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Sleeping Beauty Unit Study

Sleeping Beauty

  Illustrated Book of Ballet Stories
by DK Publishing

ISBN: 0789460971

Unit Prepared by Rachel Harris

Social Studies

Geography– France
The ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, is based on a French fairy tale by Charles Perrault. Have your child locate France on a world map. France is a country in Europe, its capital being Paris. Is your child familiar with France? Discuss with your child some of the sites you may see in France such as the Eiffel Tower, Seine River, outdoor cafes, or artists on the streets. You can read more fairy tales by Charles Perrault in French Folk and Fairy Tales by Roland Gant.

Extra Activity:  If your children enjoy helping you cook in the kitchen, here is a wonderful online source offering a French cooking lesson!

Human Relationships:  Taking Care of a Baby

The fairies take over responsibility of the baby until she turns 16, but wonder how they will do this with no experience. What is required to take care of a baby? Discuss the care babies need in feeding, clothing, bathing, diapering, etc. Depending on the age of your child, have them take care of a doll for a day or the entire unit, keeping the doll with them at meals and throughout the day, getting it dressed in the morning, changing diapers, pretending to feed. Older students could even do this with an egg.


Culture: Traditions
Three celebrations occur in the story: the christening, the birthday, and the wedding.  Discuss with your child how these events were celebrated in the story.  How does this compare with how  you celebrate birthdays and other holidays with your family?

Birthdays Around the Globe:
Discuss this with your child how birthdays are celebrated around the world, and then compare and contrast with how you celebrate birthdays in your home.


When the tradition of the birthday party began, it was originally only held for royalty.  As time passed, children were also included, with the first children’s birthday parties being held in Germany.


Today, birthday parties are very common and are held everyday, all across the globe!  While some of the traditional ways of celebrating are similar throughout the countries, there are many differences as well.  Following is a list of the different birthday traditions throughout the world. 


Argentina – The child celebrating their birthday gets their earlobe pulled for each year they have been alive.


China – The child celebrating their birthday receives a gift of money from his/her parents.  They then celebrate by having friends and family come over for a lunch of noodles.


Denmark – The child celebrating their birthday wakes up to presents surrounding their bed and a flag being flown outside a window to announce that someone who lives in the house is celebrating a birthday.


Ecuador – In Ecuador, a young girl’s fifteenth birthday is extra special.  On that day, there is a huge celebration and the birthday girl wears a pink dress.  Her father helps her to put on her first pair of high heels, and then dances the waltz with her, while 14 maids and 14 boys also dance the waltz with them.


England – Be careful eating birthday cake in England!  Here, certain objects are mixed into the batter as it is being prepared.  If you find a coin in your piece of cake, then the tradition says that you will “be rich.”


Holland – In Holland, even birthday years are extra special.  The child celebrating their birthday gets an especially large gift, as well as a specially decorated chair at the table.  These even year birthdays are called “Crown Years.”


India – The child celebrating their birthday wears a colored dress to school and hands out chocolates to the entire class! 


Israel – For smaller children, the birthday child sits in a chair while adults raise and lower the chair a number of times that corresponds to the child’s age, plus an extra time for good luck!


Japan – The child celebrating their birthday wears an entirely new wardrobe for the day! 


Mexico – The child celebrating their birthday is blindfolded and hits a piñata ( paper mache formed into an animal and stuffed with goodies!) until it opens.  All the children at the party share the goodies.  Also, in Mexico the 15th birthday is also extra special for young girls, where they celebrate with a special mass in their honor.  They are then escorted to a special party being held, where she is introduced as a young woman.  The father also dances the waltz with her.


Nepal – The child celebrating their birthday receives a mark on their forehead, which is a mixture of rice yogurt and color. This is said to bring good luck!


New Zealand – Everyone gathers around the child celebrating their birthday and after the candles are lit, party goers sing the birthday song VERY loudly and often out of tune!!  After singing, the child gets a clap for each year they have been alive, and an extra one for good luck!


Philippines – The child celebrating their birthday receives cakes baked in various shapes and sizes.  The birthday celebration includes noodles to represent long life, balloon decorations and piñatas!!  The family also goes to church to give thanks to God.


Russia – The child celebrating their birthday receives a birthday pie, instead of a cake, with a greeting carved into the crust!


United States – Although every family is different, traditionally the child celebrating their birthday receives a birthday cake with candles corresponding to how old they are.  Then the traditional “Happy Birthday” song is sung and the child is told to make a wish before blowing out the candles.  If all the candles are blown out on the first blow, it is said that their wish will come true!


Language Arts


Kingdom – a country whose ruler is a king or queen. 

Spindle – a slender round rod or stick with tapered ends by which thread or yarn is twisted in spinning by hand and on which it is wound. 

Sleep – the natural periodic loss of consciousness during which the powers of the body are restored

Betrothed – to promise to marry or give in marriage

Hero – a mythological or legendary figure of great strength or ability;  An outstanding warrior or soldier;  A person admired for achievements and qualities;  One that shows great courage

Villain – an evil person;  a character in a story who opposes the hero
Dragon- an imaginary animal usually pictured as a huge serpent or lizard with wings and large claws.


Mime is communication without words. Throughout the ballet, a
story is communicated without speaking. Have your child try to communicate without speaking. How would you show somebody your sleeping? How about celebrating or getting married?

In the story, the entire kingdom fell into a deep sleep.  During our sleep, there are periods where dreams occur.  In the animated Disney version of the story, Aurora sings about how she met her Prince in her dream.  Discuss dreams with your child.  A fun activity would be for them to keep a Dream Journal during the unit, where they write down their dreams each morning when they wake up.  For younger children, they can narrate their dreams to you. 



Discuss how the ballet version of “The Sleeping Beauty”  was composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.  Discuss how ballet and dance in general is an art form, and form of expression.
(interesting tidbit: The Disney version was adapted from this ballet and much of the musical score was reworked from the ballet!)


Extra Activity: Check out samples of Tchaikovsky’s music from your library.  Also check out a video of The Sleeping Beauty ballet!


Ballet Terms
Language of ballet technique is French because it got its start in the French court of Catherine de Medici.  While the language is beautiful, it is often hard to understand the terms.  Below is a list of ballet terms, defined by The New York City Ballet’s website:


Arabesque – French term to describe the ballet position where one straight leg is raised to the back of the body.


Barre – Long wooden or metal pole that dancers hold onto when warming up.  It is also the general term used to describe the first half of a traditional ballet class.


Choreographer – Person who assembles combinations of steps to create a ballet. 


Epaulement – French term used to describe angles and shapes a dancer creates with the upper body using the head, neck, torso and arms


Grand jete – A huge jump done while splitting the legs


Louis XIV – King of France in the 1600s, he founded the first ballet school in the world.  It was called the Royal Academy of Dance and later became the Paris Opera Ballet.


Maryinsky Theater- Built in 1885 in St. Petersburg, Russia, it is famous as the home of the Kirov ballet and for premiering such ballet classics as The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty.


Orchestra- Led by the conductor, the orchestra is divided into sections of woodwinds, strings, brass and percussion.  The musicians play the music for the ballets from the sunken space in front of the stage, called the orchestra pit.  Balanchine once said, “Dance is music made visible.”


Petipa – Marius Petipa (1822-1910) was born in France and later moved to Russia.  Most famous choreographer of the 19th century.  He choreographed ballet classics such as The Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadere and Don Quixote.  Versions of these ballets performed today are often based on Petipa’s choreography and style.


Repertory – The group of ballets that a company regularly performs. 


Tutu- a ballet skirt made of staggered layers of tulle sewn together in such a way that it can stand straight out from the waist or hang in a slight bell, depending on the style.  It is usually attached to a fitted bodice on top and is the favored costume worn by ballerinas in most classical ballets. 




Measurements: Making a Birthday Cake
In the ballet story, there is no mention of a birthday cake, but it is a traditional part of a birthday celebration today.  In the animated film version, the fairies were attempting to bake a cake for Aurora’s sixteenth birthday, although they had never made one before!  They did not do a good job of following the recipe, and the end result was less than stellar!   Discuss the importance of following a recipe and exact measurements.


Extra Activity: Bake a cake with your child!  Let them help you measure the ingredients and read out the amounts to you.  Let them help stir, pour and frost the cake, all while explaining why it is important for it to be exact.



Aurora, and the entire kingdom, fell into a deep sleep in the story. Discuss with your student why sleep is important.   How much sleep is the minimum we
should get each night? What are things that can disturb your sleep (too much caffeine or candy before bed, scary stories, etc.)

All living things need sleep in order to live a healthy life.  Even animals need sleep and rest.  Sleep is a behavior that is a natural part of everyone’s life.  In fact, we spend roughly 1/3 of our lives asleep!  Sleep is very important.  It helps us to stay alert and to be able to think clearly and function properly. 

Sleep Patterns throughout life
Newborns – sleep an average of 16-18 hours in a 24 hour period
3-5 years of age – 10 – 12 hours per day/night.
Adults – 7-8 hours per night.

Individual sleep needs do vary.  Most adults, for example, seem to do fine with getting 8 hours of sleep per night, although some do need more or less.  Most teenagers need 9 or more hours of sleep per night to be as alert as possible when awake. 

Disney Video/Screenplay Fun Enrichment Activities

Animal Classification:

In the Disney animated version, Briar Rose runs into the forest and begins to sing. She is immediately joined by her forest friends including birds, chipmunks, rabbits and an owl.  Prince Phillip, who is riding on his horse Samson, hears the beautiful singing and encourages his horse to go see the source of the sound with the promise of an extra bucket of oats and carrots. 


Birds - Warm blooded, beaked vertebrate with feathers and wings.  A covering of feathers distinguishes birds from all other animals.  They have keen vision but their sense of smell is not highly developed.  Found almost worldwide, birds live on land and in water. 


Chipmunk - A small terrestrial rodent in the squirrel family. There are 25 species of chipmunks, all with reddish-brown fur and white and black stripes.  They are distinguished from other squirrels by their striped face.  Chipmunks eat grain, nuts, berries and plants.  They have roomy cheeks that are used to carry their food, before storing underground.  They store food in their burrows and hibernate for the winter. 


Rabbit -  A mammal with long ears, short tail, and long hind legs.  Most rabbits are gray or brown in color and primarily eat grass. Most species of rabbits are nocturnal and sleep in burrows. Commonly, the words rabbit and hare are used interchangeably, however rabbits are characterized by the helplessness of their offspring (which are born with closed eyes and without fur), and its habit of living in colonies in burrows.  Hares, on the other hand, are born with fun and open eyes and live in a simple nest.  Hares are often also larger than rabbits, with longer ears.


Owl - A bird of prey that mostly hunts at night. They are able to fly virtually without a sound.  Owls have round eyes, keen vision and hearing, and a sharp beak.  An owl can turn his head 180 degrees, with some species able to run their heads as much as 270 degrees!  Owls live in nests in trees, buildings or the ground. 


Horse - Large land mammal with a hairy coat, long mane and tail.  Horses grow a heavy winter coat in the fall, and sheds it in the spring.  An interesting fact is that horses have the largest eyes of any land mammal!  With their large eyes, they are able to almost see completely behind themselves!  They have keen night vision, but limited color vision.  Their diet consists of many things, but it definitely does include oats and carrots!

Biblical Application/Character Study:

In the animated Disney version, before Philip goes to battle the dragon and save Aurora, the good fairies gave him two items to arm himself against danger.  The first was the Shield of Virtue, and the second was the Sword of Truth.  They told him that those “weapons of righteousness would triumph over evil.”    There is another source that talks about something similar…. The Word of God! 

Ephesians 6:10-17 (NIV) tells us:


Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand

 against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,

but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers

 of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil

 in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God,

so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to

stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,

 with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and

with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith,

with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,

which is the word of God.


Discuss with your child how scripture tells us that the Sword of Truth – Which is the Spirit of our Lord, who is Truth – can triumph over evil. 

Virtue is defined as conduct that agrees with what is morally right, and being of a particular moral quality.  True faith in God will lead to a virtuous life! 


A fun activity that many parents do is walk through putting on the full armor of God each morning.  You can do this figuratively and imagine putting on each piece, or you can buy the sets that many stores sell and literally put on the armor as a visual aid. 


Extra Activities
These sites are FULL of fun enrichment activities you can do with your child to further illustrate the Armor of God.  Although there are many sources online, these are my favorites and I highly recommend them!

Just for Fun

Coloring sheets for the animated version are found here