How to Get Students to Gobble Up the Beat

How to Get Students to Gobble Up the Beat

The funny thing about Thanksgiving is that I don’t even eat Turkey!  But, I do like turkey songs and activities-especially for the Kinders and First Graders. Watching them pretend to be turkeys during some of the activities is worth all the gobbling. Playing the steady beat in Kindergarten and developing rhythm, melody, improvisation and composition skills in grades K-6 provides lot’s of opportunities for integrating Native American, Turkey, and Thanksgiving resources into my music class lessons. It’s also the perfect time to bring out all the instruments and have the students practice playing too. To me, it’s easy to teach the standards through the month of November because there’s so many different, songs, activities and games that will help my students. And, that’s how I get students to gobble up the beat.

Sometimes I will use one song across grade levels. I’ll use the song to teach and have my students learn different skills.When I’m traveling to different schools, it helps me because then I can use the same visuals for all the grades and focus on the different concepts.   One song I’ve used this way is “Five Fat Turkeys”.  I’ve adapted this song for lessons K-6 by using the song as a springboard to teach different concepts to each grade level. Here’s a break down of how I use this song K-6. If you’d like a copy of this Resource, just sign up for the newsletter and you’ll have access to the FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY.  Here’s an idea of how I use the lesson for different grade levels.

Kinder: Steady Beat, Creative Movement

First Grade: Rhythm and Beat, Creative Movement

Second Grade: Notating half notes, Melody, Bass and Rhythmic Ostinato, Creative Movement

Third Grade: Melody, Bass and Rhythmic Ostinato, Rhythmic Improvisation

Fourth Grade: Melodic Improvisation

Fifth Grade: Ukulele Chords

Sixth Grade: Guitar Chords


I’ve included quite a bit of resources in this one product. There are teaching lessons for Beat, Rhythm, Melody, Bass, Ostinato, Guitar and Ukulele chords. There’s also ideas for puppets with clip art to help you make headbands or puppets for students to use as they learn the concepts.

Begin with an easy chant or song. Here’s the one I’m using- “Five Fat Turkeys” and old time favorite.  I changed the melody just a bit so that it doesn’t go too low. Some might want to raise the pitch of the key-but I also use it for Guitars and they are learning C-F-G7 chords.

Demonstrate the beat using the beat chart as you chant.  You’ll love the beat practice in the video. The turkeys appear on the beat. I know my kinders will love this feature. See the Video here: “Five Fat Turkeys” Music Lesson Teaching Video   But you’ll want to keep on reading for some more ideas on how to use this resource in your music classroom.


Echo teach the chant as students pat the beat.  For First and Second Graders-teach the rhythms by tapping or pat and clapping.


Teach the cute little actions and have students perform for you.

Sometimes I teach the melody-sometimes I just use the chant with the Kinders.  When I teach a new song or chant, I like to give the students opportunities to perform for each other. I will have all the boys sit in a line and watch the girls perform and then switch. I’ll also have each row or a small group of students perform for the class. This type of activity really builds their confidence and gives them many opportunities to memorize the chant. Here is a video of the lesson resources. I added in a singing track-I like to use videos because they really save my voice!


I also like to give them some “free” play time. I’ll choose 5 -8 students to be the turkey’s as the other students stand in the circle and say the chant. Then the turkey’s choose someone to take their place. This way everyone get’s a turn to be a “turkey” and students get more practice time.
Now they are ready to sit down and play instruments. I have a special way that the students get their instruments. I have the instruments in one place in the room. The students walk around the circle and pick up their instrument. They keep walking in the circle until they can get to their spot easily. We practice this procedure a couple of times and then it’s very easy for the students to get instruments and be ready to play quickly. I also teach them to put their instruments on the floor:

Instruments are not toys.

They make music-NOT noise!


After we play rhythms, the students are ready to move to xylophones in the next class. I will have Kinders take turns playing C on the beat as the other students say the chant (or sing).  This is an easy Orff arrangement that 2nd and 3rd graders can play. I think you could add some improvisation for your 3rd and 4th graders. What happens when the cook comes around?  What happens at the end of the story?  I hear some fun rhythms and melodies for celebrating their “turkey freedom”!



Depending on the class I am teaching-I will use different ways to play instruments. The students love to play the picture rhythms. Kinders mainly play the steady beat cards and the First Graders play the mixed cards. Second graders play the mixed cards and I also have another group play drums on the steady beat. Or, I will have them play C/G on the steady beat . Fourth graders can make up melodic phrases. I have them work in a small group. One student makes up the melodic phrase, one student plays the beat on a bass xylophone, one student plays an ostinato (using a different card). Students can also improvise as other’s play the beat and ostinato parts. This activity is great in a station.
















My guitar students like to play easy to learn songs. It helps them build confidence and skills to move towards more difficult songs. The students in my classes are happy to gobble up “Five Fat Turkeys”. I use the beat icons to help them play the chords on the beat and practice switching chords. If there’s time, we’ll add in a Bass xylophone and some rhythm instruments to create an ensemble.


Although this song is very familiar to many of us- I’ve found the students don’t actually know it at all. I also know that they love to make music and be challenged. What ways will you use this in your classroom?  How will you adapt it across your grade levels? I’d love to hear your ideas.
Thanks for reading!


 My students are super charged during November and December because of all of the holidays. I like to keep my students busy in class for several reasons. I feel that they are less likely to make a poor choice when they are busy, and I feel like the more differentiated types of activities they can participate in, the better chance they have of understanding a concept. From Kindergarten to 6th Grade I also use station activities to help students understand and internalize the concept of beat, rhythm, melody and pitch. You can find those ideas here: “November Music Class Stations”.  
Thanks for the cute clip art!
Happy Gobbling!
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