Students are so excited about the holidays at this time of year. I needed a way to use that excitement as motivation to fuel great learning, but it's important to be sensitive to the fact that not all students celebrate in the same way (or at all). Holidays can be a sensitive subject for kids. Also, because I teach 3rd grade many students believe whole-heartedly that the jolly old elf will be coming down their chimney while others (esp. those with older siblings) are on the cusp of not buying into that anymore. So I do everything I can to keep Santa from being a topic of conversation.
Therefore, Gingerbread is the perfect solution.
It feels seasonal. It feels Holiday-ish. But, really it's just a baked good and is non-denominational and doesn't spark conversations about beliefs because, well it's a cookie. Best of all, it uses their December giddiness as fuel for some amazing learning and projects.
We spend a lot of time reading and comparing different versions of the Gingerbread Man. I use the different books to springboard into map skills and cultures. I use it for teaching about area and perimeter. And their most favorite part of the unit is a science/engineering where they build a bridge to get the gingerbread man safely across the river! So. much. fun.
I'll surely be sharing all of these with you as they play out in real time in my classroom. In the meantime, I wanted to share my favorite books that I include in the unit.
The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires take the traditional story and gives it a country touch. The Cowboy runs from a rancher, dash past the javelinas, and giddyup past the cattle grazing in the field. I like the new vocabulary that this book allows me to introduce to the students.
My kiddos (especially the ladies) always enjoy The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst. It's nice to have a female lead thrown in the mix. This book does include the words "dumber" and "airhead." Some teachers opt to omit it when doing a reading to the class. You could also use it as a teachable moment and discuss the word choices the author made and why they think they were included. Honestly, I've read this to my class for at least 4-5 years as well as to my son at home and it has always been a non-issue.
And since we're talking about inappropriate words in texts...I now present The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka. I'm a huge fan of fractured fairy tales and these get kids laughing. I only read the one story aloud, but the book becomes highly coveted afterwards. They can't wait to read through the rest of the stories. And then they read them again. It's silly, but really funny...especially if you are 8.
The Musubi Man: Hawai'i's Gingerbread Man by Sandi Takayama was a surprisingly good book. Plus, I live in New England and always teach my Gingerbread Unit in December so I can't help but love a book that takes me to Hawaii at that time of year.
I hesitated to order Stop That Pickle!, but I'm so glad I did. Last year my class voted it as their favorite. It's fun and different.
A gingerbread study would not be complete without Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett. I actually read this book last because I then transition into a short Jan Brett author study. So many of her books are perfect for the winter season. We read Gingerbread Friends (although I personally don't include it in the comparisons because the format is different).
I probably should have started with The Gingerbread Man by Karen Schmidt because it is the book that I start the unit with. It's a very simple read. I actually bought 6 copies so I could use them for guided reading and group/partner work because they are at a level that all of my friends can read and contains all of the elements of the basic story.
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