Last week, Joanna and I celebrated St. Patrick's Day with our 2nd, 4th, and 5th grade students at Huludun Elementary School. In all of our classes, very few students had heard of the holiday. It's certainly not commercialized in Taiwan to the extent that Halloween and Christmas are. Truth be told, prior to our lesson, my knowledge about the holiday was slim. I don't celebrate the holiday in the U.S., nor do I have many memories of doing so in elementary school.
Me with my 2nd graders - aren't they the cutest??
So, after a bit of research, I made a PPT to introduce the basics about the holiday (i.e. where it originated, who St. Patrick was, how it's celebrated today, etc.). I selected seven vocab words to focus on: St. Patrick, Ireland, gold, rainbow, green, leprechaun, and clover. After showing a combination of pictures and videos and trying to explain the difference between a leprechaun and elf to our perplexed 2nd graders, we had the students play a memory matching game to review the vocab.
We purchased a roll of green foam and cut six sets of 14 clovers (7 clovers displayed the vocab words and 7 bore the accompanying pictures). The students were divided into six groups and first instructed to place all the clovers face-down in multiple rows. Then, one-by-one, students tried to flip over two matching clovers. If successful, they had to shout out the word and only then could they keep the clovers. If unsuccessful, the next student had his/her turn until all of the pictures and words were claimed (part of the challenge involved memorizing the locations of different pictures and words). The student with the most clovers won. We played a few rounds of this game, and I was quite pleased with how animated the students became and its overall effectiveness as a review activity.
After, we had the 2nd graders decorate clovers with markers. This required a lot of meticulous cutting in advance of the clover and heart shapes, but it paid off when I saw the students' creativity! One student designed a "PPAP" clover, seen in top left of the collage (if you know what "PPAP" stands for, I'm sorry that your eardrums have been subjected to that song). There were references aplenty to the one and only Gudetama, a Japanese egg (and Sanrio character) with crippling laziness and a penchant for sleeping (see the middle image). And there were a few students who made international clovers featuring different countries' flags. One student designed a clover with Ireland, France, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Japan's flags (middle left photo).
For our 4th grade classes, we assigned students the more advanced task of designing miniature leprechaun puppets (using different colored paper, googly eyes, glue, and a popsicle stick). They weren’t given templates, although we provided step-by-step instructions (and a sample puppet) on the blackboard. It was definitely an intricate project, but I could tell that the students were interested in the process and entertained by the leprechaun’s appearance.
The leprechaun puppets:
...And more pictures of 4th graders with their leprechauns:
Finally, for our 5th graders, Joanna and I decided to forego an art craft for something perhaps more exciting to them – decorating homemade cookies. We opted for simple sugar cookies and green icing recipes to reduce the number of ingredients we needed to purchase (the school reimbursed us). I drove to Beitun District’s Food Materials Mall to purchase everything and made all of the cookies on a Thursday evening. The process was laborious, and my kitchen smelled of melted butter and powdered sugar for hours, but I was lucky enough to have my roommate's (shout-out to Willie!) help. Otherwise, I doubt I could’ve accomplished the daunting task of making 120 cookies from scratch alone! In the end, the entire process took six hours (including clean-up). But I went to bed that night with cookies organized in different plastic bags for each class (see below), multiple bags of homemade (and neon green) icing for piping, a jar of chocolate sprinkles, and the smell of freshly baked cookies settled in our apartment. I handed out cookies to my school administrators and LETs (Local English Teachers) last Friday (I made sure to bring extra!) and then the cookie decorating began in our 5th grade classes.
I really enjoyed the ‘big reveal’ in each class. After the first 2/3 of class finished, I carried a heavy canvas bag of cookies to the front of the classroom and asked the students, “Can you guess what’s inside?” And – as word travels quickly in Huludun – most students would shout back, “COOKIES!!” I was both thoroughly entertained (and slightly horrified) at the generous amounts of green icing and chocolate sprinkles the students applied to their cookies.
5th graders and cookie decorating (click the photos to zoom in):
I love that I was able to capture this "sweet" moment below (bad pun intended)!
The celebratory atmosphere and excitement was a nice way to conclude my time teaching with Joanna. I really enjoyed my time working with her; we have so many great memories of teaching together! For my second 5-week rotation at Huludun, I'll be working with Sarah, who is also a brilliant and inspiring person. I'm still trying to process the fact that I only have 3.5 months remaining in Taiwan as a Fulbright ETA. I'm starting to cherish every moment more and more now.