What to know – before the show!
The story begins with news headlines that Christmastown is experiencing the coldest winter in history. The narrator, Sam the Snowman, enters and introduces Christmastown, which is located in the North Pole. After pointing out the castle where Santa and Mrs. Claus live, Sam begins to tell the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Donner and Mrs. Donner are with the newborn Rudolph whose nose begins to glow. When Santa arrives to visit the family and welcome baby Rudolph to the world, he sees Rudolph’s glowing nose and tells Donner to do something about it if he ever wants to see his son join the sleigh team. After Santa leaves, Donner says he will hide the nose and teach Rudolph the ins and outs of being a reindeer. He also warns Rudolph about the Abominable Snowman. Afterwards, the elves enter, making toys for Christmas. All the elves inspect the toys and separate the ones that are considered misfits except for one misfit elf, Hermey, who states that he does not enjoy making toys and wants to be a dentist. He gets in trouble with Boss Elf and is told to finish his work.
Time passes, and the month of April arrives, time of year is when all the fawns meet each other. Coach Comet is there to help train the new fawns. During practice, Rudolph meets Clarice. When Clarice tells Rudolph she likes him, he is so overjoyed that he begins to fly. Santa, who watches nearby, is impressed. When Rudolph lands, one of the other bucks, Fireball, playfully tackles Rudolph, knocking off the fake nose Donner had give Rudolph to hide its glow. Everyone makes fun of his glowing nose, and Coach Comet tells the other reindeer to not allow Rudolph in the reindeer games. Clarice does not judge Rudolph and walks with him to her cave, but Clarice’s father tells her she is not allowed near Rudolph.
Back at Santa’s castle, the elves practice a song. Santa does not like it, but Mrs. Claus says it is wonderful. Hermey gets in trouble for not being at practice, so he leaves the workshop believing he’ll never fit in. While walking, Hermey runs into Rudolph, and they sing about being misfits. The Abominable Snow Monster enters, so they hide. Once the Snow Monster is gone, Yukon Cornelius enters with his dog sled and meets Hermey and Rudolph. As they talk, the Snow Monster reappears thanks to Rudolph’s nose. The trio escape on an iceberg, and the Abominable Snow Monster supposedly drowns because water is its weakness. Rudolph and Hermey decide to travel with Yukon on his quest for silver and gold. In the meantime, Donner, Mrs. Donner, and Clarice all set out to find the missing Rudolph.
Soon, Rudolph, Yukon, and Hermey get lost in a sea of fog and end up on the Island of Misfit Toys. Rudolph and Hermey believe they, too, are misfits and want to live on the island. In order to do so, they must ask King Moonracer, who tells them no because they are living creatures not toys. Moonracer asks Rudolph for his help by encouraging him to tell Santa to accept the misfit toys, which Rudolph agrees to do. They stay at the island that night, but Rudolph decides to leave early alone because he believes his nose will put everyone in danger.
Rudolph is gone for a while and grows up during his absence. He realizes he cannot escape his problems and run away, so he heads back to Christmastown. He tries to find his parents and Clarice, but Santa tells him they have been gone for months looking for him. Just as Rudolph is leaving to find them, the worst snowstorm begins. Even so, Rudolph heads to the Abominable Snow Monster’s cave where the Bumble has his friend and family trapped. Hermey and Yukon arrive and help Rudolph rescue Donner, Mrs. Donner, and Clarice by tricking the Bumble and knocking it out. While everyone celebrates defeating the Bumble, it awakens and falls off a cliff with Yukon.
Everyone else returns to Christmastown, sad to have lost Yukon. They tell the story of their adventures, and everyone in Christmastown realizes they have been too harsh to the misfits. As they talk, Yukon appears with the reformed, kindhearted Bumble. Santa is then informed that the worst snowstorm is approaching right before Christmas. Santa worries about delivering presents. As Santa tells everyone Christmas is cancelled, Rudolph’s nose begins to glow. Santa figures out that the nose could be useful in delivering presents. While travelling, Santa picks up the misfit toys from the island. Everyone celebrates and lives happily ever after.
In Christmastown, it is always winter, which means there are always snowflakes covering the ground. Did you know that every snowflake is unique and different? Create your own unique snowflake that is different, just like Rudolph!
Give the students a square piece of paper and scissors. Have them fold the paper 3 times into a triangle. Use the picture to the right as a guide.
After they have folded their papers, demonstrate how to draw and cut different shapes into the paper. As you go through this activity, explore different math concepts, such as:
- Shapes. Talk about the different types of shapes that can be cut into the snowflake. Also, how do the shapes change once the paper has unfolded?
- Counting. Have them count how many shapes are in the snowflake. How many triangles? Squares? Circles? Etc.
a. For more difficulty, cut a shape into the folded paper and have the students figure out how many shapes there will be once it’s unfolded.
- Size. Use different sized paper and have the students identify which snowflakes are smaller/bigger.
- Measurement. Have the students measure their snowflakes. Based off that measurement, have them figure out how many of one size snowflake can fit in a window that is 3 foot by 5 foot.
a. How does that number change when the snowflakes are bigger?
b. What about smaller?
KAS: KY.1.G.2.a; KY.1.MD.2
AROUND THE WORLD: WINTER HOLIDAYS
The winter holiday season can be celebrated in many different ways! In fact, there are dozens of other holidays besides Christmas that are celebrated around the world throughout the month of December. Break students into groups and have them research a winter holiday or tradition other than Christmas. Below are a few examples:
Hanukkah Kwanzaa Yule Las Posadas
Encourage students to look at the history, festivities, key figures, and more that make up the holiday/tradition. Have students prepare a presentation about their chosen celebration and bring an activity for the class to do together or an item to share with their peers.
KAS: 3.H.CH.1; P.IN.C1.A
MISFIT TOY MAKER
Click the link below and print the coloring sheet and letter template for your students so they can design a misfit toy of their own!
KAS: C.1.1; HW.1.1; VA:Cr2.1.1
YOU’LL GO DOWN IN HISTORY: A REINDEER’S FLIGHT FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a classic character who makes his appearance every December, just in time for the holiday season. The reindeer with the very shiny nose is an iconic figure, especially for the young and young at heart. But how exactly did everyone’s favorite wintertime flying misfit come to be?
While it may seem that Rudolph has been around for much longer, the character is only 83 years old. In 1939, Robert L. May, a Jewish-American advertising copywriter who worked for Montgomery Ward department stores, wrote the book that would become a holiday classic. May had always wanted to write a great American novel, but instead, he found himself writing catalogs. He often described himself as a bit of an outcast. He skipped a few grades as a child and was younger and smaller than his peers while in school which greatly influenced the creation of Rudolph.
For the 1939 holiday shopping season, Robert L. May’s boss at Montgomery Ward enlisted him to write a cheery children’s books as a fun giveaway for Christmas shoppers. With help from his then five-year-old daughter, Barbara, who he read excerpts to after each draft, May was able to complete the project. 2.4 million copies of the softcover booklet were printed and distributed by Montgomery Ward to the 1939 holiday shoppers who absolutely loved the story. Because of wartime restrictions on paper usage, the story didn’t see a re-issue until 1946 when another 3.6 million copies were given away to customers.
On January 1, 1947, Robert L. May was given the copyright to his story from Montgomery Ward. He searched for a publisher, but no one wanted to take him up on his offer with 6 million copies already distributed, that is, until he met Henry Elbaum of Maxton Publishers. Maxton published the first commercial edition of Rudolph just in time for the 1947 holiday season. 100,000 hardback copies were sold along with Rudolph toys and children’s house slippers.
With the success of Robert L. May’s misfit reindeer growing, he turned to his brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, to pen the words and music for a musical adaptation of his story in 1948. The song was turned down by artist after artist until Gene Autry agreed to record and release the track. The song skyrocketed to fame becoming one of the most popular Christmas carols of all time. More popularity brought about two sequels to the book and a slew of licensed products, but by 1958, sales for Rudolph began to decline leading May to return to his job as copywriter at Montgomery Ward.
Rudolph saw a resurgence in popularity with the release of the 1964 stop-motion animation television film produced by Rankin/Bass Productions. The special, which airs on broadcast television yearly, is the longest running television special in American history. There have been several other film adaptations released over the past 83 years cementing the red-nosed reindeer’s place in American Christmas tradition.
Robert L. May passed away in August of 1976 at the age of 71. While he may not have written the next great American novel, he gave the world a story of a little reindeer that would go down in history as a beloved children’s classic that continues to warm hearts and usher in feelings of nostalgia for each new generation.
To learn more about Robert L. May and his creation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, check out this interview with his daughter, Barbara May Lewis, on NPR!
How to grow – after the show!
Now that your students are familiar with Rudolph’s tale, let’s see how the story would change if some parts were different. Have students choose one of the writing prompts below and take a new spin on this red-nosed reindeer’s legend.
- What if Rudolph wasn’t the one who helped Santa on that foggy Christmas eve? Who could possibly save the day? Choose a different character in the musical and tell the story of how the helped Santa save Christmas. What was unique about them? Did they have something special that could be used?
- The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is told by Sam the Snowman. What if someone else told the story? Pick a character to tell the tale from their point-of-view. It could be his mom/dad, Hermey the Elf, Clarise, etc. How would the details change? Would something be left out? What would be added?
- What if Rudolph didn’t have a shiny red nose, but something else that made him unique? Write a description of Rudolph’s new feature and how he was able to help Santa deliver the presents on Christmas Eve.
After students are done writing, have them share their new creations with the rest of the class.
KAS: C.3.1; C.4.1; C.5.1
Make the holiday season a little sweeter with these reindeer cookies! You will need:
Premade sugar cookies
Pretzels (for the antlers)
M&Ms(for the bright, shiny nose)
Chocolate chips (for the eyes)
Icing (to glue on the eyes and nose)
What other delicious treats can you make from prebaked cookies? Snowmen? Ornaments? The possibilities are endless!
KAS: VA:Cr1.2.2; VA:Cr2.1.2
ACTS OF KINDNESS: BINGO EDITION
Rudolph and his friends showed kindness to others through their actions. It is important to remember that everyone has something to offer.
Click the link below and print off the bingo sheet for each of your students. As a class, make a list of nine (9) ways you can be kind or helpful this holiday season. Send students home with their bingo cards and encourage them to cross off each task!
KAS: 3.4.1; 4.41; 5.4.1
If you like stories about spreading holiday cheer, you might also like…
I Got the Christmas Spirit by Connie Schofield-Morrison
A young girl embraces the spirit of Christmas as she and her mother take in the most wonderful time of year through a sensory experience.
The Christmas Truck by J.B. Blankenship
Papa, Dad, their amazing kid, and one fabulous grandmother are off on a special adventure to save Christmas for a child they’ve never met.
A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman
Travel the globe to see a menagerie of treats waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve.
The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve
Virginia lives on the Sioux reservation and needs a new coat to withstand the bitter South Dakota winter. But when a classmate claims a beautiful donated coat she has her eye on, Virginia must learn the true meaning of Christmas.
Educational materials sponsored by