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

Story Listening: Die rote Blume

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Die rote Blume” is a short story – a VERY short story – from a collection by Erwin Moser. It is from his second collection about two mice named Manuel und Didi. These two mice are best friends and have all kinds of adventures. (Manuel & Didi: Das zweite große Buch der kleinen Mäuseabenteuer, 2009)

I’ve always loved reading these stories in my German story hour at the library. They are entertaining for both the children and the adults 🙂  They can be a little tricky to use for Story Listening, because there is often a humorous or ironic twist at the end. That can be hard to capture in a way that the children understand. This one is a bit more straightforward.

The children enjoyed the story, so I’m sure I’ll be telling them more about Manuel & Didi later in the year.

Manuel und Didi II

Story Listening: Sterntaler

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After talking about Martin’s Day, I always like to tell the story of Sterntaler – or Star Money. It is a fairy tale from the collections of the Brothers Grimm.

The story is sweet and goes along nicely with the theme of generosity and giving to those less fortunate. After the girl, who is alone in the world, gives away all her possessions, she is rewarded as the stars fall from the sky and become coins and she suddenly has a beautiful “Unterhemd” – a kind of slip – made of beautiful silk.

Story Listening: The Legend of St. Martin

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On November 11th, children in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland will be celebrating Martinstag. We are planning our own little celebration at school with all the children from pre-k through 4th grade.

So of course, I had to tell a story about St. Martin. Legend has it that Martin helped a beggar who was freezing by cutting his cloak in two with his sword.

I told another part of the story in English. Martin had become a monk and was living in Tours. When a new bishop was needed, the people turned to “the good Martin”. But he was so humble that he did not want to be bishop. He ran away and hid in a goose stall. The people of the town went searching for him. They lit their lanterns to guide them through the night. But it was the squawking geese that finally gave him away! And he did then agree to become the new bishop.

I took out a few of the details to simplify the story in 1st and 2nd grade. They still got the idea!

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This story is available on the Great Story Reading Project 🙂

Story Listening: Halloween Story

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I’m not a fan of scary stories. And the last thing I want to do is frighten a child, even at Halloween! But I still wanted to tell a good story with a Halloween theme. So I found the book The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams.

The little old lady is followed home by two shoes, a pair of pants, a shirt, gloves, a hat, and a scary jack-o-lantern. But when they don’t frighten her, they get sad. But she has an idea! The next day, she wakes up to see them all standing in her garden making the perfect scarecrow!

This story is perfect for Story Listening, because of the way it repeats. The ending was a little tricky to make clear, though. I’ll have to work on that for next time.

In 3rd & 4th grade, I’m teaching in a different room, so I now have a white board instead of a chalk board. The pictures don’t come out quite as well 🙂

I tried something new with this lesson. I gave the children a sheet of paper with some of the words on it, so they could draw along with me. My intention was for them to be more attentive in their listening. But I don’t think it worked very well. They were too concerned with their drawings. I saw more of the tops of their heads than their eyes! It was a good experiment. Maybe I’ll try having them draw after the story another time.

1st & 2nd Grade

I simplified the story even more for the younger children. I took out the gloves and hat and also removed some of the descriptive colors of the clothes. It made the story go a little faster, since I don’t have as much time to spend with them.

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Story Listening: Das grüne Halsband

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Because my lesson on How the Apple got its Star was a little too challenging – and long – for my 3rd & 4th-graders, I knew I had to choose something simpler for the 1st & 2nd-graders this week. So I went with a Halloween-themed story: Das grüne Halsband (or The Green Ribbon).

I knew the story from the I Can Read series: a book called In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories. It’s not really scary. More like a little creepy – and just plain weird. Here’s the thing, though. I personally don’t really like the story. And when I don’t like the story, the lesson just does not go as well. I wanted to like it. I tried to make it work. But it really did not go over very well. Lesson learned!

This story is available on the Great Story Reading Project 🙂