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If you want to bring Christmas into your classroom, but without Santa Claus, the Gingerbread Man is a great alternative. There are so many concepts to teach or incorporate into a gingerbread unit. Here’s the layout of my gingerbread unit for kindergarten and first grade and how you might teach with this sweet treat!
Day 1: Gingerbread Investigation & History
Did you know The Gingerbread Man originated from a runaway pancake fairy tale told in Europe for hundreds of years? Neat, huh? John Lithgow’s Marsupial Sue Presents “The Runaway Pancake” is a super cute retelling of the original story. The Gingerbread Boy as we know it was first published in the May 1875 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine.
Have your students ever eaten gingerbread? Give them a gingerbread cookie (store bought is fine!) to taste and investigate. What does it smell like? What does it taste like? Then have them write about whether they like or don’t like gingerbread.
Day 2: Elements of a Fairy Tale
The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone is my favorite gingerbread man story to use when teaching elements of a fairy tale. It perfectly displays all elements of a fairy tale. Some other gingerbread man versions don’t have these elements as clearly, especially things in sets of three or seven.
After going over all of the elements of a fairy tale, ask students to become “fairy tale finders” as they listen to The Gingerbread Boy. Their job is to see if they find any of the elements of a fairy tale in the story and decide if it’s a fairy tale or not. Afterwards, have students explain why they think or do not think The Gingerbread Boy is a fairy tale. Go back and find specific examples of each element in the story.
Day 3: Fractured Gingerbread Man Tales
Authors often take a fairy tale that we all know and change it up a bit to retell it in a fun, new way. They might change the characters or setting, switch the good and bad characters, make it funny or modern, or have new or different events. These new stories are called fractured fairy tales.
There are so many new, creative twists on The Gingerbread Man that lend themselves perfectly to teaching about fractured fairy tales. I wrote a separate blog post with lesson ideas for teaching with fractured gingerbread man tales. It includes a free printable fractured fairy tales chart.
Day 4: Gingerbread Man STEM
The characters in the story have two different problems that students can solve using STEM.
The little old woman, the little old man and all the people and animals can’t catch the gingerbread man. Have students design and build a trap to catch The Gingerbread Man.
The Gingerbread Man can’t cross the water, so the fox is able to trick him into riding on his back. Students also might design and build a bridge to help The Gingerbread Man safely across the water.
A super fun follow-up activity is to have students write about how to catch a Gingerbread Man. Hang their writings in the hallway or on a bulletin board with the title, “Catch That Cookie!”, “Cookie Catchers” or “We Caught You, Mr. Gingerbread Man”.
Day 5: Gingerbread Fun
Wrap up the unit by reading another fun fractured gingerbread story like, The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray or Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett. Then make a gingerbread creation! Ideas include:
- No Bake Cinnamon Applesauce Christmas Ornaments– Use a gingerbread man cookie cutter to make keepsake ornaments for students to take home.
- Cereal Box Gingerbread Ornaments– An easy, mess-free gingerbread ornament. These would look so cute on a classroom Christmas tree!
- Paper Lunch Sack Gingerbread House- Stuff a brown paper lunch sack with several wadded up plastic grocery bags. Fold the top of the bag over slightly and staple shut. Cut a piece of brown construction paper in half and then fold over for the roof. Next, use a hole punch to make tiny candy pieces and glue on the roof. Draw icing on it using a white oil pastel or crayon. Finally, add a door, windows and other candy decorations to complete the house.
Gingerbread Man Unit for Kindergarten and First Grade
All of these activities and more are in my gingerbread unit for kindergarten and first grade. This week-long comprehensive unit includes detailed daily lesson plans with literature suggestions to make your job easier. It incorporates reading, writing, math, handwriting and art. It also includes the two STEM activities and links to videos that complement the unit study.