A Gingerbread Unit You Can Run With
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
The weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break are amazing. I love coming back from Thanksgiving break because it means that it’s time for some winter holiday fun. My favorite theme for the holidays is gingerbread. There are so many activities that meet Common Core standards but also invoke a festive spirit, no matter which holiday you or your students celebrate.
My Favorite Gingerbread Books
- The Gingerbread Man retold by Jim Aylesworth
- The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires
- The Gingerbread Bear by Robert Dennis
- Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett
- Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett (a sequel to Gingerbread Baby we read on the same day)
- The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst
- The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup
- The Gingerbread Boy by Richard Egielski
- The Gingerbread Kid Goes to School by Joan Holub
- The Gingerbread Girl Goes Animal Crackers by Lisa Campbell Ernst
- The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray
Gingerbread House Wall Chart
A Gingerbread House makes a great backdrop for notes from your talks about characters, settings, and the beginning, middle, and end of the story. I read one book each day and we document the characters (making a special note about the main character), settings, refrain, and ending of each. This year the order is:
- Monday – The Gingerbread Man
- Tuesday – The Gingerbread Cowboy
- Wednesday – The Gingerbread Bear
- Thursday – Gingerbread Baby
- Friday – The Gingerbread Girl
Every day we review the previous books from the notes on our chart and then, as we are filling in the spaces for the current day’s story, we compare it to the other stories. The Kindergarten Common Core Standards that this activity meets are:
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.3- With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.9 - With prompting and support, compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in familiar stories.
We teach the Super Three research method at my school. If you aren’t familiar with it, the Super Three is: Plan, Do, Review. To help my kids get the idea of the steps in the Super Three we read Gingerbread Friends. After reading the book, each child draws a gingerbread friend. When they complete their friend they take their "plan" (their drawing) to the decorating area for the "do" step. They use candies and colored icing to create their plan on real gingerbread cookies. This year, we ordered our cookies online. After executing their plan they "review" it alongside their cookie and self-evaluate how the two compare.
We complete the Gingerbread House activity during the first gingerbread week. By week two my kids always end up disliking foxes and their reaction when a fox shows up in a story is hysterical. At the beginning of our second gingerbread week I read The Gingerbread Boy and right before I read the ending I pose the question, “Now that the Gingerbread Boy is on the fox in the water, is there a way that he could escape?” I love hearing their ideas. They are so creative at this age. I write down all the answers and inevitably someone will say, “He should jump into the water.” That is the answer that I’ve been waiting for. I pretend that I hadn’t thought of that idea and say, “We should do an experiment and see if this solution will work.” I take one of the leftover gingerbread men from our gingerbread research and put him in a basin of water.
The students complete a data sheet to document their observations, predictions, and the outcome.
Gingerbread Man Posters
On the last day of our gingerbread unit we sequence the recipe for making gingerbread. My secret is that I really have no clue how to make gingerbread so I just combine a few different ingredients in a bowl (making sure to add a brown powder of some sort) and mix them together. I then pull a Food Network show trick and grab a roll of premade gingerbread cookie dough and that is what I put in the pan. This is not only easier, it also ensures that our gingerbread man is edible. During the course of the day, I have to announce to the class that while checking on our gingerbread man, he jumped out of the oven and ran down the hallway. I am always very upset at this unexpected turn of events. This is when each student creates a Lost Gingerbread Man poster that we hang in the hallway. Each child decorates a pre-cut gingerbread man and writes descriptive words.We have already created a small list of words that describe our gingerbread man in the gingerbread science lesson. They also have to include where he should be returned if he is found. As we travel through the halls the rest of the day we are quietly on the lookout for the runaway cookie (if we are too loud he will hear us coming and run). At the end of the day, a very helpful teacher brings our Gingerbread Man to our room because they saw our signs in the hallway. The Kindergarten Common Core Standards that this activity meets are:
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.K.2 - Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K.5c - Identify real-life connections between words and their use
Building Gingerbread Houses
This is the day that my class relies on parent volunteers. I get enough of the gingerbread house kits so that three to four students can build one house. I let the students pick their own groups earlier in the day. This is a great time to talk about making good kindergarten choices. I try not to veto any student’s decisions but will call them over to look at the group and ask them if they think that is the best group for them to be successful during the activity. I try to have one adult with each group. Getting the kits makes this a fun and easy activity with little to no set-up time. The amount of clean-up time needed is in direct correlation to how much fun the group had building and decorating. Each group gets to share their finished product with the class. The Kindergarten Common Core Standards that this activity meets are:
- CCSS.Math.Content.K.G.A. - 1 Describe objects in the environment using names of shapes, and describe the relative positions of these objects using terms such as above, below, beside, in front of, behind, and next to.
- CCSS.Math.Content.K.G.A.3 - Identify shapes as two-dimensional (lying in a plane, “flat”) or three-dimensional (“solid”).
Using another roll or two of the gingerbread cookie dough, I set up different stations. One group learns different ways to flatten the dough. Another has letter cookie cutters that the students use to spell words in the dough. Another is a free center where students find how many different things they can make with the gingerbread dough. This is similar to having students use play-doh for these activities but the buy-in when you use gingerbread dough is unbelievable.
I hope that you have as much fun with gingerbread as I do.
I can't wait to see you next week.