Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Lesson Plan

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Educate your students about the beloved ballet 'The Nutcracker' with this lesson plan. They will read a text lesson, take a follow-up quiz, and participate in two activities to solidify their grasp of concepts.

Learning Objectives

After reviewing this lesson, your students will be able to:

  • summarize the plot of The Nutcracker
  • describe some of the musical performances in the ballet
  • name the main characters in The Nutcracker


  • 60-90 minutes


  • Audio for the following movements/songs from The Nutcracker
    • The March of the Children
    • the Waltz of the Snowflakes
    • the Trepak
    • the Chinese Dance
    • the Waltz of the Flowers
    • the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
  • Paper copies of the text lesson The Nutcracker Ballet: Composer, Music & Story
  • Paper copies of the related lesson quiz
  • Image of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
  • Six devices with internet access (one per group)

Key Vocabulary

  • Alexander Dumas
  • Celesta
  • Clara
  • E.T.A Hoffman
  • Fritz
  • Land of Sweets
  • Sugar Plum Fairy
  • Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.


  • Display an image of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
    • Does anyone know who this is?
  • After some discussion, reveal Tchaikovsky's name and ask students if anyone knows what is he known for.
  • Hand out copies of the text lesson The Nutcracker Ballet: Composer, Music & Story and read the first section, 'Introduction,' with students.
    • With what holiday is the ballet associated?
    • On what book is the ballet based?
    • Who was the original author of The Nutcracker story?
    • Why was the book not suitable for younger readers?
    • What famous author penned the updated version?
  • Now ask for volunteers to take turns reading paragraphs from the 'Story: Act 1' section of the text lesson aloud.
    • Who is having a party? What kind of party?
    • Who brings gifts?
    • Why is the brother jealous?
    • Like what is the toy shaped?
    • How is the toy fixed?
    • When Clara awakens what happens?
    • Into what does the toy transform?
  • Next, ask for new volunteers to read the section 'Act II' out loud.
    • What is the Land of Sweets?
    • What performances happen there?
  • Now ask for a couple of students to read the section 'Composer and Music' out loud.
    • Which legendary composer wrote the music for the ballet?
    • What other famous ballet did he compose the music for?
    • Which act has many of the favorite musical performances?
    • What is a celesta?
    • What other instruments are utilized?
    • What was the initial reaction to the ballet?
  • Lastly, have students read the section 'Lesson Summary' individually before you recap the entire text as a class and answer any outstanding questions students may have.
  • Have students take the lesson quiz to demonstrate your students' grasp of the lesson.

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