In this post, I am going to tell you how I taught my combination class of first and second graders to perform “The Gingerbread Man,” a musical play that I wrote for Kindergarten. Each year, I always used to have my Kindergarten class put on either The Gingerbread Man or “The Mitten,” another musical play that I wrote especially for Kindergarten. (I also have another play that I wrote to be done in the spring, The Wide Mouthed Frog.) However, even though I am now teaching first and second graders, I still thought that the children would benefit from learning and performing the play. I know that many first grade classes have done the play, so I knew it would be fine for the first graders, at least. But would it be appropriate for my second graders? That was the question!
Well, our play was actually this past Wednesday morning, and it went INCREDIBLY WELL! This was the first time anyone at my new school had seen anything like it, so it was lots of fun to show it off. Both parents and teachers were just RAVING about how cute it was, and how well the children did. I was just SO proud of them!
I have to tell you that it was SO MUCH EASIER teaching and training older children to put on this play! I used to always allow myself a minimum of three weeks to prepare my class, and preferably four weeks when teaching Kindergartners to perform it! Kindergartners needed to take two weeks to learn the music, and then two weeks to practice on the stage, especially considering that we would probably not be able to use the auditorium more than three days a week. But with my class of first and second graders, I spent one week teaching the music, and just one week and a day practicing on the stage.
My first and second graders picked up the songs in no time, with hardly any extra class time invested.
Here is what our practice schedule looked like:
Day One: I showed them the YouTube video of my Kindergarten class performing the show. That took less than 20 minutes.
Day Two: I taught them all of the songs and the motions, which were already familiar because they had seen them on the video the day before. That took about 20-25 minutes. Meanwhile, I had a volunteer start going through my existing Kindergarten costumes and see what I had that would fit my first and second graders, and what I might need to purchase for them. All I had to do was purchase one new item!
Day Three: We reviewed all of the songs and motions, and sang them through. That took 15-20 minutes. I showed them my Gingerbread Man Book that goes with it. (It’s the story of kids putting on the play!) So cute!
Day Four: We again reviewed all of the songs and motions, singing all of them once through. It took about 15 minutes. The kids started pestering me to find out who would get to be what character- of course!
Day Five: We sang all of the songs and talked about what character each child would like to be. I had each child tell me a first, second, and third choice. Not everyone can be the Gingerbread Man or the Fox! Then I had the children that wanted to be the Gingerbread Man or the Fox come up and sing the Gingerbread Man’s song alone, explaining that the whomever got picked would need to be brave enough to get up on stage and sing all by him or herself! It was a tough choice, because so many children did so well!
Day Six: I announced who got which parts on that Monday morning of week two. One child was upset that he was not the Fox, but other than that, they handled it well. We had to have a talk about how we don’t always get to be the main character, and we might not always get what we want, but we will all have fun. I think that in this day and age of entitlement, it’s a very important lesson!
Hints for teaching stage “blocking:” When teaching children what to do on stage, masking tape is my best friend! All I do is mark spots on the stage where the children always start, sing, or end their actions. Each time they go up to the stage, they must find their tape and stand on it. When it is their turn to sing, they stand on the tape in front of the microphone. When they are done chasing the Gingerbread Man and listen to him sing, they stand on different pieces of tape near his “bridge,” which is really a double student desk lowered as far as it could go with a painting of a bridge on an unfolded cardboard box in front of it.
All of the pieces of tape are numbered, and the children know which number they are headed for. This imposes structure and rules on an otherwise unstructured situation. If a child is supposed to be standing on his tape and is not, then he is not following directions and that is that! It’s just like being in the classroom. Either you are where you are supposed to be, or you or not. No problem!
To get the children started on the stage, I gave my child who was the Fox the job of starting and stopping music on the iPod, because he would be coming up on the stage last. Then I just stood on the stage and kept pointing to where the children needed to go when it was their turn to come up and sing. Because they had seen it already on YouTube and read it in the book, it was familiar and easy. All I needed to do was keep giving them gentle little pushes as I directed them here and there, and pointed them towards the tape that I had told previously them to look for. By day two, they really already knew what they were doing!
Day Seven: We practiced on the stage again. I allowed 45 minutes, but we finished early after just 35 minutes. I used student narrators for this play, which is something that I have never done before. We had to work through the best and most efficient way to do this, since I had no experience with it.
Day Eight: We practiced on the stage again, and it took only about 30 minutes today to practice. I finally figured out that it was best to have each of my four narrators take nine pages of narration each to read, rather than have them switch off with each line, as I was having them do before. That was WAY too hard! But having one narrator at a time on the stage worked just fine. As each child finished his or her turn narrating, he came down off the stage and the next one came up. All four of my narrators were second graders, and managing without help this was fairly easy for them.
Day Nine: We practiced again on the stage, and it only took about 25 minutes at the most. The play was finally running through from start to finish without a problem, and the narrators sailed through their parts without a hitch!
Day Ten: We only needed about 20 minutes to practice on the stage by day ten, and it went great! I was very confident by that time that the class would be able to perform it just fine. We could have performed it by then, but it was a Friday and our performance was scheduled for the following Wednesday.
Day 11: We practiced one last time, and the children were just perfect… except NOISY when not performing! They were ready for an audience, that’s for sure!
You can download the entire script and instruction book FREE for all of our plays. The only thing we charge for is the music and the printed story books. Here is the script for the Gingerbread Man. Here is the script for The Mitten. And here is the script for The Wide Mouthed Frog!
If you’d like to see other examples of this play, for different blocking or costume ideas, check out these YouTube videos from other classes! I just love seeing the kids from all over having so much fun with this musical! This first one is done by a school in BOLIVIA!!! Can you believe that??