The following is a post from contributing writer Christy @ Eclectic Momma
For some people, Christmas is not the same without at least listening to The Nutcracker Ballet by Tchaikovsky. In my opinion, it’s one of those pieces of classical music that every child should be able to identify. There are a lot of ways to incorporate learning about this piece that go beyond just listening. Whether you are musically inclined or not, here are some easy ideas to learn about The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky.
Information about Tchaikovsky:
Classics for Kids is a great program that introduces students to composers and their music. You can listen online to learn all about Tchaikovsky and his music.
Making Music Fun has composer bios as well as printable solo piano music for various movements in the Nutcracker Ballet.
Nutcracker Art and Writing Projects:
Art Project for Kids has several great drawing and pastel nutcracker projects.
Make a ballerina snowflake.
Symmetrical Nutcrackers art project from the blog, a faithful attempt.
Picture books are a great way to introduce the Nutcracker Ballet.
Here are just a few of the many versions available:
The Nutcracker by Stephanie Spinner – This book includes a CD
The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers
The Nutcracker by John Cech – This version is longer with modern illustrations. Quite a different approach than most traditional Nutcracker books.
The Magic Nutcracker by Margaret Hillert – A beginning reader version.
Hands-on activities for various parts of the ballet:
- Define overture.
- Ask the students what mood they think this piece of music will have (happy, sad, etc.) Listen and then discuss.
March of the Toys:
- Have students dance pretending to be their favorite toy.
- Use toy candy canes as horses to move during the piece.
- I love this idea of using colored paper plates to create a routine for classrooms or co-ops to use in Christmas programs.
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy:
- Talk about the celesta, the keyboard instrument that gives this dance a unique sound. Click here for a great deal of information on the celesta as well as a video with great audio examples of the instrument.
- Watch this cool video of the dance performed on the glass harmonica
Russian Dance (Trepak):
This is my version of a listening map to the Trepak. All it took was some poster board, markers/crayons and time.
There are several activities you can do with this map.
- Talk about form- AABA and the instruments they are hearing in each section. The A section is primarily violins whereas the B section is violas, cellos and reeds.
- Have students divided into 2 groups. Use rhythm sticks or drums for the stars on the map and shakers or jingle bells for the circles. Then switch.
- Talk about dynamics as the song increases in volume toward the end.
- Assign students A or B section, then have them move on their particular section with scarves or ribbons. I’ve made ribbon sticks easily and inexpensively by tying various lengths of ribbon to dowel rods or even rhythm sticks.
- Dance the Trepak while listening. This is a great workout for teachers as well.
Arabian Dance (coffee) and Chinese Dance (tea):
- Listen then compare the differences between the two pieces.
- Have student fold a piece of paper in half. On one side, while listening to the Arabian Dance, draw what they feel. Then do the same while listening to the Chinese Dance. Compare and contrast the drawings.
Waltz of the Flowers:
- Do a conducting exercise. Demonstrate how this song has a 1-2-3 timing by counting it as they listen. Show students the pattern for conducting in a 3/4 time. Have students conduct with the standard 3/4 time.
- Dance with scarves pretending to be flowers. If boys protest being flowers, have them do a pat-clap-clap rhythm pattern during the song.
I hope you enjoy this piece of music as much as we do!
Christy can’t wait to start listening to The Nutcracker with her own three little nuts. She loves reading mysteries, watching birds out her kitchen window, and blogging about life and home schooling at Eclectic Momma. You can also follow her on facebook and Pinterest.
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