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Kid Music Series: Fall Harvest Songs

Updated on April 12, 2017

Now I Walk in Beauty


'Tis the Season to Be Fall-y

I'm a sucker for tradition when it comes to Thanksgiving time. Everything down to the pickle and olive server my mother only brings out once a year. I believe that celebrating a year of bounty with loved ones gets even the most jaded of us participating (and maybe even smiling about it too). Whether a good or bad year, we all want to come together.There's the food of course and um...well, the food. There's sports on TV and games, but most of all, there is visiting with people you don't see very often.

With autumn being my favorite time of year, this is a happy time for me. I enjoy the crispness of the air, the crunch of the leaves, the cooler nights. Fall is time for school, Halloween and warmer clothes.

Lift Our Voice

Like most parts of the world, The United States has a long tradition of harvest songs. Ours stem from the hymns sung by Pilgrims up to the secular folk songs that remind us of the old farm. Did you know that Jingle Bells was a song originally written for Thanksgiving?

My second graders had their yearly assembly in the fall. I chose songs that you could say were very 'Americana,' songs that reminded us of the Pilgrims and Native Americans. I chose songs that were also an important part of our oral history.


Song 1: Medicine Wheel Chant

This circle game with pantomime is called the Medicine Wheel Chant. Medicine Wheels were stone structures built by Native Americans for spiritual and ceremonial purposes. In more modern days, the Medicine Wheel has grown to signify the Great Wheel or Cycle of Life. Finding a recorded version was difficult. The only CD reference I have, Revels Celebration of Spring Summer & Fall, which is no longer available. John Langstaff also performed this song with a class for a video called Making Music With Children.

Check the link section to hear me sing Medicine Wheel Chant at Sound Cloud.


The Game

Students stand in a circle while the soloist sings the first part and moves around the inside of the circle like the animal they are singing about. Then the Group sings the second part while the soloist continues moving. In the third part, everyone moves with the soloist imitating his or her movement. Then a new soloist is picked with a different animal and they start again.

Song 2: Simple Gifts

This song, written in 1848, is from a group of people called the Shakers who came to the United States looking for religious freedom. Simple Gifts talks about living life simply, to dress and behave in a modest manner. It's become popular to sing Simple Gifts around Thanksgiving so it also has grown to mean giving thanks for what we have. The Shakers would shake and dance to this tune!


Song 3: Que Llueva Que Llueva

(It's Raining It's Raining)

Que Llueva is a game song from Mexico. The game is a way to divide a group into two teams. Like London Bridge, the students hold hands in a circles and move while singing. Two students are the 'bridge.' On 'que si,' they bring the bridge down over a student. On 'que no,' they release them. On the word 'chaparron,' they bring the bridge down again. That person is caught and goes to one team's side. The game is repeated and the next person goes to the other team's side. Eventually everyone is on a team and them then play Pull the Rope. Although more of a spring song, the words qualify as a true Thanksgiving for rain.

Check the link section to hear me sing Que Ilueva at Sound Cloud.


Song 4: Land of the Silver Birch/My Paddle

These Canadian songs are Native American melodies with inspired descriptive wording . The lyrics speak with a great reverence for nature. Although they are separate songs in their own right, combining them brings an extra beauty to the listening experience.


Songs 1-4 Beautiful rendition of Simple Gifts by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

This is a different version of Que Llueva than the one I learned. But it's a nice one done by children's folk singer Jose-Luis Oroczo.

Land of the Silver Birch. A wonderful performance by a sweet voice.

Here's My Paddle done as a round.


Song 5: The Riddle Song

Most of you have heard this Appalachian (Appa lach an) Mountain Song. Originally from England, it was brought over to the new world by immigrants. Many people have recorded and sung this song. See if you can remember the answers before reading them at the end!


Song 6: Now I Walk in Beauty

This is a Navaho Song that is open to many interpretations. The following is the Native American meaning. I Walk in Beauty means to walk in your truth, to be at one with the natural world and the spirit world. It reflects on the thought that beauty is all around us-- if we can see it.


Song 7: Great Big House in New Orleans

This song was written for a type of activity called a Play-Party. A play-party was a form of entertainment that could include song, dances and games. Some American settlements in the past restricted dancing and instruments like the fiddle. Play parties were a way to still have fun in a more modest way.


Song 8: The Turkey Ran Away

I like using an autoharp to strum along while singing this song. Children enjoy making up more verses and joyfully belting out the lyrics. This puts us in a festive move for Turkey Day (or Tofu Turkey Day)!


Recommended Recordings


Medicine Wheel Chant - Making Music With Children (Ages 7 - 11) [VHS] with John Langstaff. This has the Medicine Wheel Chant and other songs. Only on VHS. Some schools still have a VCR. At least mine did.


Simple Gifts - Simple Gifts: Shaker Chants and Spirituals - The Boston Camerata with Others. The performances in this CD are done a cappella, just like they were originally sung in the latter 1800’s.


Now I Walk in Beauty - Madrigals of Sbha - Earth Chants. I chose this version for the simple production.


Great Big House in New Orleans - Jill Trinka - The Little Black Bull Jill Trinka is a music historian and academic heavy weight. She collects American folk songs and sings them authentically.


Turkey Ran Away - Josh and the Jamtones - Jump Up! I just love this goofy version. The food is chosen playfully and with humor.


Shoo Turkey - Bessie Jones - Put Your Hand on Your Hip and Let Your Backbone Slip: Songs and Games from the Georgia Sea Islands. We are so fortunate to have recordings of Bessie Jones singing the songs she grew up with on the Georgia Sea Islands.

Shoo Turkey - The Moving Star Hall Singers - Been in the Storm Too Long. Another set of recordings, this time from the St John Islands in Georgia.

Have You Seen My Cow - Ella Jenkins - You’ll Sing a Song and I'll Sing a Song. Ella Jenkins made her own version of ShooTurkey called Have You Seen My Cow.


Aiken Drum - Raffi - The Singable Songs Collection. Raffi's warm personality makes his performances appealing and delightful.

RIDDLE SONG (I Gave My Love a Cherry)

I Gave My Love a Cherry (arr. for male voice choir) - Rossendale Male Voice Choir - The Valley of Song. The plaintive quality to the performance is just perfect.

Songs 5-8 on Video Students singing and doing the play party Great Big House. Lots of fun!

Another version of the play party Great Big House.

Voice and harp always sound beautiful. Here is another version of the Riddle Song.

Libana: I absolutely love how the Walk in Beauty song weaves in and out while the round is sung.

Song 9: Shoo Turkey

This is a great call and response song. First the teacher sets it up by talking about a barnyard and how the turkeys move. Students then learn how to 'shoo' a turkey by moving their hands and arms in front of them to make the turkeys scoot into the barn. Students practice the movements of either a shooer or a turkey while singing "Shoo turkey, shoo, shoo!" Then when in a circle, The teacher explains the next part of the song. The teacher will sing a question and their response to the call is "Yes Ma'am!" Alternative: When saying "Yes Ma'am!" the students can take one step forward with chin in the air and say it in a sassy way. After the call and response, they move clockwise either as a turkey or a turkey-shooer and sing, "Shoo turkey, shoo, shoo!" Step It Down on Google Books. This is a wonderful academic reference book for African-Amercian songs that developed during the 19th Century in the South. Includes Shoo Turkey.


Song 10: Aiken Drum

This song favorite is perfect for Thanksgiving time because it’s all about food! After we learn the verses that come with it, the children and I take turns choosing what body part is made up of which food. Kids love coming up with funny combinations (his fingers are french fries, his nose is a pickle, his belly button is made of a cherry). For more information, you can refer to my article Make A Fall Harvest Man.

Had a Little Rooster
Had a Little Rooster

Academic Researcher and Musicians, John Feieraband and Jill Trinka produced a wonderful collection. Aiken Drum is included.

Shoo Turkey
Shoo Turkey

We are so fortunate to have recordings of Bessie Jones singing the songs she grew up with on the Georgia Sea Islands.


Songs 9 and 10 on Video A great assembly version of Shoo Turkey.

Aiken Drum performed by Kid Zone.

Harvest Time Song for Sukkot

used with permission for educational purposes only
used with permission for educational purposes only | Source

Sukkot is a seven day Jewish Holiday in the Fall that celebrates the sheltering of farmers as they work diligently to harvest their crops. In ancient days, they would make huts near the fields and eat their meals in the huts so that they could keep on working. In modern times, families and congregations make sukkots in their yards, decorate them and then eat at least one meal in them. Some use branches and cloth, to make tents. Children are very involved in the making of the sukkot, the decorating and of course the eating!

Here is a song for Sukkot. The notation in this image is by Tracy Tenser. The English translation by L. Koulish.


1 In the meadow, as we--walk, Wheat is ripening on the--stalk. Wield the scythe and cut the grain, Autum seasons' here a--gain.(refrain)

2 Draw the water from the--well, See the fruits of harves--swell, Build the sukkah tall and strong, Join our hands in dance and --song.(refrain)

What songs have I missed?

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