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Singing and Sketching the 12 Days of Christmas

Why sing "The Twelve Days of Christmas"? Why are there 12 days, anyway? And why so many birds? Use this familiar song to count down to the holidays!

  • Grade 2
    Grade 3
    Grade 4
  • 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Directions

    1. The Twelve Days of Christmas is a very popular winter holiday song. Ask students if they think it might have started as a memory game like "I Packed My Bag," where you remember what other players packed and then add your own new verse.
    2. Some historians think that some of today’s song words aren’t the original ones. Colly bird (black as coal, blackbirds) has become calling birds, and five golden rings (meaning ring-necked birds such as pheasants) now are assumed to be circles that go around fingers. The original words meant that the first seven gifts were all birds! Whatever its origins, the sentiment of giving gifts to your true love around this season is lovely.
    3. Suggest that students work in collaborative groups to try and change the song’s words to fit their current lives. Make a list of gifts to give to those you love. Figure out the number of syllables in each line so you can substitute words that fit the song’s rhythm. Here’s how to make your own "12 Days of Christmas" accordion-fold book or card.
    4. With Crayola® Scissors, students cut front and back covers for your book from posterboard. Make it slightly larger than the paper you plan to use.
    5. With a Crayola Glue Stick, attach one end of construction paper to the back of the front cover. Fold down the sheet of paper to fit inside the covers. Continue folding the paper accordion-style and gluing on more paper until you have pages for all 12 days plus any extras for a personal message. Glue the last page to the back cover. Fold up and air-dry the book under a weight.
    6. Students decorate the cover and pages using Crayola Metallic Colored Pencils. On each page write the number and the gift. Keep the pages spread flat as you fill them with your words and gift illustrations.
    7. For a final festive touch, encourage students to use Crayola Super Sparkle Glitter Glue to highlight on each page. Air-dry the glue with the book’s pages spread out.
  • Standards

    LA: Engage in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Conduct short research projects that build knowledge.

    LA: With guidance and support from adults produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

    LA: Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as experssions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Give examples of and explain group and institutional influences such as religious beliefs, laws, and peer pressure, on people, events, and elements of culture.

    MATH: Understand place value.

    VA: Use art materials and tools in a safe and responsible manner.

    VA: Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

  • Adaptations

    Individually or in small groups, students can create an original song, based on an actual holiday or a celebration made up by the group which incorporates a mathematical concept and the celebration. Students/groups present their original work to their classmates. Student groups may video-tape their presentation for viewing. Classmates evaluate peer work using a teacher/student created rubric.

    Invite a songwriter to speak with students about the process of creating a song. Prior to the visit, students prepare and organize questions for the musician. After the interview, students summarize their learning. If the songwriter is unavailable to come into the classroom, schedule an interview using Skype.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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