Teaching Chinese Through Cultural Activities: Chinese New Year

Author : 橙子   Date of publication :2/7/2019 9:12:12 PM


If seasons have color, then the winter must be red and white. In December, the white-beard Santa Claus wears red suite; In January Chinese people celebrate their lunar New Year in red. This week's course is about Chinese New Year. Such a nice coincidence! The first snow of this year dropped on that Tuesday in Paris while I was preparing presentation about this culture event. The buildings outside my window were covered in white snow, but the screens of my computer were all in New Year red.

How can I introduce this most important holiday to students in Chinese? I prepared the course in five parts, including one manual activity:

1.    What is the Chinese New Year?

2.    How did it come?

3.    How to celebrate the Chinese New Year?

4.    What to eat at Chinese New Year Eve?

5.    Activity: New Year greetings and making paper dragons.

I plan to introduce why the Chinese New Year is called "Spring Festival», how to calculate the Chinese New Year date by using the Lunar Calendar, why the Chinese New Year lasts 15 days, how the 12 Zodiac associated with the Spring Festival, how 2019 Year of the Pig comes and the customs and food of the Spring Festival. I try to use pictures, videos as visually support to better illustrate the concept to children. Regarding the origin of the Spring Festival, I used the audio e-book "The Story of the Year" on the hihilulu platform as visual support. In addition, I prepared all necessary materials for making paper dragons.

With the rich new year courseware and heavy materials, we started our third course from the introduction of Chinese red for new year celebration. I then showed the pictogram of the character “ “(Spring in Chinese). Kids were so excited to guess the meaning of each radical. Yea, I was not even least surprised: they found all components “grass, sun, grain”. Naturally, kids got the form of the Character CHUN, as well as the meaning of Spring Festival. From the waxing waning of moon displayed on lunar calendar, kids understand why the new year celebration in China lasts for 15 days. The next fun part was to guess the oracles of 12 zodiac signs and identify the zodiac sign of each students while repeating the name and years in Chinese. Students were super active and engaging, holding hands up for showing their answers. we successfully completed this game of “search and match” Chinese oracle and signs. 

The classical content about Chinese New Year is the story of Monster Nian (year). We watched an E-book story about Nian on hihilulu. After watching the video, I asked the students to recite the story of Nian according to their understanding. No worry!  Though Chinese language used in the story in is much beyond their Chinese level, everybody wanted to give me a version of Nian story, which were pretty much close to the details. To correct some of their misunderstanding, I showed a 1-minute French video by FranceTV, which makes a simple humorous sketch about Chinese New Year. The course went on with Q&A. With the help of two videos, the students got straight to the answer of food and traditions (I repeated those terms in Chinese).

The crown jewel of this course was to making paper dragons! Three groups, three gorgeous dragons!  The body of dragons were made by hard cardboard, which were decorated with Chinese characters learnt during the three courses.   I helped students to make the dragon head, wear the dragon body, and fix the dragon dance stick. Each group proudly made a small tour of parade inside school building and showed dragon specially to the students at K1 classes. At the end, students didn’t want to finish the class and continued to draw details. I saw, they are proud of themselves.

Each Friday afternoon passed so quickly!  My students learnt key words of Spring Festival, the history of Chinese New Year, the origin of Zodiac and they made beautiful paper dragons! Surely, they got their little treats---the Lucky Snacks and White Rabbit Candy (we ate when we were young during the Spring Festival). I seemingly felt the steps of Spring Festival…hope they also could feel the blessings of spring. 

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