Turkey Thanksgiving Pie Activity

Happy last week of November everyone!!!  I hate to tell some of you this but we're already on break- both my husband's and my district have the entire week of Thanksgiving off.  It's kind of nice to get our heads above water (or almost to the surface) before diving down for the final bit of school before Winter Break.  He goes back to two weeks of teaching then finals week (he teaches high school social studies) and I have three different performances within 8 days plus a fundraiser field trip.

Here's a little activity that we did last week that the kids had a great time with and they were composing.  I was able to use this as an assessment. . . an assessment in the final days before vacation.  Crazy.  I know!

I made the Turkey Fraction Files (you can find them on my TpT store).  The students were divided into 5 groups- each group had 6 people and each group had one complete pie of ta, ti-ti, rest, tika-tika, ti-tika, tika-ti.  My 4th graders also had two pies with syncopa and my 5th graders had 2 pies of each tom-ti and ti-tom.

Their task was this: individually compose/create one pie (and be able to read it to me).  Here's an example of a complete pie:

Then, with their group, combine their four beats with at least two other members of their group (AND be able to read it to me).  Here's an example of that:

Then, within their group combine more than two patterns (AND be able to read it).  Here's an example of four pies:

From there, the possibilities for how they did this were endless and it was fun to see how creative some of them got.  Some groups made chains of pies:

This group chose to wind their pies in a square pattern:

This group made their pies into a circle and then read it in a round with each other (clever, huh?!):

This group was into making letters, here's their "Z":

And here's their "F":

I love what this group did: they left spaces between the four beats to represent bar lines (by the way, see the bag in the middle?  Target find, I bought 5 of them, stuck the cards into them and that's the way I distributed the cards.  The kiddos when they picked them up returned them to their bag and that was that!):

This is one of my favorites, "Angry Pie Rhythm Face".  The eye brows make four beats, each of the eyes is four beats and the smile is composed of 16 beats.

In case I don't post before Thanksgiving day, I hope you all have a happy, healthy and wonderful Thanksgiving!


  1. Hi Amy,
    I recently stumbled upon your blog and I love all the wonderful resources you offer the music education world. I am a novice music teacher myself and this year my school has been working on building units with enduring understandings and essential questions in all our courses. I have been struggling with unit building for my 5th grade music class because on one hand, I want there to be engaging activities and learning strategies, but on the other hand, I don't want it to be just about activities or learning "random" music concepts. How can we as music teachers unify all the things we teach in music into something that is systematic and sequential? So I wanted to ask you, how do you develop your yearly plans and organize what you teach into a "scope and sequence," especially for an older grade? I hope you don't mind my reaching out to you (even in this very busy season) but I have been impressed by your wisdom and insight. Thank you so much (and Happy Thanksgiving!)!

    1. Hi there!
      First of all, welcome to the world of teaching music!! It's a wonderful and amazig job!

      I know exactly what you mean: you don't want to teach random musical concepts and that's something that I've always struggled with when music teachers say they teach "units." I think units are hard when you're teaching on a spiral curriculum.

      I think it's important to remember that it's constantly building on prior knowledge. If you look at math, they have "units." For example, my son is bringing home his first grade math homework which is practicing subtraction. Every page also has some review questions with addition. As he progresses in the next few years with learning multiplication and division he needs to retain his addition and subtraction skills. Now, when you look at social studies, he's just finished a unit on Mayan civilizations but they're going to start something entirely new. What I would hope the teacher would do is look at common threads of things they learned about the Mayan civilization and be able to apply them to new learnings with their next unit but these two concepts aren't going to be as sequential as the math unit.

      I think as music teacher, our teachings are a lot like my son's math curriculum and less like the social studies (I hope this makes sense). We should always be building on their prior knowledge and constantly reinforcing previously learned concepts and skills.

      So, the way I do this is throught the Kodály methodology. If you don't have any levels of training I highly recommend it and if you can't afford it I recommend a few things: first, find your local Kodály chapter and start going to their chapter meetings and workshops. Secondly, there are some great methodology books. My favorite is the American Methodology. Susan Brumfield is coming out with a pedagogy book soon, that too will be a must have. Some other resources are the Kodály MEthod bu Lois Choksy and Kodály Today.

      When it comes to planning, for example with my 5th graders, I look at what rhythmic and melodic concepts I want them to learn. Through these I teach all other concepts: dynamics, form, partwork (rounds, partner songs, 2-3 part harmonies), etc. and I incorporate other genres of music and other musical learnings such as concert ettiquette, posture, etc.

      I pretty much follow the American Methodology for my pacing and scope and sequence. I'm not sure I answered all of your question. If not, please let me know and I'll try to clarify or answer any other questions you might have. :)

    2. Yes, thank you for your insightful answer! I will definitely look into the materials you mentioned. Thanks for taking the time to reply!


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