In this holiday lesson, students will learn the old carol “Good King Wenceslas” by John Mason Neale. Many students are unfamiliar with the song, but it is a traditional carol that the students will enjoy learning and singing together.
To teach the old, traditional Christmas carol, “Good King Wenceslas.”
Each student will be able to explain the story of King Wenceslas and sing the carol “Good King Wenceslas.”
Ask the students to name some of their favorite Christmas carols. Ask them if they know the meanings of these songs. Ask what people typically do for one another at holiday time. (Make sure you get the idea of giving.)
Tell the kids that there was a song written over 160 years ago that talks about giving to the poor. It is a beautiful carol, but it takes a little bit of work to understand the lyrics. Today we will work on understanding the words, then learn to sing the carol together.
There will be no writing today!
Teach the lyrics to the carol “Good King Wenceslas.” Be sure to clarify any new vocabulary such as page, peasant, hither, monarch, etc. Do your best to find a copy of McCaughrean’s book, Wenceslas. Although you can teach the lesson without the text, the instruction will be much more effective with this book! The use of color and light is spectacular and the children will be captivated by it.
Once the kids have worked on understanding the vocabulary and understand the story, play the carol for them. The YouTube recording I have linked has the words on the screen. So, the students can sing along without having to refer to the handout.
Sing the hymn twice, having children take the part of the king and the page boy.
Emphasize the last line of the carol, “You who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.” Ask the children what that means and how it connects to the Christmas season. Wish the children a happy, happy holiday!
- Choral recording of Good King Wenceslas, found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQVUMG6LZGM
- Lyrics to Good King Wenceslas, printed on handouts for the students. You can find the printed lyrics here, http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Good_King_Wenceslas/.
- Wenceslas by Geraldine McCaughrean and illustrated by Christian Birmingham.
- Computer or ability to project the YouTube video for the children to follow.
I believe that Wenceslas by Geraldine McCaughrean and illustrated by Christian Birmingham is out of print. Be sure to purchase a used copy from a third-party vendor if you can. If not, you can still teach the lesson by using the printed lyrics found at the link in Resources above. However, it is much more effective when you have the book. The colors and illustrations are exquisite, and they will help bring this old hymn to life!
I have found that learning this song helps children solidify their understanding of the true meaning of Christmas. The language in the carol is a bit antiquated, but the children can understand it with help.
Recommended books for this lesson:
Wenceslas by Geraldine McCaughrean and illustrated by Christian Birmingham.
Wenceslas, Christmas, Blessings, Charity, Holidays, Kings, Carols