The Gingerbread Boy is a popular folktale, and makes a great classroom theme at this time of year.
In the story, a Gingerbread Boy (or a Gingerbread Man) is baked and runs away. As he is running off, he meets various animals or people, all of whom try to catch him. He eludes them all, singing out something like,
“Run, run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me! I’m the Gingerbread Man!”
“I ran away from the old woman, I ran away from the old man, I ran away from the cow, and I can run away from you, too!”
At last, the Gingerbread Boy finds himself at a river. A wily fox offers him a ride across, and eats him on the way over.
There are so many good picture book versions of this story that we would recommend grabbing a stack and reading a new one each day.
- Paul Galdone’s The Gingerbread Boy is the traditional story.
- The Runaway Latkes by Leslie Kimmelman is a seasonal choice.
- Jan Brett’s Gingerbread Baby is set in Switzerland and has a happy ending. As always, she offers lots of great classroom resources to go with it at her website. We particularly like the masks for retelling the story, and the boardgame. Brett followed up with Gingerbread Friends.
- Ying Chang Compestine gives us The Runaway Rice Cake.
- The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires is another Southwestern choice.
- The Gingerbread Boy by Richard Egielski is set in New York City.
- Cajun Gingerbread Boy by Berthe Amoss takes the story to the bayou.
- Mary Engelbreit included this story in her Nursery and Fairy Tales Collection.
There are many choices online as well:
- Here is a neat version in thumbnails that you can click to see the whole thing.
- Here is John Inman reading the traditional story. This is at YouTube, but is only audio. Let students draw their own illustrations while they listen.
- Pitt.edu has a collection of similar tales from Norway, Germany, and the United States.
- Here is a Reader’s Theater version.
Right now, you can also enjoy a free download of Gingerbread Man from the Bari Koral Family Band, from their album Anna and the Cupcakes. It’s a fun, danceable retelling of the story with “Everybody stop!” moments that would add a little focus to dance time and a singalong refrain. Very infectious, and there are some cute movement suggestions on the workbook page. This is a temporary free item, so tell your friends if it’s still there, and accept our apologies if it’s gone!
TCR’s Gingerbread Thematic Unit uses “The Gingerbread Boy” and Jan Brett’s Gingerbread Baby as its literature selections. This is a good primary-level unit.
More activities across the curriculum:
- The Gingerbread Sort & Snap manipulatives from Learning Resources are great for sorting and patterning.
- Here’s a collection of gingerbread-themed math links.
- Bake some gingerbread. The process of measuring for the recipe is great math practice for measurement and for fractions, and you can even fit some time work in when you monitor the baking time. Here’s a recipe that makes sturdy cookies:
1/2 c shortening
1/2 t salt
3 t baking soda
1 T ground ginger
1 T cinnamon
1 t allspice
1 c sugar
1 c molasses
2 eggs, beaten
1 T strong coffee
5 c flour
Cream together shortening, salt, and spices. Beat in remaining ingredients in order. Chill for an hour or overnight. Roll out and cut. Bake 20 minutes at 325 degrees, or till firm.
- Jan Brett’s interactive game lets you design a Gingerbread Friend on your computer. It makes a good little computer center for younger grades, giving some mouse practice.
- Jan Brett’s version ends with the Gingerbread Baby in a sweet little gingerbread house. Try your hand at making gingerbread houses, either from brown construction paper or from graham crackers. If you made gingerbread, you could also use a Gingerbread House Cookie Cutter Set or Gingerbread House Mold to make an easy gingerbread cottage. Gingerbread Lane is a good resource if you decide to get ambitious.
These inspirational pictures are from Kansas City’s Crown Center. There may be a public gingerbread house display where you live, too.
- The Gingerbread Boy’s increasingly risky behavior leads to greater pride and boastfulness, which in turn leads to increasingly risky behavior. We can see a lot of interesting discussions arising from this lesson.
- Use your Venn Diagram to compare this story with that of “The Lambikin.”
- The Gingerbread Baby looks for friends in Gingerbread Friends, and has some wild adventures while seeking them. His first attempt consists of standing in front of people (okay, cookies) he’d like to make friends with and showing off. Discuss as a class whether this is a good method for making friends. Have students write a recipe for making friends. Use gingerbread cut-outs to make a bulletin board of these ideas.
- If you’re thinking about gingerbread cottages, don’t miss our lesson plans for Hansel and Gretel.
- Gingerbread Friends uses words like “peppy” and “sassy” to describe the Gingerbread Baby, now old enough to be out looking for friends. This is a great lead-in to a lesson on adjectives.
- A recipe for gingerbread is hiding, ingredient by ingredient, in the pages of Gingerbread Friends. Have students use their skimming and scanning skills to find it and write it out. Recipes are always good for working on measurement, fractions, and imperatives.
- Learn about ginger. It’s an interesting plant with health benefits and a great, pungent smell. Bring some ginger root to class, cut or grate it to release the scent, and pass it around. You can also grow it in your classroom, for a lasting lesson on plants and growth.
- Once you’ve got ginger on hand, you can do a little chemistry and physical science by making ginger ale right there in the classroom.