Deck the Halls

'Tis the season in my classroom for presentation and early practice of new rhythmic concepts.  My third graders will be learning ti-tika (and reading ti-tika in Up on the Housetop).  My fourth graders will be presented with syn-co-pa (which, total side note, I have started calling ti-ta-ti.  I've gone around and around about this.  I want them to see it as one rhythmic element that last for two beats with three sounds and syn-co-pa does a great job of this.  But I also want them to be able to read it in combinations where there might be a rest in part of the syncopation. i.e. Four White Horses, second measure).  And since this is my second year with these kiddos, we are behind and 5th grade will be learning tom-ti this coming week.  

Here's a seasonal example that they will use for practice in a couple lessons:

Of course there are two more verses, which are included in the PowerPoint below.  I'm also going to point out that I use the original text.  I do NOT change the word "gay" to anything else.  I think it's a non-musical lesson that they can learn.  I do not touch on the meaning that they are familiar with but do let them know the meaning of gay, in this context, means happy, festive clothing.

We then will read the following slides.  I use the tie when teaching many new rhythmic concepts.  They are first introduced to it in 2nd grade when they start reading half-note.  It's a great way of using familiar vocabulary and concepts to derive new ones.  With tom-ti we are learning the following critical attributes: it's two sounds on two beats, the first sound is longer and last 1.5 beats.

After tom-ti is presented they will then read the following slides to practice reading patterns with the newly learned rhythmic element:

I "might" come back to the solfége of this song after we learn ti, but right now we will not be using these slides.  Also note that there is an altered tone, fi, on the third slide.  I generally don't get to altered tones. . . . . if I only saw them more often!

I have created some flash-cards to practice tom-ti, all of which are from familiar holiday songs:

These patterns are all from "Deck the Halls"
 The first two patterns on this slide are from "Let it Snow" (note, it's anacrusic) and the second two are from "Holly Jolly Christmas" (the first is "I don't know if there'll be snow" (with the last rhythm changed from a dotted quarter note to a half-note to meet the reading need) and the second is "Oh ho, the mistletoe" & "Somebody waits for you")

Now, my good friend Tanya Lejeune came across an interesting article about how we tend to neglect songs in 3/4.  You can read that article by clicking here.  I agree with Tanya, that article was very thought provoking and I decided to add a few patterns in 3/4 that use tom-ti.

These patterns are from "Silver and Gold" (I will be posting a PowerPoint for this soon):

And these patterns are from "Silent Night".  This one might be difficult to use, depending on your school and your population's acceptance of religious music in your classroom:

I'm sorry to say I don't have a different game here, in fact, it's the same game that I used for "Up on the Housetop" but my 5th graders will be using this one.  Each student will receive a copy of the 16 cards below and will have to put them in the order of the song.

You can download the PDF of this file from Teachers pay Teachers by clicking here.

I do have a fun dance to use with "Deck the Halls" that I learned from another good friend, Loretta Harvey.  I've modified it a bit and you can use it to reinforce tom-ti.  I use a Glee recording called "Deck the Rooftop"  It's a mash-up of "Up on the Housetop" and "Deck the Halls".  It has a fun tempo that works really well and the kids have a BLAST with it.

Formation: contra dance formation (two lines, everyone facing a partner)
  1. First 16 beats:
    1. Stepping to the half-note, take four steps towards partner
    2. On the half note, pat both partners hands twice
    3. On the next four beats clap own hands three times to this pattern: tom-ti ta rest (I have my students say this, it reinforces the rhythmic concept that we're working on)
  2. Second 16 beats:
    1. Stepping to the half-note, take four steps away from partner (back to original spot)
    2. On the half note, step two times
    3. On the next four beats clap own hands three times to this pattern: tom-ti ta rest (again, it's good to have them say this)
  3. Third 16 beats:
    1. Stepping to the quarter note, do a right-arm swing (this is quick and is more like a running step)
    2. Stepping to the quarter note, do a left-arm swing (same as above)
  4. Fourth 16 beats:
    1. Same as the third set of 16 beats but the head couple walk behind their respected side of the set.  They end up at the bottom of the set and the rest of the dancers move up towards to top of the set as they are swinging their partners.
I also do this dance with my 4th graders, but instead of clapping tom-ti ta (rest) they will clap ti-ta-ti ta rest to reinforce their new rhythmic concept. 

I hope you all had a happy, healthy and restful Thanksgiving!!!


  1. I cam across your blog on Pintrest. Thanks for sharing your lesson; my 5th graders will love "Deck the Rooftop!" It will be a great song to use for dotted rhythms and syncopation.

  2. I am so excited to try this lesson and the dance! I'm wondering if you have a video of your students performing the dance since I'm having a difficult time trying to allign the moves to the music. Thank you for your help!


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