Lately I’ve been reflecting on the awesomeness that is the multicultural curriculum in a Montessori school. To that end, I pretty much went all-out for Chinese New Year. (Side note: Generally speaking I try to call it “Lunar New Year”, as there is a difference between the way Asian cultures celebrate the holiday. Our celebration, however, focused on Chinese traditions.) Holidays are a wonderful way to explore different cultures. Next year, we can focus on Tet and explore Vietnam, or Seollal and discover Korea. I can’t wait!
The first and most obvious way to get the students excited about Chinese New Year is to teach them about the Chinese Zodiac. Most of my students know from previous study what their animal is, but there are always a few learning for the first time. January 28 marked the end of the Year of the Monkey and the beginning of the Year of the Rooster.
I have a few copies of the placemat that you can get at some Chinese restaurants. The students love discovering a little about their personalities. Many of them are dogs, so they were happy to learn they will make excellent secret agents.
After brainstorming what we already knew and reading some books to add to our store of knowledge, we created a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the Western/American New Year and the Chinese New Year. This activity was inspired by a lesson I found on Teachers Pay Teachers, and which happily came with some similarities and differences already typewritten. After the group came up with ideas together, I gave the younger students the option of cutting and pasting. The older students wrote down the information in their own Venn Diagrams so they could write their own paragraphs later.
About halfway through the morning, some of my students started spontaneously cleaning the classroom. Cleaning is one of the traditions of Chinese New Year–the Chinese sweep out the bad luck to make way for the new year. This was possibly my favorite moment in a morning of awesome moments.
I created a map for the students to explore Asia and the countries that celebrate the Lunar New Year and its variations. As usual, map work brought up lots of fun discussions, like why Hong Kong and Macao are autonomous territories despite being part of China.
Of course, I had all my books and decorations out and plenty of citrus, including my absolute favorite, the pomelo! Unless they’ve been with me for a few years, Chinese New year is the first time my students have ever tasted this traditional fruit. We shared these two yellow globes at the end of our day.
I usually make the Chinese lanterns that you can make by folding and cutting paper, but this year I wanted to do something a little different. I watered down some gold paint and let them add some pizzazz to red construction paper. Then we went to town with brads and gold curly ribbon. They’re still hanging up in my room!
A couple of other activities we did:
And, of course, everybody wore red!:
With that image in mind, I’ll leave with you with these words: