Thanksgiving Music Lesson Plan

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

This lesson helps student examine Thanksgiving songs. Students will compare and contrast Thanksgiving songs in a group activity and then create their own Thanksgiving songs using rhythm instruments.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify characteristics of Thanksgiving songs
  • identify and describe words and phrases used to convey different feelings, thoughts, and perspectives about Thanksgiving
  • compare and contrast the view of Thanksgiving in different songs
  • compose their own Thanksgiving song


1-2 hours


  • Audio recording of Over the River and Through the Woods
  • Copies of lyrics to Over the River and Through the Woods
  • Highlighters
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Audio recordings and/or copies of the lyrics for songs related to Thanksgiving
  • Rhythm instruments (optional)

Curriculum Standards


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).


Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.


  • Write the word 'Thanksgiving' on the board. Ask students to brainstorm what they think of when they hear the word 'Thanksgiving.' Record their answers.
  • Tell students they will be examining Thanksgiving music and how it reflects the feelings and history of the holiday.

Over the River and Through the Woods

  • Provide students with copies of the lyrics to the traditional Thanksgiving song, Over the River and Through the Woods, and highlighters. Play an audio recording of Over the River and Through the Woods several times and have students follow along on their lyric sheet.
  • Have students highlight words in the lyrics that make them think about Thanksgiving and describe the feelings, emotions, and activities associated with the holiday. For example, students might highlight 'hurray for the pumpkin pie' because pumpkin pie is a traditional dessert served during Thanksgiving.
  • Have students share their highlighted words and phrases.
  • Discuss how composers of Thanksgiving songs are intentional in selecting words, phrases, and musical patterns that can convey specific feelings about the holiday.

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