Homemade Gifts from the Kiddos

I love when my kids can make something homemade to give as a gift to family and friends. This year, Hippo decided to give artwork.

I cut out some trees, and we taped them to a larger paper. For his first try, he did fingerprints in green, red, and yellow. But that was taking a long time. Especially since he changed colors a lot and kept having to wash his hands. Maybe if I’d only given him one color at a time!?

So we switched to pom-poms held by clothespins. That went a lot faster! He did several in under a half hour. Easy project. Easy clean-up! Beautiful artwork to give as Christmas gifts 🙂

I got the idea from A Dab of Glue Will Do. Hmm. Maybe if I’d followed the instructions a little more closely, the fingerprinting would have worked out a little better! I like how she shows to print around the tree first.

German Vocab Advent Calendar

Every year I make a paper chain advent calendar for the boys with 24 German holiday words. I updated the project this year. I tried to find words that capture the elements of a German Christmas.

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All of these images were created by the artist Ramona M. She has a lovely collection of clip art for holidays around the world. Last year I contacted her to see if she would add to her German collection, and she graciously did!

For instructions (with pictures) on how to make the Advent Calendar, go to this post. And here are the updated downloads for 2018 in PDF format:

I hope you enjoy this activity with your children as much as I do!

Clothespin Nutcrackers

I love working with other teachers! I was talking with the art teacher and told her that I would be telling the story of The Nutcracker as a Story Listening lesson. She was inspired to do a project with the students!

Yesterday the 3rd & 4th graders started working on clothespin nutcrackers. I was too curious to stay away, so I popped in at the end of class. Boy, was so impressed! I also learned that they’d had an interesting discussion about nutcrackers, their origins, and asked questions like why are they all men?

Here are some pictures of their works-in-progress.

You can see some inspiration nutcrackers in the back. And they were even drawing nutcrackers on the white board!

They were so into the project that they will be working on it for one – maybe even two – more weeks! I am definitely going in next week to get in on the fun!

Story Listening: The Nutcracker

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I have been working for weeks on a Story Listening version of The Nutcracker. Not the ballet from 1892, but the original story by the German author E.T.A. Hoffmann from 1816: Der Nussknacker und Mausekönig (The Nutcracker and the Mouse King).

As I started working with the story, I realized it is extremely complicated! I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to tell it as a Story Listening lesson. But after becoming increasingly familiar with the story, I finally was able to simplify it enough to tell it in 1st & 2nd grade. I am still working on a slightly more detailed version for the 3rd & 4th graders. I plan to tell it to them in two weeks….

Here is the version of the story that I told in 1st & 2nd grade:

Der Nussknacker – sehr gekürzte Fassung
nach dem Märchen von E.T.A. Hoffmann

Es war einmal ein Mädchen. Das Mädchen hieß Marie. Marie hatte einen Bruder. Der Bruder hieß Fritz. Sie wohnten mit ihren Eltern in Deutschland.

Am Weihnachtsabend kam ihr Onkel zu Besuch. Der Onkel gab Fritz kleine Spielsoldaten. Für Marie hatte er einen Nussknacker aus Holz. Der Nussknacker hatte ein komisches Gesicht. Er hatte große Augen und einen großen Mund mit eckigen Zähnen. Sein Kopf war zu groß. Seine Beine waren dünn. Aber Marie liebte den Nussknacker.

In der Nacht – um Mitternacht – wachte Marie auf. Sie hörte laute Geräusche. Sie hatte Angst. Das Zimmer war voller Mäuse! Die Soldaten von Fritz waren lebendig. Sie kämpften mit ihren Schwerten gegen die Mäuse. Der Nussknacker war auch lebendig. Er kämpfte gegen den Mäusekönig. Der Mäusekönig hatte sieben Köpfe!

Marie hatte Angst! Aber sie hatte auch Mut, denn sie liebte den Nussknacker. Sie warf ihren Schuh gegen den Mäusekönig. Er fiel tot zu Boden. Die anderen Mäuse liefen schnell weg.

Und dann! Der Nussknacker war nicht mehr aus Holz! Er war ein Mann – ein echter Mann! Marie brach den Zauber mit ihrer Liebe und ihrem Mut. Dann war der Nussknacker wieder ein Mann. Und er war ein Prinz! Jahre später heirateten der Prinz und Marie. Und Marie wurde Prinzessin.

Ende.

You can download the story in German here as a Word document: Nussknacker – kurz

And here is the story in English as a Word document: The Nutcracker – English

I have been drawing my story on a piece of paper to practice. I find that it helps me not only to practice drawing each picture, but it helps me figure out where I want it on the board. Then I use the drawing as a reference while I’m teaching the story. I’m not a great artist, but I find that if I have an example in front of me, I am doing pretty well. I’d even say that my drawing abilities have improved in the last 11 weeks 🙂 Here is my paper sketch of the story:

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I have been working with our art teacher again, too! The students in grades 3 & 4 are making clothespin nutcrackers! Read more about that here.

Story Listening: Stille Nacht

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When I learned that I would be teaching German this year, I knew I wanted to tell the story of the Christmas song, “Silent Night.” I first heard the story when I was a little girl. It was one of the songs included in the TV special, John Denver and the Muppets – A Christmas Together. That is still one of my favorite Christmas albums 🙂

I bought a couple of books about the song. They are pictures books that I could also ready to my two boys (see below). But then I did a little research and found that the stories had embellished the truth a bit. But it’s such a beautiful story, that I went ahead and wrote it out as Die Legende von “Stille Nacht”. (Scroll down to read & download the story in German.)

According to the Stille Nacht Gesellschaft (Silent Night Society), the lyrics were written in 1816 by Joseph Mohr in Mariapfarr in the Lungau region of Austria. Two years later Mohr was an assistant priest in Oberndorf. Some say that the organ of the church was broken, so that they needed music for their Christmas Eve service. Whatever the reason, Mohr gave his poem to the church organist, Franz Gruber. For the Christmas Eve service in 1818, Mohr and Gruber led the choir in singing the song, while Mohr accompanied the singing on the guitar.

I called it “Part I” because I would like to add a part about how the song was spread by two singing families (the Strassers and the Rainiers) through Austria to the world. Maybe next year?

And did you know that it is the 200th anniversary of the song?! It was first performed in Oberndorf, Austria in 1818!

Here is the text of the story that I told:

Die Legende von “Stille Nacht”, Teil I

Es war kurz vor Weihnachten im Jahr 1818. Ein Mann saß in der Nicholaskirche in Oberndorf, Österreich. Der Mann hieß Joseph Mohr. Er war Pfarrer in der Nicholaskirche. Pfarrer Mohr war traurig. Die Orgel in der Kirche war kaputt. Am Weihnachtsabend würden sie keine Musik haben. Weihnachtsabend ohne Musik? Unmöglich!

Pfarrer Mohr ging in der Nacht im Wald spazieren. Es war kalt. Der Schnee war tief. Alles war still – ganz still. Der Mond schien durch die Bäume.

Als Pfarrer Mohr ging, dachte er sich ein Gedicht aus. Die Wörter kamen einfach und schnell in der stillen Nacht. Er ging nach Hause und schrieb das Gedicht auf.

Am nächsten Tag ging Pfarrer Mohr zu einem Freund, Franz Gruber. Herr Gruber war Musiker. Er spielte die Orgel in der Kirche. Pfarrer Mohr gab Herrn Gruber sein Gedicht. Er fragte: „Können Sie Musik für das Gedicht komponieren?“ Pfarrer Mohr wollte Musik für Gitarre und zwei Stimmen. Herr Gruber sagte: „Ja!“ und komponierte die Musik.

Am Weihnachtsabend kamen Familien um Mitternacht in die Kirche. Alle waren verwirrt. Wo war die Musik? Warum spielte Herr Gruber die Orgel nicht?

Plötzlich hörten sie eine Gitarre. Es war Pfarrer Mohr! Dann begannen er und Herr Gruber zu singen! „Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht.“ Das Lied war wunderschön. Alle waren glücklich. Herr Gruber war glücklich. Pfarrer Mohr war glücklich. Sie hatten Musik am Weihnachtsabend!

Heute hört man das Lied in der ganzen Welt!

You can download the text in German here: Die Legende von Stille Nacht – Deutsch (Word)

And here is a translation into English here: The Legend of Silent Night – English (Word)

These are two of the books I also used as inspiration:

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  • Silent Night, Holy Night by Myrna Strasser (Zonderkidz, 2004)
  • Silent Night. The Song and Its Story by Margaret Hodges (Eerdmans, 1997)

The second book also recounts significant stories about the song, such as when it was sung during World War I by German and British soldiers during a Christmas Eve truce. There is a lot that could be done with this song!

I did some research online to find more of the historical facts:

I told the legend in grades 3 & 4. After I finished, the children were eager to sing the song, too. I prepared the German lyrics on three pages, so that they could see them well.

You can download the PDF file of the song here: Stille Nacht Lied beibringen – GitA

Kling, Glöckchen!

I’m teaching a Christmas lesson in Pre-K/Kindergarten tomorrow morning. I like to bring in some of my favorite German Christmas things. This year I’m keeping it simple. So I’ll bring in just a few things:

  • der Nussknacker (nutcracker)
  • der Hampelmann (jumping jack)
  • das Lebkuchenherz (gingerbread heart)
  • der Räuchermann (smoker)
  • das Adventskalender (advent calendar)

Last year we received a musical advent calendar from our Swiss au pair’s family. You open a little door and press the button and get a song! And there is a switch on the back, so you can choose between German and English carols. It’s called Der klingende Adventskalender.

I’m going to read a sweet book about being together to celebrate. It’s called Frohe Weihnachten, kleiner Elch by Anne-Kristin zur Brügge (Oetinger, 2016).

Frohe Weihnachten, kleiner Elch

Then I’m going to teach them the song “Kling, Glöckchen, klingelingeling”. I thought I would teach them just that much to begin. We’ll see if they can catch on to the rest!

We’ll craft some jingle bells, because you can’t sing that song without some jingle bells!

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You can find the simple instructions in this post.

I’ll send them home with a coloring page that has the words to the song.

Kling Glöckchen coloring page-GitA

You can download the PDF here: Kling Glöckchen coloring page GitA

 

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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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.