It's that time of year again - Nutcracker time! I love using the ballet to teach a variety of music elements and skills in my classroom. When I first started teaching, I used storybooks and videos to introduce the ballet to my students. Now I use the pieces within the ballet to explore essential skills and concepts in music. Here are a couple of different ways to use the Nutcracker Ballet in your room beyond watching the movie!
Exploring Form through Listening Maps
Some of my favorite pieces to teach form come from The Nutcracker! Many of the dances are short and have repetitive, predictable sections. I created a set of Nutcracker Listening Maps for the March, Russian Dance and Chinese Dance. The maps are easy to follow and clearly outline A and B sections within the music!
For older students, I like to use Guided Listening & Reading Activities. The worksheets give students opportunities to make decisions about what they hear in terms of form, style, expression and timbre. My collection has worksheets for both lower and upper elementary as well as the MLT Inspired Classroom and the traditional music classroom. Additionally, there are worksheets with Guided Reading sheets that have the rhythms to many of the main theme within the dances. This gives students the opportunity to practice reading rhythms in a variety of meters as well as levels of difficulty.
My friend, Kristin Kreiss, is a master of creating movement activities to The Nutcracker! Years ago, she created this cute movement activity to The Nutcracker March for students to explore macrobeat/ microbes movement. I'm sharing it with you with her permission.
To begin, pair each student with a partner. Ask each pair to decide who will be partner one and partner two. It is very important that each partner know his/her role! Explain to your students that this is a follow the leader activity. Partner one is going to move in pathways around the room and it is partner two's job to follow.
A Section - Each time the trumpet theme is played, partner one marches 8 macrobeats around the room. At the end of the trumpet theme, partner one stops. Now it's partner two's turn! As the string theme is played, partner two marches 16 microbeats, chasing after their partner. On the 16th step, they should tap their partner on the shoulder, as partner one moves again.
B Section - During the B section, I have partners scatter anywhere in the room, but they have to be back with their partner by the end of the B section.
A Section - Have partners reverse roles. Partner one is now partner two and vice versa.
If you have access to iPads in your music room, you might want to check out some of my favorite Nutcracker Apps!