Each of my German classes is doing a different project. In the morning, my pre-k/kindergarten classes colored a shape Nutcracker.
In 1st & 2nd grade, the children created a GIANT collaborative 4-foot Nutcracker! Each child completed a piece of the puzzle. Then I put it all together and went over the outline with black marker. And then I laminated the whole thing – it just barely fit! It is now hanging in all its glory in the hall of our school!
I am so thrilled! I let the children color their “puzzle pieces” however they wanted. I asked that they use marker and do their best coloring. Some went bold. Others went for designs and detail. The overall effect is stunning!
I found the template and instructions at Art Projects for Kids. I did have to pay for it, but it comes in different sizes, and I can use it again and again! (She has a lot of other materials that are free. Definitely worth a look!)
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:
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!
I have been working hard to create the rest of the pages for our unit on hedgehogs in 1st & 2nd grade. And I think they are finally finished!
I made two different cover pages. I think I will use the simple one and give instructions in German on which colors to color each element:
Die Stacheln des Igels sind dunkelbraun.
Das Körper und das Gesicht des Igels sind hellbraun.
Die Eule ist grau.
Der Pilz ist lila.
Das Blatt oben ist rot.
Das Blatt in der Mitte ist orange.
Das Blatt unten ist gelb.
We will do the cover page on the last day of the unit. There are three other pages (Habitat, Feinde, Essen). We will do one page per week.
The entire hedgehog unit will take us 6 weeks to complete. (We’ve already labeled the body parts and talked about where in the world hedgehogs live.)
Each week I also show the children an adorable picture of Mr. Herbee, the Hedgehog. Do you know him? He’s an Instagram sensation! He is the second hedgehog pet of a woman in Wiesbaden. The kids just love seeing his happy little face every week!
For our first lesson on the hedgehog in 1st & 2nd grade, I found a simple labeling project for the kids. I got it from Zaubereinmaleins.
I decided to leave mine as a full page, since I’m only using one of her pages from this Igelheft. Before we did the labeling, we reviewed some body parts in German and then sang “Kopf, Schulter, Knie und Fuß“. It was a nice opportunity to get the kids moving, too.
Next week, I want to talk about where in the world you can find hedgehogs. As I mentioned in my last post, they are the most common mammals in Germany. Yet they are not indigenous to North America! So I created a worksheet for the kids to label on which continents hedgehogs live. I decided my first version was too difficult for little hands to color, so I ended up making two versions. One where they just color the matching box to “check it off” and one where they could color in the continents.
For the second worksheet, the kids can just check off the continents. Or they can also color them in. They could even be challenged first to see if they can color in Germany in a different color.
I found this image on Junior.de to use as my guide:
We’re back!! Our school opened before Labor Day, and I’m so proud of the work that everyone in the building has done to make it safe for our children. For the first few weeks, only the younger children are in the building: pre-k through 2nd grade. Hopefully the big kids will be able to get away from their screens and be back in the building next week.
Because of all the new COVID protocols, specials teachers are going into the classrooms, so as to keep the children in their “pods”. There is also less movement throughout the school that way. For me, it means that I now will be teaching two grades at once. (I’m at a Montessori school, and one of the beautiful parts about it is that the children are in multi-grade classrooms.)
While teaching two grades at once could be a challenge (although so far, so good!), it also presents a new opportunity. Instead of getting each grade for 30 minutes, I have the whole class for about 50 minutes. So in addition to teaching German through Story Listening, I’m able to add in some culture, too!
My prek-k/kindergarten classes have not changed too much. Except that I am teaching them outside under a tent! We have the chairs spaced well apart, and I spray them clean in between classes. I use a face shield, so they can see my face, and the children wear masks (I truly hope they won’t have to for long!). The biggest challenge is hearing them and recognizing them! My shield also creates a weird echo for me, so I do come home with a headache each week. But it’s wonderful to see the children! We can still sing songs and read stories. And since we have more room outside, we can even be a bit bigger with our movements and our volume!
In 1st & 2nd grade, I begin the class by washing my hands. Since we’re supposed to do this for 20 seconds, I have the kids count to 20 with me in German! It’s great! Maybe after they get those down, we’ll try counting backwards. Or count 21 – 40!
Then I was inspired by the morning meeting the class has every day. (Listening in to Hippo’s virtual learning last spring gave me the idea!) First we go over the date in German. I made a sign that I laminated, so I can fill in the day, date, and month with dry-erase marker. Then we talk about the weather. Every day in their class, they go over the temperature (high, low & differential), the wind, the precipitation, and a description. That’s a lot! So we are starting with just the description. They already stumped me this week when they said it was hazy. I’m going to have to look that one up!
Next comes our story. I love to start this group with the story Danke, Bear! by Greg Foley. It’s such a sweet, short, repetitive story. And it’s so easy to adapt. On the first day, I told it about bear who finds a box for his friend the mouse. Along the way to find the mouse, he encounters a rabbit, a frog, and a hedgehog, who all think the box is igittigitt! But he knows it is perfekt for the mouse. And indeed, it is! The second week, I tell it as an elephant who finds a red box for his friend, the green snake. He encounters a lion, a zebra, and a parrot. Next week, I’m thinking about a turtle who finds a shell for his friend, the crab….
After Story Listening, the children work on their very own picture dictionary. I made them for the kids over the summer. Each week, I teach them (mostly in German) how to draw one word from the story. Then they write the German word under it.
For our cultural theme, I don’t have a whole lot of time. So we’re going to spread our learning unit out over about 5 weeks to start. I decided to do some lessons on the hedgehog. Not only are they super cute! But I learned that they are the most common mammal in Germany, while they are not indigenous to the US at all! Read my next post to see what we’re learning about hedgehogs!
For my 1st & 2nd graders this week, I told the story about the girl who selflessly gives away all her possessions and is rewarded in the end when the stars fall from the sky and turn into gold coins. It is a story they have heard before. And it is a simplified version of the fairy tale. But I added back some more details for them this time around.
I had some technical difficulties with the app while telling the story. So a couple of times, whole sections of the drawing move! I left it, as I figured the children would get a kick out of it 😉
I originally posted this video when I created it earlier in March. At that time it was meant for a review or a sub lesson in a pinch. Now that students are learning from home, however, it will work nicely as a remote lesson.
This is a great beginner story. However, if my 3rd & 4th graders choose to watch it, here are the instructions for what to do after the story….