The tradition of Halloween has always been popular in my small town American cultural scene. I grew up entering Marshall, Illinois’ Frolic Night, where children and adults alike dressed in costumes, paraded around the courthouse square and converged at the bandstand for the much anticipated costume contest. There were age groups and different categories. This gave everyone plenty of opportunities to be a winner. Plus anyone who walked the circle by the judges’ table, whether winner or not, received a Kennedy silver dollar. For kids in the 70s, a free dollar was a prize well worth waiting the entire year for.
My mother, the seamstress, was creative in making costumes that for several years won me 1st prize, a grand $25. Her masterpieces, Betsy Ross and Zorro, have been in the costume trunk for years and made various appearances for plays, fashion shows and other performances while I was growing up.
So when it comes to Halloween, I can’t let that American tradition pass by in my Chinese classroom. Since my students are English Education majors, soon themselves to enter schools as English teachers, I make sure our lessons include important holidays, customs and festivals which Chinese young people would enjoy hearing about. With the modern age of computers, so many in China come across such overseas’ events on the Internet but don’t exactly understand what they’re about. Making sure my students get a firm, accurate grounding in as many of these customs as possible is important, not only for themselves but for those they’ll be teaching in the future.
Halloween: Always A Hit
My Halloween unit takes place over a 3-week period, with an introduction to the history of the day, games and activities and finishing off with a skit, chants and songs. Interspersed between the 3-week unit are our regular conversation guides.
Of course, the games and activities period is the one which causes the greatest stir. It has everyone out of their seats, snapping photographs of participants, cheering as costumed classmates whisk by and eagerly volunteering for what might be next on the Halloween agenda. Wearing costumes, trick-or-treating, telling ghost stories, TPing a classroom, carving a pumpkin and bobbing for apples make up the core of our 45 minutes together. By the time we’re finished, my college kids have great ideas of how to make language learning meaningful and fun for younger learners in the Chinese classroom.
I just finished the 8th lesson for games and activities last week. Here are a few pictorial highlights from last Friday, the grand finale for Halloween in Connie’s foreign language classroom.
On to Thanksgiving!
Next week? It’s on to Thanksgiving, yet another lesson-packed unit learning all about this U.S. holiday’s history and the traditions that come with it.
Unfortunately, turkeys are not the bird of choice in China. Re-enacting the turkey wishbone tradition does become a bit of a problem but I’ve found a chicken bone does suffice. I always have a drawing in each class to see who the two participants will be for pulling the wishbone apart.
Last year, in my tiny college in Guangxi Province, I only had two classes to prepare for but this year is another story. With 8 different classes of students, all receiving the same Thanksgiving day lesson, looks like I’ll be buying, and eating, a lot of chicken during the next few weeks to get enough wishbones for our unit.
So to all you readers out there: Any creative chicken recipes you want to send my way, please feel free to do so.
Special Wishes Sent
Here’s sending you a Happy Halloween, as well as Ping An (peace) for your week. That especially goes to those struggling through Storm Sandy at the moment. Many supportive, caring thoughts are being sent your way from my end, here along the banks of the Yangtze.