Saturday, December 14, 2013

Nutcracker Resources

I have been teaching the Nutcracker for many years and my resources continue to grow!

The Story

My favorite book to share is a pop-up book that I got on sale one year in February for $3.99. Unfortunately, it is currently out of print. If you happen to see it in a used bookstore, snatch it up! Here is the full information:
The Nutcracker: A Magical Pop-up Adventure
Published by Macmillan Children's Books 2003-10-17, 2003
ISBN 10: 033396134X / ISBN 13: 9780333961346

The students are in awe of this pop-up, especially the spinning sugarplum fairy at the end!

Lesson Ideas

During my first years teaching the Nutcracker, we did little more than read the book and then dramatize the story with a few props and music selections. A couple years ago, I purchased a new resource book to create lessons with more music connections.
Nutcracker Suite
Active Listening Strategies for the Music Classrooom
By Wesley Ball
Book and CD (
$19.99 at
.It includes many lesson ideas with a variety of activities. There are listening maps, printable worksheets, and a music cd. My favorite activity suggested by the book uses music from the March. When the students hear the trumpets, they are locomotor and march around the room. When they hear the strings, they are nonlocomotor and wave a scarf in the air. During the B section, when they hear flutes, they crawl on the floor and pretend to be mice. Many of the lessons encourage active listening and suggest activities to get the students engaged.

The Ballet

I always show portions of the full-ballet on video, skipping through the longer dance numbers due to time constraints. I was recently introduced to and decided to use that site to create an interactive quiz. (To learn more about Blubbr follow this link.) I created 2 quizzes, one for each Act. The questions cover some basic music terms such as melody, harmony, dynamics, tempo, and instrument families. It introduces some basic ballet terms--pointe, plié, pirouette, and passé; and some basic theatre elements--costume, prop, scenery, and special effects. The video clips were taken from a YouTube video from a 2008 performance by the Royal Ballet. Follow the links below to find the quizzes.


I also teach visual art once a week and stumbled across a few Nutcracker art projects on Pinterest. The students could be working on these projects while watching the ballet or listening to the music.
Grades 2 through 5 have had fun learning about symmetry making this project. We discuss how the ballerina has linear symmetry and the snowflakes have radial symmetry. Follow the link to the original post on for some printable templates and easy tutorial pictures.

Older students can practice symmetry by drawing Nutcrackers. This would take quite a bit of time to finish and would require more teacher guidance. I have not attempted this with students yet. I haven't had the time to invest in this project. If you have an art teacher at your school, perhaps you can suggest a collaborative unit. More sample pictures are featured on the original blog post at "A Faithful Attempt".

The younger students enjoy making these finger puppets. The free printables can be found on the website of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. To save paper, before copying I eliminated the instruction on each page to fit all 3 finger puppets on one page.  You can see this layout in the top picture of this post.
When searching for the original source for these finger puppets, I noticed they also have a new pair of finger puppets available and a project for a miniature theatre!


My students are always excited to see my Nutcracker sitting on the edge of my desk, but I think I may be more excited than them. I love the magic of the Nutcracker and look forward to teaching it every year!  Do you teach the Nutcracker? What are your favorite activities?
My 4 year old daughter is now in ballet class. Next year, we will start a tradition of seeing the Nutcracker live on stage. I can't wait!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing all of this! Some wonderful ideas and resources for me to try next'll surely be on santa's nice list for this!

    Shine on!