Nutcracker Activities for Music | Tried, True, and New

Here are some favorite lesson plans and activities for the music classroom to teach The Nutcracker Ballet plus some NEW resources to spark life into our teaching of this perennial classic.

On this page…

  1. Chinese Tea Dance ORFF Lesson Activities (Movement, Instrumental Arrangement)
    1. Tea Dance Video
  2. Cultural Stereotypes in the Nutcracker
  3. Books
  4. Nutcracker Museum
  5. Lesson Ideas
    1. Unit of Study (in progress)
    2. March | Stretchy Bands
    3. Trepak | Plate Routine
    4. Sugar Plum Fairy | Movement with Mr. DelGaudio
    5. Waltz of the Flowers
  6. Ballet Videos
    1. Full-length Ballet (Central Florida Ballet)
    2. Hip Hop Nutcracker on PBS
    3. Hip Hop Nutcracker (Disney+ Excerpt)

Chinese Tea Dance ORFF Lesson Activities (Movement, Instrumental Arrangement)

With its call and response form, this is the perfect barred instrument activity for December! PLUS, movement ideas using partners and the whole class with and without props! Ribbon sticks/wands, scarves, partner parachutes, and a classroom parachute!

Tea Dance Video

Cultural Stereotypes in the Nutcracker

Each performance of the Nutcracker uses an artistic director who helps determine the costuming, dancing, makeup, and scenery for the ballet. The ballet dates back to a time when ethnic caricatures were standard practice in the performances. This is particularly true in Act II with the dances related to the Chinese, Arabian, Russian, and Spanish dances.

As music specialists, this is important to take into consideration if we choose to use videos in our teaching. Read more.

Here’s an excellent interview on NPR about “Rethinking Cultural Stereotypes in The Nutcracker.”

Books

Nutcracker Museum

At this school, students were asked to bring in a family Nutcracker and were put into this fun Nutcracker Museum display! (Remember to have the student’s name and room clearly labeled.)

Add this to your end-of-year evaluation Danielson (or similar) Domain 1b: Teacher-designed opportunities for families to share their heritages.

Lesson Ideas

Unit of Study (in progress)

  • K-1 Read a book about ballet and a book about The Nutcracker
  • K-1 Learn a movement routine to the March
  • Grades 2-3

March | Stretchy Bands

Trepak | Plate Routine

Sugar Plum Fairy | Movement with Mr. DelGaudio

Waltz of the Flowers

Ballet Videos

Full-length Ballet (Central Florida Ballet)

https://www.pbs.org/video/hip-hop-nutcracker-at-njpac-an-all-arts-presentation-czdp88/

Hip Hop Nutcracker on PBS

This performance is on PBS and you may need to confirm your local PBS station.

Hip Hop Nutcracker (Disney+ Excerpt)

The Mitten

Many of us are familiar with the Jan Brett book, but this 
Ukrainian folk tale has a very interesting history! Here are songs, lesson plans, and resources for the beautiful story.
Continue reading “The Mitten”

Valentine Themed Music Resources

The BEST Valentine Game for K-2

To the tune of This Old Man
Valentine, valentine.
Won’t you be my valentine?
Number 1, number 2, number 3 it must be you.
Take my heart along with you.

Sitting in a scattered formation or columns and rows is the most fun, although a circle will work, too. The first child is the leader and has a valentine in their hand and walks around the room as the song is sung. On each of the three numbers, the leader taps the head (or back) of the nearest 3 children. The third child is given the heart, stands up, and holds hands with the leader. The leader continues to slowly walk around the room, meandering in any direction, and when the song gets to the numbers, the child on the end who has the valentine taps 3 heads and gives the valentine to the third child. That child stands up, holds hands with the person who gave them the valentine, and now the group of three walks around the room. The game continues until there is only one child left. When that child gets the valentine, there is only one person left, YOU the teacher. So the end child gets to give the valentine to you.

Roses Are Red

This is a wonderful 6/8 Valentine activity for grades 3-5.

Using the old poem “Roses are Red”, echo speak with body percussion until everyone knows it.

1.  Individuals improvise the poem on pitched percussion/recorders.  When we do this, we start with someone and just proceed all around the room.  I keep a little bass beat on the BX and play a little interlude between each child.  It is so much fun and the 6/8 of course is lilting and beautiful!

2.  Finish the melody activity-On xylophones have students learn DRMS, DRMS for the first two lines of the poem and then they create the melody for the last two lines.  We vote on our favorite and that becomes their class melody.  I usually do it in C pentatonic.  It would work well on recorders in G major.  OR, you could do LDRM in E minor on recorders for a fun and accessible way to finish a melody using the notes EGAB.

3.  Building bricks with 6/8-students brainstorm.  Three eighth note examples are valentine and chocolate.  Dotted quarter examples are love, heart, red, candy.  Put combos together in groups to create B, C, D, E, F, etc. sections in rondo form with the song above as your A section.  Or pick favorite group creation as the B section for a more simple binary form.  These can be transferred to non-pitched percussion.

4.  If you’d like to explore writing poems in the style of “Roses are Red”, try changing the colors and then the rhyming words.

Roses are blue.
Violets are red.
If you agree,
You’ve got rocks in your head.

Cephalopod Squid Game


What’s here!

  • The parts are a just a framework. Let the kids explore how to create the sounds in measures 4-6.
  • The second note “A” in the melody sounds bent to me so not quite A and not quite Ab.
  • I used the games they play in the show, but wouldn’t it be fun to let your classes create their own B section with their favorite games.
  • This is not the original key so you could play around with other tonalities.
  • The vocal part can easily be played on the recorder. Mmm…
  • The melody is really popular on TikTok right now but might not work at some schools. Discretion advised.

If you are subscribed to my blog you can receive a PDF copy of Cephalopod Games! Just drop me a comment below and let me know if you’d like one.

Pass the Pumpkin


This is a great beat passing game! Whoever has the pumpkin on the last beat of the song is OUT! Continue playing until there is a final winner. As students get out, they can go get sticks and play to the beat as the game progresses.

Continue reading “Pass the Pumpkin”