Learning Experience Plans

Jingling All the Way to the Inn

Objectives | Hook; Initiation; Building Inclusion | Activities / Strategies | Reflection Questions | Appreciations

Grade level: 4th or 5th

Timeframe: 1-2 class periods.
This activity can go more in depth and detailed or be more of a fun activity, depending on the grade level and needs of the students.

Download this Learning Experience Plan


CT State Social Studies Standards:

INQ 3–5.2 Identify disciplinary concepts and ideas associated with a compelling question that are open to different interpretations.

INQ 3–5.9 Use evidence to develop claims in response to compelling questions.

INQ 3–5.11 Construct explanations using reasoning, correct sequence, examples, and details with relevant information and data

INQ 3–5.13 Critique arguments.

INQ 3–5.14 Critique explanations.

CT Arts Anchor Standards:

#2 Organize and develop artistic ideas and work

#6 Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work

#8 Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work

#11 Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding

Compelling Questions Engaged:

How do songs and pop culture survive throughout history?

Lesson’s Content Objectives:

Students will:

  • Learn the history behind the song “Jingle Bells.”
  • Compare Jingle Bells to other historical songs and customs
  • Relate Jingle Bells to the painting Seven Miles to Farmington, and modern day
  • Learn elements of song structure and writing
  • Work in groups to discuss and form part of a song

Lesson Vocabulary:

One Horse Open Sleigh
A sleigh with no canopy or cover, so it is referred to as “open,” and was pulled by one horse.

An old or poetic contraction for “over,” helpful when counting syllables for poetry or songs.

Sleigh Bells
Bells, that often jiggled, were used on sleighs to indicate and warn other sleighs and people of the sleighs presence. By putting bells on the harness near the tail of the horse, they will ring every time the horse moves.

Horses would often have their tail “bobbed” meaning they would either have their tail cut or have their tail folded and tied to keep it out of the sleigh.

Fanny Bright
This could be a general term for a young woman or also specifically referencing a woman at the time.

Drifted Bank
Referring to a snow bank or snow drift that the horse got stuck in.

A poetic term that can mean both “upset” as well as “to tip or overturn” something. Since the horse got stuck in a snow bank, it is likely that the sleigh could have been overturned or tipped over, or the riders were just upset about being slowed down; either meaning works in this case.

A specific hair coat color of horses: a horse with a reddish-brown to dark brown body with a black mane, tail, and lower legs.

Two Forty
Refers to the horse traveling a mile in two minutes and forty seconds or 22.5 miles per hour.

A section of a song that is only sung once, but each verse have similar number of lines, syllables per line, and rhyming scheme.

A section of a song that is repeated throughout, often between verses and at the end of the song.

The words of a song.

The music of a song.

Lesson’s Collaborative/Social Objectives:

  • Participate fully
  • Listen attentively
  • Express appreciation of others’ ideas
  • Reflect on group interaction
  • Think constructively
  • Make group decisions
  • Respect and value different skills and opinions

Materials & Prep Required

Access to and a way to present the lyrics of “Jingle Bells” to the whole class

Paper for the students to write the “new” lyrics on

Optional: An audio recording or mp3 of the song

Read over the lyrics, history, and vocabulary to become familiar with the material used in the lesson. Since this is based on a holiday song, it may be helpful to plan this lesson sometime around the holiday season.

Hook; Initiation; Building Inclusion

How will you connect students to their prior learning or experiences?

How will you connect students to their prior learning or experiences?

Have the students sing “Jingle Bells” solely from memory.

Note how many verses or lyrics the students recall and have a brief discussion about the meaning of the song (i.e. what do the students think of when they hear the song, what is the song about, what do the lyrics mean).

After the discussion, briefly explain that the song details a sleigh race, a popular winter pastime in the 1800s. “Jingle Bells” was a sleighing song, a song which people would sing while they were sleighing (appropriately named).

Ask the students if they can think of modern-day pastimes similar to sleigh-racing, and try to think of a modern-day equivalent to a sleighing song (ie. car radio, iPod, etc.)

Hook; Initiation; Building Inclusion

Notes & Details

Facts about the Song:

James Lord Pierpont wrote the song in the 1850s, describing a sleigh race through the snow. The Durrie painting was completed around 1853. Though the extra verses are not well known (and some of the lyrics have been changed from the original) they describe the social and exciting atmosphere of a sleigh race in the 1850s. Before the invention of the automobile, sleigh racing was as popular as other winter pastimes, such as ice skating. Although it is now a popular Christmas song, it did not originate as such, and was likely a Thanksgiving song originally and was also first published under the title, “One Horse Open Sleigh.” The modern lyrics (the lyrics listed above) are actually slightly different that the original lyrics, and it is unknown who changed the lyrics from those that are known today.

Activities / Strategies

How will you have students interact with each other about the lesson content? How will students be engaged in inquiry and creativity? What assessment strategies will be employed?

History of the Song:

Now introduce the full lyrics of the song. Try to read or sing through the whole song with the class. As they read/sing along, they will likely find words or terms they do not know. The attached lyrics highlight the terms or words used in the song that are not well known.

After reading or singing, you can then go through the terms with the students and any questions they have with them. Try to have them figure out the meanings of the words through inquiry and the context of the song.

Break the class into groups and assign a group of students to a specific verse (one group to the first verse, one group to the chorus, one group the second verse, etc… only one group needed for the chorus obviously).

Each group will find the words that rhyme in the verse or that make the verse sound musically pleasing. Also have the groups count the syllables in each line of the verse, and then compare with other groups to see if they can discover why the words sound good together, and if there are any patterns.

Making Connections to the Durrie Painting:

Tell your students to imagine that the sleigh race in “Jingle Bells” ends at the inn in Durrie’s painting. Break the students back into groups (can use the same groups as before) and tell the students to write a fifth verse of jingle bells, incorporating as many aspects of the painting that they can, and trying to stay in tune with the melody of the song.

Finished verses should have 8 lines with the correct amount of syllables, and match the ABAB CDCD rhyme scheme.

After everyone is finished, each group can sing their verse to the rest of the class.

Question and Relate:

Ask the students why they think that this song became popular, while other songs from that time period may not have.

How can forms of media and visualization (such as Durrie’s painting) memorialize certain customs like sleigh riding and sleigh songs?

Follow this question by asking students why they think only part of the song is commonly remembered, instead of the whole song?

Are there other songs or customs that we identify with from the past that still exist today (i.e. Star Spangled Banner, snowball fights (Boston Massacre), etc.).

Have students discuss these questions in their groups and then bring the discussion to the whole class, to debate/decide if there is a commonly agreed upon or best answer.

Activities / Strategies

Notes & Details

Lyrics to “Jingle Bells”

[Verse 1]
Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bobtail ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight!

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way.
Oh! what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way;
Oh! what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.

[Verse 2]
A day or two ago
I thought I’d take a ride
And soon, Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side,
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
He got into a drifted bank
And then we got upsot.


[Verse 3]
A day or two ago,
The story I must tell
I went out on the snow,
And on my back I fell;
A gent was riding by
In a one-horse open sleigh,
He laughed as there I sprawling lie,
But quickly drove away.


[Verse 4]
Now the ground is white
Go it while you’re young,
Take the girls tonight
and sing this sleighing song;
Just get a bobtailed bay
Two forty as his speed
Hitch him to an open sleigh
And crack! you’ll take the lead. 


What’s the rhyme, meter, and pattern in the verse?

The song’s verses have a rhyming system known as alternate rhyme, where each final word (or End Rhymes) in alternating pair of lines ends in a rhyme. The rhyme scheme is known as ABAB CDCD.

Line 1: Dash/ing/through/the/snow (5 syllables)
Line 2: In/a/one/horse/op/en/sleigh (7 syllables)
Line 3: O’er/the/fields/we/go (5 syllables)
Line 4: Laugh/ing/all/the/way (5 syllables)
Line 5: Bells/on/bob/tail/ring (5 syllables)
Line 6: Mak/ing/spi/rits/bright (5 syllables)
Line 7: What/fun/it/is/to/ride/and/sing (8 syllables)
Line 8: A/sleigh/ing/song/to/night! (6 syllables)


Observe how the students sing the song and question the lyrics

Observe and listen to the questions that arise from the song

Listen to interactions between students concerning the rhyming, pattern, and details of the song

Review their final verse of the song based off of the painting, Seven Miles to Farmington.

Observe how well they relate Jingle Bells to other popular customs and songs from the past.

5 minutes

Reflection Questions


[Use content questions from above “Question and Relate”]


How did your group work together to create a new song verse?


How did you contribute to the work of your group?

Reflection Questions

Notes & Details

Reflection questions can be done in a variety of ways: whole group share; partner share; written response via an “exit slip” (as examples).

2 minutes


Invite appreciations. “What did you notice about our work together today?”