My Favorite Songs for Halloween

Our weather has finally changed here in Southern California. Trees are beginning to change colors and mornings and evenings are cooling down. Neighborhoods have started putting out pumpkin decorations and those who plan ahead have already begun to gather candy.

Halloween is coming.

I shared in this post that I’m actually not a huge fan of Halloween. Many people love being scared. They love all things spooky, and are thrilled to dress up as witches, ghosts, and goblins. I happen to not be one of those people.

Our students are the same way. Some of them love spooky songs, others can take them a bit too seriously and it’s not a fun time for them. Some schools may even discourage teachers from singing scary songs.

 
Songs for Halloween
 

So today I’m sharing songs that are perfect for Halloween - whether your students love to be spooked or they’re just in it for the candy.  
 

1. Spooky Scary Halloween Songs


Witch, Witch

This song has its origins as a nursery rhyme.

The two note chant it easy for students to sing in tune, making it appropriate for younger grades. Alternatively, you can speak it as a rhyme like I have notated here.

Young students will also love the game that accompanies the song: the student as the “witch” stands in the middle of the circle. After the last line (“no, you old witch!), the students scatter and the witch must catch someone to take his / her place in the circle.

Recommended Grades: K - 2

Musical Uses:

Witch, Witch, Fell in a Ditch
  • Singing assessment of the child in the middle
  • Solidify steady beat in a compound duple meter
  • Shouting versus singing voice
  • AB Form

Miss White Had a Fright

This rhyme is pretty humorous, and fun to chant. Many teachers use it with younger grades because the rhythm is so straightforward. I’ve done a post about using it for rhythm vs. beat here.

However, creatively this rhyme is so playful it lends itself to older grades as well. Here are some ideas:

Recommended grades: 2nd - 3rd

Miss White Had a Fright

Musical Uses

  • Act it out in small groups
  • Ask students to create an ostinato using sounds like "Eek! A ghost!" "yummy yummy" and "shhhhhhhhhhh" or whatever inspires you from this rhyme.
  • Add an intro with wind chimes, a rain stick, or any other instruments students choose
  • Add dynamics: ask students to decide which places should be quiet, and which should be loud.
  • Perform: some students speak the rhyme, some act out the rhyme, some play instruments, some speak the ostinato.

Ghost of Tom

This song also goes by the name, Ghost of John. Like many folksongs, Ghost of Tom has a shared background between more than one place. Some sources say it has its roots in Kentucky, though some have traced it to Europe. Either way, it’s a great one to use this time of year.

Upper grades who are not as easily frightened may find humor in the last line. It also has a pretty extensive range, making it great for your older students.

Recommended Grades: 3rd - 5th

Ghost of Tom

Musical Uses:

  • Sing it in a round
  • Range extension (the “oo” vowel is great for helping kids with their head voice)
  • Singing in natural minor

2. Not So Spooky Songs

If you teach in a school that doesn’t celebrate Halloween, or you have students who are easily spooked, enjoy this collection.


Five Little Pumpkins

This rhyme is darling, and perfect for young students who enjoy counting songs. Much of the song can be dictated easily, allowing you to pull target phrases out for students to analyze. The exceptions are lines with an anacrusis to the next phrase, or lines with a rest.

Recommended Grades: K - 1st.

5 Little Pumpkins

Musical Uses:

  • Rhythm vs. Beat: students track the beat by pointing to strips of pumpkins
  • Act it out
  • Give each pumpkin an instrument representation to play while the class speaks the rhyme
  • Dictate the last phrase using pumpkins placed over hearts

Who’s That?

While note technically a Halloween song, nor necessarily a fall song, I think Who’s That fits nicely into our theme. Students can recall going door to door collecting candy when you introduce this song.

To play the game, students march in a circle, with one student in the middle who has his / her eyes covered. Two others are stationed somewhere else in the classroom. One child outside the circle is assigned to sing “mammy”, the other to sing “daddy”. When the song ends the two outside students silently walk back to the circle so the child in the middle can guess whose voices he / she heard.

Recommended Grades: 2nd - 3rd

Who's That Tapping at the Window

Musical Uses:

  • Half note
  • Do - sol
  • Singing assessment
  • Add a call and response intro: the teacher “knocks at the door” (claps hands) and students give her a contrasting answer.

Big Rock Candy Mountain

The length of this song alone makes it appropriate for older grades.

There are a few versions of this song. Some have a little more detail about the main character in this song (a traveling "hobo"). I chose this version because it was the one I grew up with, and the focus is on the candy - perfect for Halloween!

Recommended Grades: 3rd - 5th.

Big Rock Candy Mountain

Musical uses:

  • Ask students to think of types of candy, and then group them by names that have the same rhythm
  • Create a contrasting B section of candy names, then put on body percussion and/or instruments.
  • Make up a new verse
  • Anacrusis
  • Dotted quarter and eighth note
  • Fa


Halloween is a really special time for our students.

These songs are perfect for meeting students where they are musically, while enjoying all the fun of Halloween!

Enjoy!

 

5 Assessment Strategies for Your Elementary Music Classroom (Assessment in the Music Room - Part 2)

Walk into an elementary music room and you're likely to see students singing, reading, playing instruments, listening, improvising, and moving. Each of these activities can give us crucial insight into how our students are learning, and how we can help them.

That insight is called assessment. 

Sure, assessments could look like students sitting with a pencil and paper, writing down responses to the teacher's questions. 

It could like students using ipads

Students working in small groups at centers

Students playing percussion instruments

It might look like dancing. . . 

Sound like singing. . . 

In short, assessment in music can - and should - look basically like a typical day in your music room.


Assessment in My Music Room

I try to take down some form of assessment in every single lesson. Many of these assessments will never make it to a grade book, but they make me so happy to look at. 

Why? 

Without these daily assessments I might forget that the student acting out and running all over the room can complete every musical task well above my expectation. 

He doesn't need to try harder to focus. He's bored. But I might forget, or never know at all, unless I've been tracking his performance. 

Daily assessments point out that the child who more or less matches pitch in March but still couldn't find her head voice in January. That's an accomplishment worth celebrating. But with all the students I see in a week I might forget how far this one student has come, or never notice her progress at all.


 

When our assessments are thoughtfully constructed and consistently implemented they give us a direct picture of our effectiveness as educators. 

 

We don't assess our students because the state says we must. We don't do it for our principals. We don't do it because it's trendy to track data.

We do it because we need to know what our students need from us.


5 Assessment Strategies for Your Elementary Music Classroom

Today I'm giving you a peek into what works for me in my classroom. These are simple assessment ideas that are easy to implement. And the best part is, you're probably doing many of them already! 

 
Assessment in Elementary Music
 

 

I know every teaching situation is different, and some schools have more tech tools available than others. However, these ideas are easily modified to fit in a variety of scenarios. 

Nearpod
 

Nearpod is a new (to me) app that allows you to post an interactive presentation across multiple screens. That could come in handy if you're at a one-to-one school where every student has an ipad. You could make a one question multiple choice quiz for an exit ticket (more on that later). 

You also could create a very simple presentation giving your students instructions to follow in centers if your class only has one ipad. Embed a recording of yourself speaking the directions or type them out, include images of what the final project should look like. . . Whatever your needs are!

Audio Recordings
 

Audio recordings could also can be used in centers if you have students practicing sight reading or sight singing. Simply have students press play on the recording device of your choice, then state their name and class, and get going! It lets you be in another part of the room, either assisting or taking grades of your own, while the students collect the data for you.


This can also be done during whole class instruction if you don't want to carry around a clipboard. Record the activity in which students are soloing and then listen back to the 5 - 10 minute clip you recorded to write down your grade. 

With careful planning this idea could actually save you a lot of time!


This idea is tried-and-true by so many music teachers, and there's a reason it works so well. The goal of a singing game is to get students to sing along in a fun, stress-free environment. 

Primary Singing Games:

Kindergarten - Good King, Leopold
What to Assess: Singing voice, speaking voice, yelling voice, whisper voice
** By the way, Anne Mileski just released a great podcast about solo singing in kindergarten with some great assessment tips.

1st Grade - Cuckoo
What to Assess: Singing voice; sol, mi; steady beat; quarter, eighth notes

2nd Grade - 'Round and 'Round
What to Assess: Singing voice, La, quarter, eighth notes

3rd Grade - Dinah
What to Assess: MRD, 16th notes

Upper Level Singing Games:

4th Grade - Big Fat Biscuit
What to Assess: Low la; dotted quarter and eighth note

5th - Liza Jane, John Kanaka, Sail Away Ladies. . . 
What to Assess: high do (Liza Jane, John Kanaka), 16th note patterns (Liza Jane, Sail Away Ladies), syncopation (Liza Jane)
Any song that has an easily dividable form can be given out as solos and made into a call-and-response activity. With your older kiddos the possibilities are endless and you can easily modify the call or response to fit your assessment needs.

 

Modifications:

  1. Most of these songs could be put on instruments - either rhythmic or melodic. Assess playing abilities just as easily as singing abilities.

  2. You could also challenge your students to play a response that they make up (still using the target element) instead of the "real" response.


This is an incredibly simple way to quickly jot down an assessment and it can be used for many operations in many different grades. 

Consider the following scenarios: 

Thumbs up, thumbs down:

  • 4th Grade: Teacher plays a new melodic phrase written on the board and asks students if she played it correctly. On the count of 3 students respond with a thumbs up (yes, you played it correctly) or thumbs down (no, that was incorrect).

  • 2nd Grade: Teacher sings a new song and asks the students if that new song uses their target element they're preparing. Give students a moment to think, sing the song again, then on the count of 3 students respond with a thumbs up (yes, I hear the mystery note) or thumbs down (no, this song doesn't use the mystery note).

Sign Language: 

  • Kindergarten: Teacher claps the rhythm to a known song and asks students if she was clapping the steady beat or how the words go. On the count of 3, students hold up W in sign language for "how the words go" and a B in sign language for the "steady beat". These signs are simple enough that kindergarten students will be able to form them without trouble.

  • 5th Grade: Students are practicing their new element: fa. The class sings known song (with fa in it) on solfege, then helps the teacher notate a phrase of the song on the staff. When the teacher asks where fa should go on the staff, students hold up the correct alphabet letter.

Numbers: 

  • 3rd Grade: Students have been preparing 16th notes. The teacher sings a known song containing 16th notes. Then students clap the rhythm to a phrase while the teacher points to 4 beat icons. When the teacher asks what beat the mystery rhythm is on, students hold up a 1, 2, 3, or 4.

 

I like to have students wait to show me their answers until the count of 3 for a few reasons: It gives students time to consider their answers before throwing a hand up. It also discourages students from just looking around at whoever had their hand up first and copying them. Once the hand goes up, it freezes like a popsicle! 

It's likely that you're already doing the visual method of assessment in some form anyway. All that's left is to jot down student responses! 

To save time in this area, sometimes I jot down only the answers of students who got the question wrong. This makes it quick, especially when most students understand the concept except for a few who need more time. (That might sound harsh but I assure you it's purely for time-saving reasons!)

If the responses are more mixed than that, I might take a quick snapshot of the class and record individual responses later.


Sometimes written assessments get a bad rep in music classes because they're not as active as dancing or playing instruments. I tend to use them sparingly, but it would be a shame to not use them at all!

Exit tickets

Exit tickets are one of the easiest ways I know to get a very quick, physical answer from the entire class. These are targeted, easy questions based on the day's lesson.

Here are some examples of exit tickets you might use in your classroom: 

  • Name one instrument in the strings family.

  • How many beats does a half note get?

  • Listen to your teacher sing this phrase. Does it have our mystery note in it? (circle yes or no)

  • What is the name of this symbol? (picture of a treble clef, quarter rest, repeat sign . . . Anything you want!)

Tracy King has some amazing tickets for sale on her TpT store. You could also have a question on the board and have students respond on post-it notes, index cards, or scratch pieces of paper. 

Worksheets

There are so many fun ways to use worksheets as assessments. If you can't think of any, enjoy the millions of ideas on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers! 

Here are just a few to get you started:

  • Students can write down short compositions that involve the target element you're practicing.

  • They could dictate new melodic or rhythmic phrase (using staff notation, solfege, or stick notation)

  • Write or draw a response to a piece of classical music - How did this music make you feel? What did it make you think of? (Note: This is would be great to use for learning tempo markings or dynamics. Play a slow, peaceful piece of music. Students can show you that they're responding to the mood of the music and later you can go back and explain that one way to make music sound peaceful is by using a largo tempo.)


Centers are another tried-and-true method of assessing students, and with good reason:

  1. They don't put kids on the spot. This is so so so important. Students who are hesitant to volunteer during whole-class instruction need a place to show what they know. If they flop when all their peers are looking at them, centers provide a lower pressure environment for those students to shine.

  2. You can differentiate! Some teachers prefer to mix up the centers groups so that lower achieving students are together with higher achieving students. The idea is that the higher achievers can help the struggling students. I actually prefer the opposite. I think that organizing students by ability carefully (so that no one sees your groupings and thinks that some kids are "good at music" or "bad at music") can do wonders for targeting different learning needs.

  3. You're free to be wherever the room needs you. If you feel that the lower achieving students might need your help completing the activity, you can be with them. If you think everyone has it under control, you can have your own center where you hear students sight sing or play instruments individually. It's a great way to work one-on-one with students.

I recommend that you fill your centers with activities you've already done as a class. This saves time giving instructions and cuts down on questions, leaving you free to work with students. From an assessment point of view, you can write down student grades knowing that this isn't the first time they've tried a particular activity. 

Track student responses to the activities by using some of the tactics mentioned above: 

  • Use technology and have students record themselves

  • Use written assessments by having students notate their own compositions

  • Use written assessments by having students dictate a phrase you've pre-recorded for them

 

But there's no time!

Centers don't need to take up the whole class period - although they certainly can if you'd like. Especially if you have a longer block with your students, you could do a welcome activity, then centers, then a whole-class practice activity with another element before you close. Repeat this structure the next time you see those kiddos so everyone has a chance at each center.



Assessments are. . . 

Assessments are informative, but limited.
They take time to execute, but save time in planning later.
The data takes time to record, but the information we receive is worth it. 

When our assessments are thoughtfully constructed and consistently implemented they give us a direct picture of our effectiveness as educators. 

Enjoy your teaching week, friends.