Runaway Dreidel Lesson Plan
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
This lesson is taken from Teaching About Winter Holidays With Favorite Picture Books, available from Scholastic Professional Books.
In Runaway Dreidel, while his family prepares for Hanukkah, a boy’s shiny new dreidel begins to spin out of control. Spinning down the stairs, onto the streets, and out of the city, the dreidel leads the boy and his family on a cross-country chase. But when it reaches the sea’s edge, the boy is sure that he’ll soon have his toy back in his hand. Much to everyone’s surprise, though, the dreidel has one more leg of its journey to complete before it stops. Boldly colored illustrations playfully accent this humorous holiday tale.
Use this tale to get students’ creative storytelling juices flowing. After discussing the dreidel’s adventures and how they distracted from and added to the family’s Hanukkah celebration, ask children to think of their own imaginary holiday-related adventures. Invite them to briefly share their ideas with the class. Then send students to the writing center to develop, write, and illustrate their stories.
Dreidel Game (Social Studies)
Many traditional Jewish items, foods, and customs are woven into the telling of Runaway Dreidel! Invite children to refer to the book to learn Hanukkah related facts while playing this modified dreidel game. Follow these directions for each playing group.
- To prepare, cut out the Fact Cards and Spinner. Fold the fact cards in half and place them in a small bag. Glue the spinner onto a piece of tagboard. Laminate, if desired.
- Use a paper fastener to loosely attach a small paper-clip spinner to the dreidel spinner.
- Place the bag of fact cards on a table along with a bowl (or paper cup.)
- Before play starts, review the Hebrew letters and their meanings on the dreidel spinner.
Nun means “take none.” The player does nothing and the next player takes a turn.
Gimel means “take all.” Any time a player spins Gimel, the player takes all of the counters. All players must put one into the pot before the game can continue.
Heh (hay) means “take half.” If a player rolls Heh, the player takes half of the counters from the pot. (If there’s an odd number of counters in the pot, the player takes one extra.)
Shin means “put one in.” The player puts one counter into the pot.
To play, a caller distributes five dried beans to each of three or four players. Each player puts one bean in the bowl.
The caller picks a fact card and reads it to the first player. The player must decide whether the statement is true or false. If he or she answers correctly, the player spins the dreidel and follows the direction that lands face up.
If his or her answer is incorrect, the fact card goes back into the bag, and the next player takes a turn.
Players take turns in this manner until one player wins all the beans in the bowl.
When a player is out of counters, he or she is out of the game. Or play can continue for a given amount of time, after which the player with the most beans wins.
After the game, give each player a piece of gelt (chocolates wrapped to look like money) to enjoy.
Spinning a Tale (Social Studies and Language Arts)
The runaway dreidel led the boy and his family on a cross-country adventure. Have children use information from the story to map the dreidel’s path on large construction paper, sequencing its locations by number. Then invite students to use their maps to spin off their own versions of the tale.
Scientific Spins (Science)
The boy’s dreidel spun across floors, streets, grass, and a variety of other terrain before spinning off into the sky. Ask children if a dreidel can reallyspin that easily on any surface. To test their responses, equip small groups with paper, pencil, a stopwatch, and a dreidel (or top). Have the groups list surfaces around the school on which to test-spin their dreidels (a tile floor, carpet, sidewalk, grass, sand, and so on). Then ask them to write their predictions about whether or not the dreidel will spin on each surface, and how long it will spin. Finally, have students spin the dreidel three times on each surface, recording its spinning time for each trial and observations about how it spins. After children have conducted their experiments, invite groups to share and compare their results.
For more Hanukkah adventures, share these magical tales:
- Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat: A Chanukah Story by Naomi Howland (Clarion Books, 1999). On the firstnight of Chanukah, poor, hungry Sadie gives an old woman her firewood and is rewarded with a magic latke-making pan. The pan always works for Sadie, but when her curious brothers try to use it, latke laced chaos erupts in the village.
- The Magic Dreidels by Eric A. Kimmel (Holiday House, 1996). When Jacob shows Fruma Sarah his magic dreidels, the greedy woman tricks the boy and keeps them for herself. That is, until one dreidel spins out a surprise that makes Fruma Sarah itch to return the dreidels to their rightful owner.
- The Magic Menorah: A Modern Chanukah Tale by Jane Breskin Zalben (Simon & Schuster, 2001). When Stanley cleans an old menorah, a genie appears and grants him three wishes. Desiring fame, fortune, and happiness, the boy discovers that wishes can be answered in surprising and unanticipated ways. Hebrew and Yiddish words are sprinkled throughout this chapter-book story.
- Moishe’s Miracle: A Hanukkah Story by Laura Krauss Melmed (HarperCollins, 2000). While sleeping in the cowshed to escape his wife’s scolding, the generous Moishe receives a special gift — a magic pan that makes latkes. As he does with all things, the kind man shares his good fortune with his neighbors, but his greedy wife has other ideas for the pan.
- The Runaway Latkes by Leslie Kimmelman (Albert Whitman & Company, 2000). In this cumulative Hanukkah tale based on “The Gingerbread Man,” one character after another joins the chase as Rebecca tries to catch her runaway latkes.