After a week of making decorations, writing calligraphy in black tempera paint, and stringing handmade paper lanterns across the school we started to hear murmurs of questions as to what the celebration was for. By telling students “It’s for Chinese New Year,” simply isn’t an exaggerated response. Students nod as they “ooh” and “aah” through the halls at all the embellishments and take the answer they are given.
But of course we took it a step further. We couldn’t exactly do a whole new school takeover with the Asian Invasion but we could further the discussion with the ELL students. I did a little research online and printed off two short articles about New Years traditions. I found a great visual element to match perfectly with the discussion-Chinese/Lunar New Year compared to American/English New Year traditions.
First we read through our reading materials and highlighted the important facts. We highlighted as a group to ensure we were all on the same page with our reading and our discussion. (Learning to highlight just the facts can be a reading focus lesson on its own.) The kids shared fun anecdotes about the celebration from their homes as I shared some of things we do to celebrate here in the USA. This, of course, involved sharing a video of the giant ball dropping in New York City’s Time Square.
Xin Nian Hao, pronounced shin nee-an how, translates to New Year Good. A traditional greeting for our peers to welcome the new year and bring good wishes to those around us. Working with students that originate from other countries is always an eye opening opportunity. I always walk away with some new fact, history, or foreign word the students have shared with me. And the students love to correct me and ensure that I’m doing their culture justice.
In many Asian countries, specifically China and Vietnam, they celebrate the “new year” at the lunar new year. Depending on the area, the lunar new year is also the start to a sixteen day long Spring Festival. Although it’s still winter, the new year brings hope, prosperity, honor, love, peace, and good fortunes to all in the coming year. Wishing for a good and prosperous spring ahead.
The students, ELL teacher, and I have been working all week on decorations and celebratory activities in honor of the lunar new year. Our older Chinese students made traditional new year banners while our Vietnamese and Korean students also made large posters to ring in their new year. Each poster is adorned with their home language. The main and secondary halls are decorated with beautiful paper lanterns that the entire school helped make during their art time. Beautiful calligraphy banners dressed the doors in the main hall and every classroom door welcomes peers with a sign of peace, love, good fortune, prosperity, and honor. It’s truly been an honor to learn from our students and to help celebrate with them the traditions of their culture and engulf the school in these new ideas and cultural diversity.
This is a video I compiled of the students working on their banners and our decorated school.