5 Interesting Facts, Books and Fun about Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year my friends! Do you celebrate Chinese New Year in the classroom?
Chinese New Year is coming up January 28th.  2017 is the Year of the Rooster. I always like to teach my students something about Chinese New Year because it is a bright, fun holiday in the middle of winter.  Usually it is cold and dismal this time of year, and the thought of hanging a little color up in my classroom always makes me smile at the end of January.

Today I put together 5 interesting facts about Chinese New Year that also contain activities or books that you can use in your classroom to help your students learn about this fun holiday.

FACT #1:  There are 12 Animals in the Chinese Zodiac

In the Chinese Zodiac there are 12 animals represented.  The belief is that Buddha asked the animals of the world to come and help him celebrate spring.  Twelve animals showed up to the party and these animals became the Chinese Zodiac.  Each animal has special qualities, and you can relate your birth year to these special traits.  For example, 2017 is the Year of the Rooster.  The rooster is said to be confident and hardworking.  As a fourth grade teacher most of my students were born in 2007.  This was the year of the Pig or Boar.  People born under the sign of the boar are responsible and kind.  One activity that you could create with your students is a drawing of the animal and have them list the character traits that they are most like within that year.  Here is an example:

This would be a great lesson on synonyms and antonyms for words that correlate with the animal. For example if we were to do the rooster, I would have student look up shades of meaning words for confident and hardworking.  If they wanted to do the year of their birth, for example the boar, I would have them do shades of meaning with responsible and kind.

I follow this activity up with some word work in centers about finding synonyms in context with facts about the Chinese New Year using these cards:

Fact #2: The Chinese New Year Celebrates Spring Cleaning
Out with the old, and in with the new!  That's the motto for Chinese New Year.  What a perfect thing to start daydreaming about during the frosty month of January!  You could relate the idea of GROWTH MINDSET  to the broom.  Have students make two layers of the broom on the bottom. The first layer would contain ways that they used to think about problem solving:  I can't do this, It is too hard, etc.  Then have students place a layer on TOP with new growth mind set.  I CAN get this far.. etc.
It may look something like this:

Fact #3: Red is the Color of Good Fortune for the New Year
One Chinese tradition is receiving a red envelope with money during Chinese New Year.

As a morning work writing activity, I have my students complete a quick write about what they would do with money they received in their red envelopes.

I also try to sneak in a few stories about Chinese New Year during the week when we sit down for our Grammar and Writing time.  Some of my favorites include:

Usually I buy red envelopes on clearance after Christmas, and then we place our quick writes in the envelopes as a bulletin board, but I forgot to buy the envelopes this year, <wah wah wah> so I will have to improvise a little.

Fact #4:  Chinese New Year Allows You to Honor Your Relatives.

It is customary during Chinese New Year to make lanterns to honor relatives who have passed away. The celebration of Chinese New Year usually ends with a Lantern Festival where red lanterns are hung on families homes and gates.  Sometimes the lanterns contain a riddle which makes the festival more lively.  This year as something new, I am going to give my students a center choice about making lanterns.  Our riddles will be math puzzles to help improve our mental math.  Usually I try to complete a brain break math riddle with my students every day.  It helps them to keep them thinking and using their computation skills.  The math riddles are 5-6 step directions that I differentiate and get progressively harder with the skills.  The number riddles never go above 100, so students that need a little extra visual to solve the problems can pull out their hundreds boards and multiplication charts to help them.

I use cards similar to these as my brain breaks:

Then for this lantern craft I will have students write their own riddles that we can include on the lanterns.

Fact #5: Chinese New Year is about Celebration with your Family

Families spend a lot of time eating and celebrating during the Chinese New Year.  What a great way to celebrate the great job your students are doing by having fortune cookies!  We have many Chinese restaurants in our area, and I will be asking them to donate fortune cookies to my students to celebrate.  Even if I have to go to two or three places, it would be a fun treat during our Morning writing work.  A great quick write activity would be to explain how your fortune could be a theme for your life, giving key details that support the central message.  Just something fun to get them thinking and writing. You could also have orange slices or tangerines as your snack during the week.  Many families that celebrate Chinese New Year eat oranges which symbolize luck and wealth.  This is a perfect healthy snack for us living in Florida because oranges are in season.  Some of my students even have orange trees in their yards, so this is a great way to get them to eat better and share a few facts with their families!

Along with the activities above, I also use Tikki Tikki Tembo
(Affiliate Link)
as a mentor text for the week.  I have the Mentor Sentences pack from Ideas by Jivey, so this is an easy no prep lesson for me.  The focus skill is compound sentences, so it is a perfect review and incorporation into our writing work.  We also work on some other word work activities like identifying pronouns, homophones and sentence combining.  These are part of the pack I created for Celebrating Chinese New Year in the Upper Grades.

I would love to hear how you plan to celebrate Chinese New Year, and I hope that you will be able to try some of the activities and books that I've mentioned above.

May the Force Be With You!


Martin Luther King Jr. Opinion Writing with Martin's Big Words

Last week I focused on Martin Luther King Jr. during my writing and word work time. I wanted to share a few activities that we completed in case you were looking for something that was short and sweet, but still helped you cover some of your CCSS standards.

For our word work time I am focusing on prepositions, which was difficult for my smarties to identify in a sentence before break.  I'll be using Martin's Big Words as my mentor text, and since I don't reinvent the wheel, my mentor sentence work came from Ideas by Jivey and her mentor sentence lesson for the week.  It is part of this [Unit].  If you haven't used mentor sentences before, Jessica is a great go to person.  She has several different webcasts you can listen to, and she has written many good blog posts about how to get started.

Beyond the basics of word work with the text, we are also working on opinion writing, so my review/focus is based on opinions.  I took the "Big Words" from the text... Freedom, Peace, Together, Love, and Dream, and we worked on deciding which word was the most powerful.  Together we crafted an opinion paragraph using OREEEO as our organizer.  No, that isn't a typo... I don't use just OREO.. my students are required to give me more.. so we go for TRIPLE STUFFED!
O-opinion, R-reason, E- evidence, E-evidence, E- elaboration (give me the how and/or why connection, O-opinion/transition.  We even had triple stuffed Oreos as a quick reminder snack when we started this discussion.

In their paragraphs, students had to choose which of Martin's words they felt was the most powerful, provide a reason,  back it up with evidence from the text, and then elaborate or extend the connection. I borrowed a few copies of this book from other classrooms in my building, and I also used a reading on YouTube, (You can go [HERE] for it online), so my students had extra access to the book.
We wrote our final copies on a half sheet I created, and then we completed a directed drawing for our bulletin board.  I don't do too many directed drawings with my fourth graders, but I thought this might be a good opportunity to practice some listening skills work since we have been out for 2 weeks.  The directed drawing directions I found for free [HERE].  I love the way they turned out.

Need to order Martin's Big Words?  Click the picture below. (Amazon Affiliate)

Do you have plans for Martin's Big Words that I can add to my list for next year?  I would love to hear about them!

May the Force Be With You,

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