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  • Writer's pictureSandy Coursey

Turkey Time!: A Thanksgiving Rhythm Craft for Music Students

As the autumn leaves fall and Thanksgiving draws near, I always look for ways to bring seasonal charm to my piano lessons. This year, I'm introducing "Turkey Time" — a delightful mix of craft and rhythm that will definitely be an instant hit with my students.

What is "Turkey Time"?

"Turkey Time" is a fun activity that allows my piano students to craft their very own rhythmic turkey. Using a hand outline as the turkey’s body, students adorn it with colorful feathers, each representing a beat in 4/4 time.

Supplies You'll Need:

  1. Colored paper or cardstock in multiple shades.

  2. Scissors (though I often cut out the feathers ahead of time).

  3. Glue or tape.

  4. Markers or pencils for drawing musical notes.

  5. A student's hand to outline.

The Many Merits of "Turkey Time":

  1. Rhythmic Reinforcement: The activity provides hands-on experience with writing rhythms in 4/4 time signature.

  2. Creativity Boost: Students design rhythm patterns on colorful feathers, combining music, art, and celebration.

  3. Lesson Engagement: This seasonal activity invigorates and adds excitement to ordinary lessons.

  4. Enhanced Coordination: Crafting refines motor skills crucial for pianists and other musicians.

Blending "Turkey Time" into Individual and Group Lessons:

For Individual Lessons:

  1. Introduction: Begin with the hand outline and delve into the 4/4 time concept.

  2. Crafting Session: Students design feathers with musical notes, keeping in mind the 4/4 time constraint.

  3. Musical Play: After crafting, students tap or play the rhythm they’ve created.

For Group Lessons:

  1. Team Crafting: Students collaborate, crafting turkeys in pairs or small groups.

  2. Rhythm Games: Introduce fun games where one student showcases their rhythm while others guess or follow.

  3. Song Application: Play a 4/4 time song and students can tap their rhythms in sync with the tune. Have students line up multiple turkeys and clap them in a row!

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Feathers represent beats in 4/4 time. Ensure students understand a half note on a feather would surpass this limit.

  • While providing note choices, highlight the importance of adhering to the rhythm restrictions.

  • Encourage auditory visualization of their rhythm, offering assistance when needed.

Recommended Age Range and Accommodations

Age Recommendation: 6-12 years old.

  • Younger Students (6-8 years old): At this age, children typically possess the necessary motor skills for crafting. When it comes to the musical aspect, they might need a bit more assistance. For this group, you can simplify the rhythms, using primarily quarter and quarter rests. Visual aids and hands-on demonstrations can be particularly effective, so consider tapping out the rhythms with them.

  • Older Students (9-12 years old): These students can explore more complex rhythms and might even incorporate additional musical symbols like dynamics. Challenge them by introducing eighth notes and rests, dotted notes, or even syncopated rhythms. You could also encourage them to compose a short piece using the rhythm they've created on their turkey!

Accommodations for Various Age Groups:

  • For Younger Students: Consider pre-drawing rhythms on some feathers as examples, or have a "rhythm bank" for them to choose from. This way, students can build rhythms from a bank of options instead of composing and/or drawing without examples.

  • For Older Students: Add an element of creativity! Encourage them to create their own rhythms without any examples. You could also do rhythm dictation, where older students must transcribe the rhythm you clap for them. You can also consider having students mix triplets and eighths for a tricky exercise in subdivision!

Remember, the primary goal is to make music fun and engaging. By adjusting the complexity of the rhythms and the level of guidance you offer, you can make Turkey Time an enriching experience for all your students!

Display Their Artwork:

Once your students have completed their rhythmic turkeys, consider displaying them in your studio or classroom. It's a great way to showcase their creativity, reinforce their understanding, and add a festive touch to your teaching space.

In wrapping up, I can't wait to integrate "Turkey Time" into my lessons this November. It's a fun break from the routine and offers a hands-on approach to rhythm. If you're a fellow piano teacher searching for a seasonal twist, give it a go. See my final example below. Cheers to more creative days ahead!

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