16 January 2017
This past week we headed back to school for our first full week after Christmas break. I had a dilemma, we came back to a full week of Benchmark Testing and I was not 100% prepared for what to do after testing was completed each day. Benchmark Testing can be long and painful on many levels. First, we only test for the first half of the day. Second, my team and I need things to keep the students busy and engaged the rest of the day. We follow a pacing guide in our parish, so we do not move ahead with our usual teaching. So, basically during a benchmark week my day starts off with math, then benchmark testing, and then ..... Well you get the idea. This was the big dilemma. So, this year I decided to teach my kids a mini unit on New Years in America vs. Chinese New Year. I know technically it is not Chinese New Year yet, but I knew this was the perfect week to dive into the topic and really teach all about it! Let me tell you, it was a HIT!
We started off talking about New Years in America and all the traditions we celebrate. We made resolutions and discussed what the top resolutions in America were. Did you know the #1 New Year resolution in America is to lose weight? My students thought this was hilarious. I told them this is why they will see so many cars in the gym parking lot on their way home. ;)) Then we discussed why so many people (myself included) seem to not be able to keep their resolutions, but how we could really try to work on doing better this year.
Next, I introduced Chinese New Year! We looked at our maps and located China. We talked about where it was in the world and compared it to our continent and country (bringing in our map skills). Also, we discussed how New York City and San Francisco both have big communities called Little China Town were these cultures can be celebrated. We found these two areas on the map and looked at pictures on Google. The kids were very intrigued by this point. We googled pictures of people celebrating Chinese New Year in China and the compared it to people who celebrate Chinese New Year in America. Kids are always fascinated to learn that many traditions and celebrations we have in America are brought to us from other cultures.
After we looked at our maps and pictures we read a closed nonfiction reading passage about Chinese New Year (the passage can be found here). Next, the students were placed into groups and we used our iPads to look up 4 interesting facts about New Years in America and Chinese New Year. They wrote these facts in their writing notebooks. There was not a cute graphic organizer for this, just plain writing notebook paper - remember this unit was done on the fly! We came back together and we compared and contrast the two cultures and how they celebrate the holidays. We made a Venn diagram in our notebook comparing and contrasting. Next, they wrote a two paragraphs about this topic. I was so impressed with their writings. They must have really been paying attention, because they had some really great details in their writings.
By the end of the week we had learned so much. I had brought in map skills, group work, technology, compare and contrasting, and writing. We needed something fun to end this mini unit. We learned about the Zodiac Calendar and we made a rooster for, "The Year of the Rooster" (craft can be found here). The roosters turned out so cute! My students loved, loved them. Also, we made Chinese New Year hats that turned out super cute (hats can be found here).
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