En la Clase: Around the World with the Gingerbread Man

Gingerbread PartyI realize that most teachers have about a week and a half of school left before winter break.  As I’ve shared before, this time of year was always one of my favorites to be in the classroom, but it was also a struggle.  As a teacher I couldn’t wait for winter break.  It was a time of much needed rest and relaxation so that I could come back refreshed and ready to go in January.  My students weren’t always as excited.  While many looked forward to the break as much as I did, for some of them it was a source of anxiety.  School was where they were sure to get two full meals.  School provided a dependable structure where they knew what to expect and when to expect it.  I learned that as much as I might want to throw our regular schedule out the window and do more open ended projects to get us through those last two weeks before break, that wasn’t what my students needed.  They wanted to have fun, but they wanted to maintain our structure.  Their minds were already focused on break (whether with anxiety or excitement) so this also wasn’t the time for anything too demanding. This meant that I was always on the look-out for lesson plans and activities that would meet all our needs for this time of year.

In last week’s post I shared with you KidWorldCitizen, a great website that I came across while doing some research for past posts.  While spending some time on the website I came across Becky Morales’ article “Gingerbread Stories from Around the World.”  The resources provided in the post can easily be turned in to a unit perfect for the last week before break or even that first week back in January.  I had no idea there were so many versions of The Gingerbread Man from across the globe.  Morales links to many of the versions in her post.  Below I’ve highlighted the two that pertain to Latin America since that’s our focus here on Vamos a Leer.

The Runaway PiggyThe Runaway Piggy/El Cochinito Fugitivo by James Luna

The sun shines through the windows of Martha’s Panaderia onto the shelves of freshly baked treats. The bakery holds tray after tray of hot Mexican sweet bread–conchas, orejas, cuernitos, empanadas, and cochinitos–all ready for hungry customers. In the classic tradition of The Gingerbread Man, James Luna’s piggy cookie leaps off the baking tray and takes the reader on a mad dash through the barrio, past Lorenzo’s Auto Shop, Nita’s Beauty Salon, Leti’s Flower Shop, and Juana’s Thrift Shop.

The Runaway Tortilla by Eric A. Kimmel

In Texas, Tía Lupe and Tío Jose make the best tortillas – so light that the cowboys say they just might The Runaway Tortillajump right out of the griddle. One day, a tortilla does exactly that. Mocking her pursuers, the tortilla runs through the desert, encountering two horned toads, three donkeys, four jackrabbits, five rattlesnakes, and six buckaroos. She dodges them all, but is finally outwitted by Señor Coyote in this flavorful twist on the classic tale “The Gingerbread Man.”

Below I’ve shared how I’d create an easy unit around Gingerbread stories from around the world.  As Morales points out at the beginning of her post, comparing and contrasting two or more versions of the same story by different authors is a common core standard, so if you’re required to meet those, this lesson plan will work for you.

  1. Choose a few versions of Gingerbread Stories from different parts of the world.  If you’ve already covered literature from specific countries or continents in past units, I might choose to focus on those again here so that you can review any geography and compare these tales to the others read.
  2. Read one of the more common U.S. versions of the The Gingerbread Man.  Using chart paper or a Gingerbread Man Graphic Organizergraphic organizer, as a class, have students identify the main characters and plot.  If you choose to use the table that Morales shared in her post (see right), have students focus on the following questions as they review the story: Who makes the food that runs away? What is the food? Who tries to catch it? Who finally does catch it? Or does it get away? What cultural details are unique in the story?  I’ve created an editable word document of the table here.
  3. Read the other versions of The Gingerbread Man.  Have students record the same information as they did above for each of the other versions of the story.
  4. Once students have read all the versions of The Gingerbread Man that you plan on sharing there are a couple of options for what to do next.  Students can:
    1. Pick their two favorite versions, fill out a Venn Diagram identifying similarities and differences; then, using the diagram, write a compare and contrast paragraph.
    2. Write their own Gingerbread story choosing who makes the food, what the food is, why the food tries to runaway, who tries to catch it, and if it gets caught.  Once they have written their story, they can illustrate it.
    3. In small groups read a version of the Gingerbread story not yet shared in class.  As a group, create a poster board explaining the characters and plot of the book, and how this version compares to others read.
    4. There are lots of gingerbread cookie templates out there that can be used as a fun coloring sheet (perfect for adding a little glitter to), or as the cover for student stories.  You could even cut out notebook paper in the same shape and have students write their stories on that.
    5. Wrap up the unit up by eating gingerbread cookies, and maybe even watching a video version of The Gingerbread Man.

This will be my last En la Clase of the year! I hope you all have a wonderful and relaxing winter break! We’ll be back posting at the beginning of January!

Image: “Gingerbread Party.” Reprinted from Flickr user Tobias von der Haar under CC ©


13 thoughts on “En la Clase: Around the World with the Gingerbread Man

  1. Bless you for dedicating yourself to kids and recognizing the important role school plays in many children’s lives. I was one of those kids who found comfort in the structure and safety of school and teachers like you.

  2. Dear Katrina,
    I cannot tell you how much I appreciate all that you do! Thank you for all your hard work and all the wonderful ideas, and thoughts, and materials that you have so generously shared!

  3. It’s sad to read that for some kids (too many in fact): School was where they were they were sure to get two full meals. Thanks, Katrina, for two more lovely books. I have to google about all the food in the bakery in the first book, starting with the Mexican sweet bread. The concept of the second book about a tortilla running away is cute. Have a wonderful winter break,

    • It is sad, and as you said, far too common. These were both new stories for me, I’d never heard of them before. They look like fun books for the classroom. Until I was researching this post, I didn’t realize how popular the “food that runs away” plot line was in tales across cultures.

  4. Love the lesson plan! I used to do this when I taught Kindergarten. My student’s love of this GB man unit inspired my picture book, The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School :). We used the lessons for mapping and cultural skills as well. Here are some other diverse Gb titles -The Masubi Man, The Cajun GB Man, The GB Baby, The Runaway Rice Cake, The GB Cowboy, The Runaway Latkes. Thanks for spreading the word about such a fun activity for students during this time of year!

    • Thank you! The Gingerbread Man Loose in School sounds like a wonderful book to use in the classroom! Thanks so much for sharing the other titles–most of these are new to me. I had no idea this category of books about food that runs away existed, much less how many great diverse titles there are.

  5. I had no idea this was such a genre! I just heard about a similar book that was recently published: Señorita Gordita (written by Helen Ketteman and illustrated by Will Terry). I haven’t read it yet, but it certainly looks like it belongs to the “food that runs away” category.

  6. Pingback: En la Clase: Tamales, Poinsettias, and Navidad | Vamos a Leer

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