Teach this shared reading lesson for as long as necessary, or until the day of the performance.


    Chart paper, with the song written on it.

    Pointer sticks, magic reading wands, or yard sticks to use during reading.

    Prior Knowledge:

    Other songs, poems or big books that have been used as a shared reading piece.

    A prop or an object directly related to the song that you are using in the musical performance. For sake of example, I will continue to use the song We Are Santa's Elves by Burl Ives; for this, I would choose an appropriate classroom toy to introduce the song. Ask the students if they have ever heard of an elf.


    Define any unknown words in the song (in this case, elf.) Tell the students that they are going to be in a Christmas musical and must learn the words to a song.

    They will begin by reading the words to the song. Post the chart. Show the students that there is a verse and a chorus on the chart. Younger grades can have the verse and the chorus separated into two posters and the teacher can provide picture support to assist young students to read the words.

    Begin by reading the whole song, once through. Point to each word as you read. Later, when the students become familiar with the words, a helper can be chosen to point to the words.

    Next, read the chorus. Tell the students that the chorus of the song is repeated several times throughout a song. Read each line of the chorus first and have the students repeat after you. As the song has been practiced prior to this lesson, by the teacher, he or she can read it in a sing-song type voice, without actually singing it. Once you have read the chorus in this manner, sing it and have the students repeat each line after you. Do this several times. Last, sing the chorus through without stopping.

    Next, tell the students that the verse usually tells the story of the song. Read the verse through one time. Ask the students what is happening in the verse (comprehension). Repeat the same procedure with the verse as was completed with the chorus. Line per line, the teacher reads in a sing-song voice and the students repeat. Then the teacher sings each line and the students repeat. Finally, the whole verse is sung without stopping.


    Add hand motions and/or dance moves to the song. For the song We Are Santa's Elves there is a wonderful instrumental pause in the middle of the song. The students were given an instrument to play with the music, or a toy to pretend to fix during the interlude.

    Later, students can find word wall words in the shared reading piece. The words can be sent home to practice reading and singing the piece with families.