Monday, December 1, 2014

Favorite Nutcracker Activities for December- Trepak, March, and More!

I LOVE the music from The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky!  December is one of my favorite times of year in music class because I can listen to The Nutcracker all month and do so many fun activities with the various songs. It also gives me an excuse to buy more Nutcrackers for my collection. 

(This year December is also extra special because I am getting married!  My fianc√© proposed with a Nutcracker after seeing The Nutcracker last year, so it is only fitting we are having a Nutcracker themed wedding complete with the Pas-De-Deux played as the recessional AND a "Land of Sweets" Table at the reception.)

Here are some of my favorite ideas for the Songs from the Nutcracker.  Some are my ideas, many are shared.  If they are shared, I have done my best to provide a link to the original idea. 

***NEW IDEA ALERT*** Check out this AMAZING pop-up Nutcracker Book by Jenni Fleetwood and Illustrated by Phillida Gili.  It is the most wonderful pop-up book I have ever encountered.  It is perfect for kids with multi-layered illustrations that feature pull tabs, lift the flap, pop-ups and more.

Dont have a book? This is a GREAT, but short, synopsis on Youtube from the South Georgia Ballet. 

OK, now check out these ADORABLE felt masks I got from ETSY for the photobooth at my wedding/ classroom.  They are a little more expensive than I would normally spend using my own money for my classroom, but I just couldn't pass them up. I plan on letting kids wear them when pointing to the heartbeat at the SmartBoard, when demonstrating an activity with me (esp. the beat swords), and maybe even when acting out certain scenes of the show. 

Trepak Plate Routine:  This one I actually came up with this past Thanksgiving because my 3 year old cousin handed out plates and demanded we bang them together and sing.  I went through all my Thanksgiving/ turkey songs (Shoo Turkey, There was an Old Woman who Swallowed a Pie, Over the River and Through the Woods, No More Pie, etc.) and he still wasn't ready to be done, so I launched into the Russian Dance and had the whole family following my impromptu plate routine.

Watch the video to get a better idea of how the plate routine looks :)  I apologize for the false start at the beginning! 

Here is a Basketball Routine to Trepak as well: 

Trepak Cup Game:  This one I found on Pinterest and I love it (especially spinning the cups on their sides for the Bridge- so fun and great reinforcement for whole note if you are showing the graphic for the students).  Thanks Eric!

Be sure to also check out this blogpost from Kelly Reily that she wrote last year about Nutcracker Cup Games she did in her classroom- each class made up their own to the March- SO fun!

Now, Cups and plates can be tricky for the littlest of kiddos so for my 1st graders I use a great activity from Lynn Kleiner for Trepak where the kids are "painting their house." On the accents they are splattering the paint and then they get to rub it around, make special designs, or think about their creation during the other sections of the music.  Get more detailed info and other great listening activities by getting her awesome book: Kids Can Listen, Kids Can Move!

March Beat Swords: This year I plan on using "Beat Swords" (Cut in half pool noodles) where students march to the beat, tap their swords to the beat, or sneak around (like when Fritz sneaks up on Clara to steal the nutcracker from Her).  I got this idea from Mrs. Kings Music Room and adapted it to fit with the Nutcracker March.   My first graders have just named the beat and this will be perfect for reinforcement (I don't see them in Kindergarten).

A Section: March 16 beat, Tap sword with Partner 16 beats  (2x) (tap the tips of the swords together)
B Section: March around a partner
C Section: Fast Tiptoe around the room 

Waltz of the Flowers- Simple Movement for the littles! 
Check out this fun video with simple movement to the beginning of Waltz of the Flowers. My kiddos LOVE to practice balancing on one foot! 

For other great Nutcracker Based Active Listening Ideas check out this book: Nutcracker Suite Active Listening Strategies.   It includes Lesson plans and ideas for 8 of the most popular Nutcracker Songs as well as Reproducible Activity sheets on things like The Story of the Nutcracker, The Life of Tchaikovsky, the History of some of the instruments used, the History of the Suite, etc.

In addition to listening to the songs, I also, (of course) love to share the story of the Nutcracker with my students.  The older students watch a short video every class to get them to the room so all through December it will be clips of various scenes from The Nutcracker. (I teach in a modular classroom and some students used to like to take their time getting to me so I start the 2-3 min video when class should start and they are getting to me much quicker now!) There are so many great listening maps and short clips on youtube! One of my favorites is "The Nutcracker in less than 5 minutes"  It hits on all of the important plot points and fun dances, but doesn't take class times to show!

Various versions as story books have made it into my collection over the years and just yesterday, I downloaded an app for my Ipad which has beautiful pictures called "The Nutcracker Musical Story Book". I got it for free on a special, but it is only 2.99 normally.  The homescreen is a pretty Christmas Scene and you click on ornaments to get to the various scenes if you do not want to watch the whole thing in order.  Act I is on one tree, Act II on the other.  I can't wait to show some scenes to my students because the artwork is incredible.  

Want to teach more about Tchaikovsky?? There are a lot of great ideas on TPT, but one of my favorites is the Facetime with Composers Series by Music Man of Steel.  My students LOVE these silly videos! Get them here:Facetime with Tchaikovsky

Want a great listening map or play along video? There are so many great ones on Youtube- but these are my favorites. 

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy Playalong: 

March Listening Map: 

Dance of the Line Riders: 

Trepak Dancers from SYTYCD: 

Don't forget to also check out Kodaly Corner-  Karla from C Major Learning just posted a great Nutcracker Post as well!

There are so many great ideas on pinterest as well- I made a Nutcracker Pinterest board you can check out here! There are listening maps, movement activities, lesson plans, printables, and more.  New stuff will be added as I find it as well!

Enjoy! It truly is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Share your favorite Nutcracker Activities below! 


  1. Can't wait to see your finished "Can You Hear It" product - it sounds great! Plus, I love all of these activities. I'm so glad they are finally in one easy place to remember. Thanks!

  2. Wow, so many excellent ideas here! I am just starting a Nutcracker unit with my students and I will definitely be trying some of these out. Thank you for the video demonstrating the plate routine. It looks like so much fun.

    Also, those masks are ADORABLE!

    Music With Mrs. Tanenblatt