Sinterklaas or Nikolaus?

In our family, we celebrate both Sinterklaas and Nikolaus. But what’s the difference? Well, I did not grow up with either one, so I’ve been learning about them both since my kids were born 🙂  Here’s what I understand….

Sinterklaas is Dutch. He lives in Spain with his many helpers, the zwarte pieten. They help him with all the preparations, and each one has a specific job. They do not make the toys, as Santa’s elves do. I understand that there has been controversy over the “black Petes” because they wear blackface when they dress up. One solution has been to change it to colored Petes, so now they have vibrant faces in all colors.

In mid-November, Sinterklaas travels by boat with many Petes to the Netherlands. You can always see his arrival on the news that night! He docks in a different port each year. He visits children in the schools. And any time after he arrives, children may put out a shoe (just one! you don’t want to look greedy!) and some carrots for his horse. In the morning they will find it filled with treats.

Some time on December 5th, the presents arrive. The Petes help with the deliveries, and often they have a lot of fun being sneaky with their deliveries. And of course, they are never seen! Perhaps a doorbell rings, and when the children open the door, there are the presents! Or if you live in an apartment building, maybe they will be left on a deck! This is the day when children get their presents, as there is not delivery on the 25th.

In our house, the Petes always prepare a scavenger hunt for the kids to find their gift. This year, they were super sneaky! They even used my wrapping paper to wrap one of the gifts! And since they know we get a visit from Santa, too, they only bring something small – usually an ornament.

Here are some toys of Sinterklaas that we have:

On the left is a Pakjesboot with Sinterklaas in it. On the right is the Playmobil toy. You can see that the boat is a steam boat. And Sinterklaas rides a white horse. Can you see the zwarte piet in the back of the boat on the left?

Now if you buy a Playmobil Nikolaus toy, you will get the same figure on a horse! But no boat. So I guess they do look alike!

As far as I know, there isn’t quite as much to the German story of Nikolaus. On the evening of the 5th, children clean their boots and put one out. When they wake up in the morning, there are treats (nuts, mandarines, chocolates) and maybe a small present.

Some families tell of how Nikolaus travels with Knecht Ruprecht, who is responsible for the naughty children. He might leave a switch or lumps of coal in their shoes instead of sweets. In other traditions, they are accompanied by Krampus, a horned, goat-like creature who terrorizes the naughty children or might carry them away in his sack. (They are not, however, to be confused with the Dutch zwarte piet. The Petes are friendly and mischievous.) We don’t talk about Ruprecht or Krampus in our house 🙂

In our house Sinterklaas and Nikolaus must communicate in some way. Because one of them brings an ornament and the other brings holiday pajamas. But you never know who will bring which one! Sinterklaas usually brings a little toy (like a small box of Legos) and some Dutch treats, like stroopwafel and peppernote. Nikolaus just brings sweets – like lollipops (since Froggy isn’t too fond of chocolate) – and the ornament or pajamas.

How do you celebrate Sinterklaas or Nikolaus??

Nikolaus und die drei Töchter (eine Legende)

Today I was finally back in 1st & 2nd grade. We’re a few days late for Nikolaus, but that’s okay. I started the lesson off with a story, of course! This time, it was the story of Nikolaus and the three daughters and how he helped them by throwing sacks of gold through their window, so that they could be married. Here is the story I told:

Nikolaus und die drei Töchter: eine Legende

Vor langer, langer Zeit lebte ein lieber Mann. Der Mann hieß* Nikolaus. Er hatte ein großes Haus. Er hatte viele schöne Sachen. Er hatte viel Geld. Er war ein reicher Mann.

Aber Nikolaus war traurig. Er war allein. Er hatte keine Familie. Er war nicht glücklich. Sein Geld machte ihn nicht glücklich.

In seiner Stadt wohnte ein anderer Mann. Dieser Mann hatte drei Töchter. Der Mann hatte keine Arbeit. Und er hatte kein Geld. Er war arm. Weil er kein Geld hatte, konnten seine drei Töchter nicht heiraten.

Nikolaus wusste von diesem Problem. Er wollte helfen.

In der Nacht warf Nikolaus einen kleinen Sack durch das Fenster. Am nächsten Morgen fand eine Tochter den kleinen Sack in ihrem Schuh. Der Sack war voller Gold! Jetzt konnte die erste Tochter heiraten!

Am nächsten Morgen fand die zweite Tochter einen kleinen Sack voller Gold. Jetzt konnte die zweite Tochter auch heiraten!

Am nächsten Morgen fand die dritte Tochter einen kleinen Sack voller Gold. Jetzt konnte die dritte Tochter auch heiraten!

Nikolaus hat die Familie geholfen*! Und er wollte andere Leute auch helfen. Endlich war Nikolaus glücklich!

Ende.

You can download a PDF of the story here: Nikolauslegende printable – GitA (I pieced together and simplified the story using some online sources. You can find them listed in the PDF printable.)

We did a few different activities after I told the story. I made up some worksheets to go with some of the vocabulary from the story. I decided to focus on the opposites: glücklich – traurig, Nacht – Tag, groß – klein, reich – arm.

You can download the PDFs here: Nikolaus Opposites Arbeitsblatt – GitA 2017

I also taught them the traditional Nikolaus song: “Lasst uns froh und munter sein”.  Do you know it? Here is the first verse:

Lasst uns froh und munter sein
Und uns recht vom Herzen freuen
Lustig, lustig, tra la la la la
Bald ist Nikolausabend da
Bald ist Nikolausabend da!

I gave out my coloring page with a picture of Nikolaus and the first verse to the children to color. You can find it in this post.

I decided to give them the riddle, Das Haus vom Nikolaus, as well, where you have to draw the house in 8 lines without lifting  your pencil! You can find the download in this post.

Our main activity was a boot-lacing craft. First the children decorated the boot with silver crayons. I brought them in special 🙂  Then they laced the black construction-paper boots with red yarn and glued red pom-poms at the top for fur.

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All the instructions along with the boot template can be found in this post.

We actually did the boot-lacing project first. Then I gave them hand-outs to work on after they finished their boots.

Das ist das Haus vom Nikolaus

Nikolaus Day has come and gone. It’s a VERY busy time of year in our house – Sinterklaas arrives on the 5th, Nikolaus on the 6th, and we have a birthday on the 7th. Lots going on! So I’m a little late with this post. But perhaps you can tuck it away for next year. Or what the heck – it’s still the holidays! Go ahead and play this little game any time in December!

Do you know the riddle of the house from Nikolaus? It’s technically a math problem. You have to draw his house in 8 strokes without lifting your pencil. And that makes one stroke for each syllable: Das ist das Haus vom Ni – ko – laus! Is it challenging? Perhaps. But there are actually 44 different ways to solve the puzzle!

Das Haus vom Nikolaus GitA-page-001

I made up this little worksheet for my 1st & 2nd graders to try it out. There is the example of the house at the top. Then there are the dots to connect at the bottom. It’s fun to try out different paths!

You can download the document here: Das Haus vom Nikolaus – GitA

Want to see all 44 ways to draw the house? Check out the cool GIF file from Wikimedia below…

I’ll be teaching a lesson on Nikolaus tomorrow. I’m telling the class one of the legends about Nikolaus in German. Then we’ll do a lacing boot activity. Check out my post from last year for instructions on the boots!

Viel Spaß!

Tea Time Advent Calendar

I just love the holidays! I get so excited, I tend to take on too much. But I love it all!

One major part of celebrating the holidays is counting down to Christmas. That means advent calendars. Not just one. No, in our house, we have seven. Yup, you read that right. Seven!

1. There is the German word-a-day paper chain calendar. You can make one, too. Check out this post from last year with all the details on how-to and downloadable templates.

2. My favorite is probably the advent calendar my mom made before I was born. It’s made from felt with 25 pockets and little felt objects to pin on a felt Christmas tree. It’s a real family heirloom now.

3. We have a Playmobil advent calendar.

4. And last year I took a holiday Lego set and made it into an advent calendar, too. Each day, the kids get a few new pieces to add to the project. It goes in order of the building steps. But someone told me of an idea of taking a set and just separating the pieces randomly. The kids can build their own creations each day. And on the final day, they get the instructions to build the actual set. Fun!

5. AP4 made a cute calendar for the kids. She took two pieces of cardstock and glued them together. The top piece is one big picture. She cut the “windows” out of that and numbered them. The piece behind it has clues to a fun activity she will do with the kids after the holidays. We’ll see when they figure it out!

6. Last year, the mother of AP3 sent us a musical advent calendar. There is a different holiday song to be played each day! And you can switch between German and English! It’s really cool!

7. Finally, I make a teabag advent calendar for our au pair. Each day has a different teabag! It’s a bit of a challenge for those who prefer to drink tea without caffeine. But I keep a pretty good stash of various teas in the house. Then I raid my mom’s stash 🙂  And I fill in with whatever variety packs I can find.

I made the teabag advent calendar with a small bulletin board. I wrapped it in pretty red, holiday-printed fabric. My mom helped me stretch it over the board and staple it down using a staple gun. Two sets of hands were definitely better one for this job! I found vellum envelopes and 2-and-a-half-inch round labels at Paper Source. I bought some holiday number stickers online, but you can also make your own. I found some pretty holiday number printables online last year, too. I put the round labels onto the envelopes before I applied the numbers. The numbers showed up better that way, and the labels also helped to hide the flavor of the teabag. The teabags fit snugly into the little envelopes. Then I used straight pins with colored balls on the end (I just used red and white) to tack the bags onto the board.

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2017-11-30 14.03.25

I’m a little sad this year that I did not do a book-a-day. I used to take our Christmas books – including the Dutch Sinterklaas books, the German Nikolaus books, and the German Christmas books – and wrap them up, so the kids would have a book each day to read. I did not buy all new books! I just wrapped the ones we already had.

Teaching Colors with Elmar dem Elefanten

I’ve had a hard time teaching colors to my pre-K/kindergarten class in the past. I needed a book that had something of a story to hold the children’s interest and more importantly, I needed a color song.

For the book, I am going to try out Elmar mag alle Farben by David McKee (Thienemann-Esslinger, 2015). (If you are familiar with these books in English, you’ll notice that the spelling is different: Elmer with an “e” in English, Elmar with an “a” in German.)

It’s very simple, which I really like. But it isn’t just page after page of Elmar mag rot … Elmar mag blau … und, und, und. It isn’t exactly a story, but each set of pages tells a kind of mini story. For example: “Der Schneemann ist weiß. Sein lila Schal hält ihn warm.” Nice and simple, but still interesting.

Elmar mag alle Farben

Before I get to the book, however, I need to introduce the colors. I made a rainbow out of felt pieces that stack on top of each other. That way, I can introduce each color individually, but I can also stack them up to make my rainbow. Now if only I had remembered to get myself a felt board! I’ll have to improvise a little here 🙂

I still have not found a simple song to teach the colors. So I finally came up with my own! It’s to the tune of “Ten Little Indians” and just repeats the colors:

rot, orange, gelb, grün, blau, lila
rot, orange, gelb, grün, blau, lila
rot, orange, gelb, grün, blau, lila
in dem Regenbogen

Just make sure you sing the word “orange” on two notes (one for each syllable). I’ll keep my felt rainbow out to point to the colors as we sing it. Easy peasy!

I always end with a book and then an activity – usually a coloring sheet. So I made up a very simple checkered Elmar coloring page to include all six colors.

 

Elmar Farben GitA-page-001

Each of the colored crayons points to a box to color in, so that Elmar ends up looking like a checkered rainbow.

You can download the coloring page here: Elmar Farben GitA

Viel Spaß!

Martinstag in the Classroom: Part 3

As I mentioned in a recent post, I love teaching about Martinstag, because it embodies the spirit of giving and selflessness. In the past, I’ve taught about Martin in the German story hour and in the pre-k/kindergarten class. This year I finally got to bring it into the 1st and 2nd grade class. Each class is a little bit different. In this post I’ll tell you about what we do …

in Pre-K/Kindergarten…

This is also a mixed class of pre-k and kindergarten children, ages 2 1/2 to 6! I’m always amazed at how well it works to mix the ages of the children. The older ones make good models for the younger ones!

This year, however, we have a lot of younger ones. So after teaching my Martinstag lesson “upstairs” in 1st/2nd grade, I knew I had to make things extra clear and simple for the younger children.

I began by telling the story of Martin in English, using the same book I had used with 1st/2nd: Das erste Buch von Sankt Martin by Erwin Grosche (Gabriel Verlag, 2017)

Martin

I had the story written out in English, but I only used it as a reference. I know it well enough by now! This book actually leaves out the more religious aspect of the tale – that the beggar was Christ, who later came to Martin in a dream. As we are not a religious school, I don’t feel comfortable teaching that part of the story. I focus mainly on Martin’s kind and generous nature.

Next I used the word posters to teach the words from “Laterne, Laterne”. This year I brought our au pair along to help with the lantern project. She also helped me by holding the Mond and Sterne, so the children could see all four images at once. It was much easier than me trying to flip through them as we sang!

You can download the posters – with or without words – in this previous post, Der gute Martin.

I just taught them the first half of the song. Then AP4 and I sang the rest of it (Brenne auf mein Licht, brenne auf mein Licht, aber nur meine liebe Laterne nicht). The children tried to follow along, and it sounded quite nice!

Finally it was time to make our paper lanterns. You can read more specifically about that part of the lesson and download the instructions and template here. I broke it down into simple steps and had samples of each step to show the children. They had three things to do:

  1. color the paper with the sun, moon, and stars (I print it on yellow paper, so it looks like it’s glowing!)
  2. fold the paper in half along the dotted line
  3. cut the “fringe” along the dotted lines

The teachers, AP4, and I did the stapling part to assemble the lanterns.

It was such a successful lesson!

Then we got to parade around the classroom and into the front hall. The children really enjoyed that part of it.

I decided not to use Story Listening and tell the fairy tale of the Sterntaler for this lesson. I wanted to be sure they knew the story of Martin and why we make the lanterns. And of course, they needed to learn the song for our little parade!

So that’s it! All three versions of my Martinstag lessons for 2017!

Viel Spaß!

Martinstag in the Classroom: Part 2

As I mentioned in a recent post, I love teaching about Martinstag, because it embodies the spirit of giving and selflessness. In the past, I’ve taught about Martin in the German story hour and in the pre-k/kindergarten class. This year I finally got to bring it into the 1st and 2nd grade class. Each class is a little bit different. In this post I’ll tell you about what we do …

in 1st & 2nd Grade…

This is a mixed class of 22 students. I couldn’t just jump right in with books and songs, like I did in Story Hour. Instead, I started with the story of Sterntaler. The children were outraged that the poor girl was all alone! And then shocked when she kept giving everything away! They were right with me the whole time 🙂  My board looked a little different, since they needed more help to understand it. But they had also experienced the method the week before when I told them Goldilocks. Here is a picture of my finished board for Sterntaler:

2017-11-03 15.06.15

After that, I read them the story of Martin, using the book Das erste Buch von Sankt Martin by Erwin Grosche (Gabriel Verlag, 2017). I used the book mainly for the illustrations and wrote out the story in English beforehand. I knew after hearing Sterntaler, that was probably enough German for that class (especially since it was 2pm on a Friday … the week of Halloween!).

Martin

Next I wanted to teach them the song, “Laterne, Laterne“. The beginning is so simple with its four words: Laterne, Sonne, Mond, Sterne. I knew they would need a little movement by this time, though, so I came up with a little game. I had printed out the vocab words on small cards. I printed enough so that each child could have a card. I just used my full-sized word posters and printed them 4-to-a-page. Then I laminated them and cut them down to size.

I handed the cards out to the children and then had them get into groups according to the picture – in order, of course! I had already gone over the words using my full-sized word posters. So they were familiar enough with the vocab. I called out a word, and that group had to raise their picture and say the word. I mixed them up and first. Then I told them to pay attention, because we were going to speed it up! And I went in order according to the song: Laterne! Laterne! Sonne! Mond! Sterne! They enjoyed the little game. And weren’t they surprised when I told them they had just learned the beginning of a song?!

You can download the word posters along with song lyrics in the post Der gute Martin.

Finally, it was time to make our lanterns! We did them a little differently in this older class. Although in hindsight, I’m not sure I would do it this way again!

  1. I gave them white paper cut down to size (without the strip for the handle) and let them color it however they liked.
  2. I gave them the lantern template printed on yellow paper (without the sun, moon, and stars – just the lines for cutting and folding) and asked them to cut the strip off the end to make the handle.
  3. They glued their white paper to the yellow template (I might do this step myself, in advance, if I try it again).
  4. They folded the paper (I was surprised how many of them did not fold on the line, but folded the long edge of the paper up to the line! If you read my post with instructions, you’ll see why I decided to give step-by-step instructions the next time!)
  5. They cut the “fringe”.
  6. We went around and stapled the lanterns together along with their handles

The lanterns turned out alright in the end. But it took so long that we did not have time to parade in the halls.

Then again, it was the last hour of school on a Friday. And did I mention it was Halloween week?? Scary stuff!! 🙂

Tutorial and templates can be found in the post Martinstag Lanterns!

Viel Spaß!