If you've been having the same kind of weeks I have the last couple of weeks, your kiddos are so excited for holiday break that they can hardly CONTAIN themselves! However, if you're also like me, you may have a few kiddos who don't celebrate Christmas or holidays at all. This is always a bit tricky because I want those students to have an opportunity to experience the joy of the season, and this year I have found the perfect way to do so!
The kindergarten team at my school always does a gingerbread hunt with their kids the week before Christmas break. Since it's such a big event at my campus, I wanted to find a way to play off of what was going on in the classroom--something that my admin and classroom teacher colleagues absolutely looooove. #allthebrowniepoints (#allthegingerbreadpoints??) Even though I got the inspiration from the kindergarten team and for my kindergarten students, I wanted to find a way to extend this lesson for any grade level, no matter where they might be in the rhythmic and melodic sequence.
The Classic Story
The first part of this lesson is, of course, reading the story of the Gingerbread Man. There are only about a million out there, and I actually like to find a different version than what is used in students' classroom. I think it's so important that students hear and see many different variants of a book or song--think "Over in the Meadow" style. There's about a million different versions of that that song and accompanying books! But I digress. I am super pumped about this version of The Gingerbread Man that I'm using in my music classroom.
I actually purchased this book for Kindle, and plan to pull it up on my iPad and displaying through our classroom projector. (You know, if technology decides to work in my favor on the hour of the day that I plan to use it.) As an aside, I think it's really important to sit in a rocking chair and "sing a story" to your kids on a regular basis--which is how I usually end my kindergarten classes--but in this situation, it integrates into my lesson more seamlessly to use the projector. Also, I didn't have to wait for shipping--even if it's two-day prime. :)
What I really love about this book is all the different opportunities for vocal exploration, particularly high versus low, and singing voice versus speaking voice. It's so easy to improvise and give students the opportunity to imitate as you read this story. I also developed this very intuitive (as in, you probably sing it the same way!) little so-mi-la melody to sing during the repeated sections of the book.
This is a great little melody for mi-la, 6-8 practice, OR internal anacrusis with your older kids! :) I love taking text from books and giving them musical life, especially when they lend themselves so nicely as this chant-like text does.
Song & Chase Game
After reading and discussing the book, I immediately turn the above melody into a chase game, modeled after duck-duck-goose. This is a quick way for me to assess students' ability to demonstrate steady beat (especially with that internal anacrusis!) instead of instinctively going to the rhythm. I played this simple game with my kiddos last week and they are already excited to play again!
Possible Extensions for Older Kids: (1) Use the same melody as a refrain for some solfege echo imitation. Sing the refrain, then have students echo patterns either as a group or individually in between reiterations of the song. (2) Use the last motive ("Gingerbread Man") and make it the poison pattern for a game "Rhythm Poison." Have students echo rhythms with syllables, unpitched percussion, or drums. They must echo each rhythm, but if they play "Gingerbread Man" they are OUT!! This would be a fantastic introduction into the wonderful world of 6-8!
Chant & Elimination Game
I created another chant to go along with our gingerbread themed lesson! (Click here to get a copy of it in the resource library!) I use this chant for steady beat practice with my kindergarteners, to do something a little different from our heartbeat practice. To set up the game, I printed out gingerbread clip art from Creative Clips (click for link) on four different colors of cardstock, laminated, and cut them all out. (You could do something similar with a die-cut machine.)
I give each kiddo four different gingerbread men, one of each color. Then, we say the chant and "eat" (eliminate) whichever color we land on! After three rounds, whichever color each student has left is his or her winner, and we tally up all of the different responses to see which color won as a class.
This is another great way to assess steady beat as students have some buy in to keep on playing the game. Also, we are reinforcing their counting and color skills as we go! (see?? #allthegingerbreadpoints!!) Extend it by choosing randomly which of the four voices students will say the poem (speak, sing, whisper, shout) or throw in a couple of seasonal ones, like elf or reindeer voices!!
Possible Extensions for Older Kids: If you need some extra time to work on steady beat (I know, it's totally a thing in these older grades!) you can keep an older class's interest by giving them a little bit of buy in. Write the four colors as column headings and have students write their names on a post-it note, and stick it in the column they think will be the class winner after each round. They absolutely looooove this!
This song or chant would also be great for a singing game of hot and cold. Take one of your gingerbread men and have a student hide it in the room while another hides his or her eyes. Students should sing or chant louder as the seeker gets closer, or quieter as he or she gets further away! My kids beg for these types of games, and it reinforces comparatives so beautifully. Instead of loud/soft, you could work on fast/slow the same way!
I also purchased a stuffed gingerbread ball to play a passing game with this song. Opportunities are truly endless!! Snag a copy in the resource library and get creative with your students!!
If you are looking for more gingerbread themed activities, check out these super fun elimination games!
I hope these ideas will be useful in your classroom during the next couple of weeks! I know it is a crazy time, but I have certainly focused on relaxing and enjoying this magical time of year with my students.
Have a wonderful last week or so before break! I still have Monday & Tuesday after this week, but Christmas is so close I can taste it!!
Psst!! If you liked this lesson idea and are itching for more, sign up to be an Anacrusic Insider below!! Bonus--you can head over to the resource library and get a copy of the song & chant I referenced in this post. :)