Serious gingerbread work was happening across the Kindergarten curriculum in December as students read dozens of versions of the Gingerbread Man story from around the world, used gingerbread house candies for measurement, went on a gingerbread scavenger hunt, and did a gingerbread man directed-drawing activity. The festive focus on gingerbread wrapped up on the last afternoon before Winter Vacation as parents joined their students to build gingerbread houses together.
In literacy, Kindergarten students enjoyed exploring the similarities and differences in gingerbread man stories from around the world, marveling that there could be so many variations of the same story. Students read The Matzo Ball Boy, by Lisa Shulman, The Runaway Rice Cake by Ying Chang Compestine, The Cajun Cornbread Boy by Berth Amoss, Stop that Pickle! By Peter Armour and almost thirty other versions of the story. As they listened to variations on the story, the Kindergarteners delighted in shouting “Same!” when they encountered a detail that was constant in every tale and “Difference!” when there was a variation. “We’ve been talking about setting, character, and theme as we teach reading comprehension strategies,” says Kindergarten teacher Anne Canada, “and this is great because it pulls all of those things together at once.”
Patterns are a common theme in math where students are used to detecting patterns in numbers and shapes, and they were fascinated to notice that patterns can also exist in stories. “The fact that it’s not a visual pattern is mind-blowing to the kids,” says Anne. “It’s far more abstract, but they get it.” Continuing the mathematical thinking prompted by the stories, students used a strip of peppermints, a staple decorative feature of gingerbread houses, to measure the height of their gingerbread men.
Following rhyming clues on little strips of paper, students went on a gingerbread scavenger hunt around the Primary School, making stops in the kitchen and the front office, among other places. Some of the gingerbread man spinoff books like The Gingerbread Man Loose in the Zoo and The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray also contain maps which will be an important theme in the new year. “The kids have been so excited by the maps, and we’ll be exploring maps in social studies after vacation,” says Anne.
A directed drawing of a gingerbread man was an excellent way for students to practice their listening skills and ability to translate oral directions onto paper. Students followed step-by-step verbal directions to create their gingerbread men, and even though everyone received the same instructions, their work looked entirely different. “It was interesting for them to see how different their work was even though they were interpreting the same set of directions,” says Kindergarten teacher Kelly Porter. “It’s also a good lesson in resiliency as they realize that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be good!”
Harnessing the excitement of the impending Winter Vacation, students partnered with their parents on the final afternoon before the break to build gingerbread houses. Fay's Kindergarten teachers like this unit because it’s a great way to touch on many holidays and traditions. “It’s festive, wintry, and seasonal, and to have the parents come in to build the gingerbread houses is a really fun way to wrap it all up!” says Anne. Please visit Fay in Pictures to view a gallery of images from the gingerbread house building