As I told the story of the Nutcracker in each of my classes, the story became more complex with more details. The 1st & 2nd graders got a very simple version of the story.
In the next story for 3rd & 4th grade, we went beyond the bare basics.
Here you can see the storyboard. There are quite a few more words on the board! After the story, we checked comprehension to make sure everyone understood. As we went over the story, I wrote some of the words in English, which you can see in blue ink.
I wanted to give my elementary and middle school students some background information about nutcrackers. So after I told the story in each class, I gave them a worksheet in the form of a “Steckbrief“. We filled in the simple facts together. Each class got a different version, becoming more detailed as the kids get older.
In 1st and 2nd grade…
Then in 3rd and 4th grade …
It’s the same information, but with a little more to fill in.
Finally, in 5th and 6th grade …
They got more information.
You can download the Steckbriefe here as a PDF. Each one comes with an answer key.
This year inspiration struck, and I decided to bring The Nutcracker into all of my classes, from pre-k to 6th grade. All the children will be introduced (or reintroduced) to the story, and each level will do a different art project. I can’t wait to see how it all comes together!
For pre-k/kindergarten students, we will read a shortened book and do a simple coloring project.
For elementary & middle school students, the lessons will be in two parts. This week, I am telling the story and giving the children some background on nutcrackers and the fairy tale.
In elementary school, I’ll tell a simple version of the story. First & second grade heard the story yesterday:
I decided to draw my nutcracker ahead of time, as it is so detailed. And every time I said “Nussknacker” the children were supposed to say “Knack!” You can download them both for free below:
While we may not be singing in the classrooms right now, that doesn’t mean we can’t have music! I usually teach the children the song “Kling, Glöckchen, Klingelingeling” at this time of year. In the past few years, I have made little bells at home to give to the children, so they can play along as we sing. But this year, I decided to let them make the bells. And then we said the words Kling, Glöckchen, Klingelingeling.
To make the bells, you need:
2 pipe cleaners in two different colors (we used red & white this year)
That’s it! I get my bells at the Dollar Store. You have to make sure you get bells that have a big enough “loop” or “handle” at the top, so the pipe cleaner can go through.
After I taught the children how to say “Kling, Glöckchen, Klingelingeling” we clapped out the rhythm as we said it. Then I told them that we needed bells to ring instead of just clapping! So we made the bells. And then I showed them one of my favorite things: and Advent calendar from our Swiss au pair. Each day plays a different song!
We listened to the German song for Day 2, of course – Kling, Glöckchen, Klingelingeling! And we rang our bells in time and spoke the words we’d learned.
(This Advent calendar plays 48 beautiful songs – 24 German and 24 English! It uses only 3 AA batteries. And the melodies are lovely to listen to! You can find more about them here! No compensation for me – I just like them!)
The children enjoyed the music so much, that we listened to several other songs. “O Tannenbaum“, “Stille Nacht“, and “Jingle Bells”.
Finally, I ended the week in 5th & 6th grade, telling the story of Nikolaus one last time. Of course, these kids have heard the story for several years and are very familiar with the tradition by now! But they still enjoy the story. I added more detail for this class, as they know the basic story well.
After we finished the story, we went back and picked out the cognates (those are underlined). For words that were close, but not close enough to be true cognates, we starred them.
Some of my students have been using their individual white boards to draw with me. One student let me capture her work:
For some students, drawing along can be distracting. But for those who find it helpful, I think it’s great!
Now, they also needed a boot for Nikolaus to fill over the weekend! I had them do the same craft that the 3rd & 4th graders did. I found small red paper bags at a craft store. Then I printed boots on white card stock and cut them out (one less thing for them to do, as we did not have a lot of time). I asked them to color the boots and then glue them to the paper bags.
They did a very colorful job! (I had them write their names in the “furry” part of the boot, so I marked those out.)
They also did the puzzle of Das ist das Haus vom Nikolaus. It was fun to see how different people solved the puzzle! There are indeed 44 different ways to solve it!
Today the Nikolaus celebration continued with my older students. As always, I started the class with the story. Again, it was the legend of Nikolaus and the Three Daughters. But not as simple as the version I told in 1st & 2nd grade.
It amazes me that they enjoy the story year after year! Most of these students have heard the story two or three times now.
Of course, the 3rd & 4th graders needed a boot, too. But I thought they might be a bit older for lacing 🙂 So I found little red paper bags at the craft store. Then I printed and cut out some boots on white card stock. (The image is copyrighted, so I can’t share it, but this picture gives you an idea – I fit 3 on a page.)
I had also told Puss in Boots to these students a couple of weeks ago, so I again challenged them to create the most magnificent boots. They colored them in and then glued them to the front of the little bags.
I didn’t get a picture of their work, but I’m hoping the teachers will take a picture for me on Monday! Meanwhile, you can see the post on 5th & 6th grade to see how the project turned out.
As the kids finished up their boots, I had a fun little activity for them. The puzzle is to make a house with 8 lines without lifting your pencil.
There are 44 ways to solve the puzzle! You can download the worksheet and see the solutions in this post!
In the afternoon on December 1st, I did a lesson with my 1st & 2nd graders on Nikolaus. Of course I told them a story first. I like to tell the story of how Nikolaus helped a poor family with three daughters.
For this class, I follow a format that I use from the beginning of the school year. On the first day, I told them the story Danke, Bär! (Thank You, Bear). So when I tell other stories in this first part of the year, I like to return to a similar format when I can. This story (as well as the Martin Legend) lends itself well to it, because a similar event happens three times. And at the end, the man and his daughters cry, “Danke, Nikolaus!” (Okay, that’s stretching it a little, as Nikolaus liked to work anonymously! But for the purpose of comprehension, I still like to use it!)
We skipped our drawing lesson for the day. Instead we went straight to our craft! For, as Nikolaus knows that the children of our school are learning German, he usually makes a special stop to drop off a little treat to each student. But he needs a place to put them! And as the kids can’t leave their boots in school, we make our own.
With these younger children, I still do the boot-lacing craft (see this post for instructions & free template). But we jazz it up a little! This year, they got white boots and sparkly red yarn. As I had recently told the story Puss in Boots, I asked them to decorate their boots to be as magnificent as the ones the shoemaker made in that story. And at the end, they got to glue cotton balls to the top for a little added warmth.
As we are not singing in the building right now, I played some Nikolaus songs while they worked. They couldn’t help themselves from singing along: “Lustig, lustig, Tra la la la la! Bald ist Nikolausabend da! Bald ist Nikolausabend da!” I have to admit, it warmed my heart!
Their wonderful teachers also put up a fireplace bulletin board where the children could hang their boots. It sure looks colorful and cozy!
Normally, I would teach the children the song “Lasst uns froh und munter sein” when we celebrate Nikolaus. (Check out this post to see how I teach it and get the free materials to go along with it!) However, as we are not singing in the classrooms right now, I just played the song for them as they work on crafting their boots.
However, I did send them home with a coloring page that also has the words to the song!
Today is the first of December. So it’s time to get ready for Nikolaus!
In pre-k/kindergarten, I shocked the students when I told them that children all over Germany, Austria & Switzerland were getting SOOOOO excited … to clean their boots!! What?! Oh, yes! Those boots must be cleaned before leaving one out for Nikolaus on the evening of December 5th. On the morning of the 6th, children will rush to their boots to see what he left – nuts? mandarins? chocolates? a little present??
As Nikolaus knows that the children of our school are learning German, he usually makes an extra stop to leave a small treat for the children. But he needs a place to put them, right?!
So the children make a boot that can be hung in the classroom. This year they made red boots with green yarn to lace them up. They colored on the front of the boot to give it some extra design.
To make the boots, first download this free template:
Trace the boot template onto a piece of folded construction paper.
Cut out the boot and punch holes where the black dots are.
Let the children color the boot.
Cut a length of yarn. Tie one end to the bottom of the boot. Tie a knot in the other end (this acts like the “needle” as it helps the child thread the yarn through the holes).
Let the children lace up the boot. The can go in and out from front to back & back to front. Or they can keep looping around to the front. There is no wrong way to do it! Just so long as they go into each hole in order.
Finally, tie the top end off at the back. Wunderbar!
The end result is so sweet! In the different classes, the teachers hung up the boots, so that Nikolaus can easily fill him when he visits in the night of December 5th.
Even our youngest preschoolers participated in the boot-lacing project this year!
I am quickly trying to find some finger plays that I can do with the little ones, now that we can’t sing for a while. Although “Zehn kleine Zappelmänner” is usually a song, it can be done as a finger play, too! I looked at a number of variations on the old favorite and came up with a version of my own.
First, I went with Finger instead of Männer. Especially for my youngest students, it made more sense to use the word for fingers. And isn’t it often our fingers that get fidgety?!
I made a little handout with the words that I am using for the fingerplay. The children can also color in the hands when they bring the coloring page home.