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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

My Favorite Nutcracker Music Lesson Ideas

For many music teachers, December in the music room means The Nutcracker! Today I want to share some of my favorite lesson ideas using The Nutcracker that I love doing with my elementary students, and I'm also including a link-up at the end of the post for other bloggers to share their favorite Nutcracker lessons, so be sure to check those out as well!

1. Movement

I've shared this before but it is still my favorite Nutcracker lesson. I created these movements to go with the March, Trepak (Russian), and Sugar Plum Fairy music a few years ago. Not only are they great because they are active, but they are a great way to reinforce the form in each movement as well as other musical elements like articulation. The idea for the Sugar Plum Fairy is a painter- first painting dots, then painting swirls and turning the canvas to see which way it should go, then back to painting dots.

2. Play-along

This one is great for reinforcing form as well, but it's also the perfect way to practice steady beat and rhythm and break out those instruments! This play-along video by Denise Gagne shows rhythms and steady beat sections for students to play on instruments to go with the Nutcracker Overture.

3. Arrangements

For upper elementary students, I like to introduce the concept of arranging with these examples of totally different versions of the Sugar Plum Fairy. First we watch each of the videos, and discuss what elements were the same and which were different (what things can you change without changing the song itself?). Afterwards, I have students create an arrangement of a simple song (like Jingle Bells) in small groups to perform for the class. Besides introducing students to the concept of arranging, it's also a great way to review music vocabulary through the discussion of musical elements.

"original" with traditional ballet dancer:

On wine glasses:

Electrohouse/ Dubstep:

a capella:

What are some of your favorite lessons using The Nutcracker? If you're a blogger, please link up your (non-product heavy) posts below, and I'd love to hear everyone's favorite ideas in the comments!

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  1. Thank you so much for these wonderful variations! My students has so much fun comparing and contrasting each one!

    1. I'm so glad! We always have fun with these, and it provides some opportunities for great discussions, integrating music concepts and vocabulary, which is always a nice side bonus ;) Happy holidays!

  2. Great ideas here!
    Question: For the arrangement project, does everyone do an arrangement of the same song or do you have different ones that they could choose from?

    1. I've always done it with everyone using the same song, but I don't see any reason not to let students choose from a list! That would be a great way to allow more student input and get them more invested.

  3. Thank you so much for posting this great ideas! I am new to music and really appreciate the time and energy you investing in creating and posting these lessons :)

    1. I'm so happy to hear they have been helpful for you! Thanks for commenting :)