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Lunar New Year

This January I experienced a teaching first - I studied Lunar New Year (also called Chinese New Year) with my kindergarten class. Let me tell you, we all loved it and learned so much! I had a little one join our class this year, having moved here from China, as well as a few other students who are also of Asian descent, so I knew I wanted to try it this year. However, as it isn't something from my own culture, I needed to do some learning on my own first. From there, I created some resources that I wanted to use with my class, which you can find here if you are interested: The storytelling area in my classroom is very popular, so I chose a book to model it after and then collected the materials needed. 

The book "Ruby's Chinese New Year" is a really fun story, it talks about traditions of the Lunar New Year as well as explains the twelve animals of the Zodiac. I chose red cloths and decorations, as red is considered a lucky colour during Lunar New Year, and added a few elements from the story such as mini lanterns, houses, and a river. I then added some pegs that I made, and the twelve Zodiac animals. As always, I added in a vocabulary chart and a book to tie the learning together. It has been a very busy area of the room throughout our little inquiry, lots of little voices retelling the story using the props and resources. 

I like to gather books for read alouds as we start any inquiry, and I use those books to help me plan out some centers or think of ideas to bring in art, literacy and math. For this inquiry, I drew from these titles:

Obviously, Peppa Pig is a huge hit with my little students, and that was the inspiration for a very simple sensory bin. The book itself came with stickers from the story, so I put them onto cardstock and then laminated them for the students to use in their own retellings. I placed the character cards in red dyed rice, added some apple sauce lids as coins with lucky red envelopes, and that was it. One of the simplest sensory bins I've ever done, but the kids LOVED it. 
Peppa's Chinese New Year Bin

The kids were very intrigued by the idea of the chopsticks that we saw in some of the books we were reading, so I decided to use them for fine motor practice. I basically alternated these two centers for a week and a half straight, and it was always packed. They absolutely loved the challenge of using chopsticks to pick up "lucky coins" (hexagon pattern blocks) and place them into lucky red envelopes, or pick up "noodles" (yellow yarn) and place them in their bowl. Check out our fine motor centers below:

I wanted to try and create some authentic feeling art with the kids, so I decided to set out paper fans with watercolour paints. As we were working on these, the kids started asking if we could turn our drama center into a Lunar New Year house, and asked if we could decorate it with some of the fans. It was a great idea, and even better since it came from the kids. 

In terms of literacy, we did lots of emergent readers and mini-booklets, as my students this year really enjoy this as a writing center invitation. I also set out our vocabulary charts with some writing prompts and let them demonstrate their learning through pictures and words (all resources can be found using the link at the beginning of this post). The Zodiac animal writing prompts were quite a hit, so I displayed them for the students to look at inside of our classroom. 

The students became really focused on the image and idea of the Lunar New Year dragon. We ended up creating some really beautiful and exciting art pieces using this as inspiration. First we made New Year dragon mask art. I set out paint colours that we had noticed in the books we read, with pieces of paper that I had folded in half prior to the students arriving. I demonstrated simply marking my paper with blobs and lines (with no particular design in mind), then showed the students how to fold the paper in half and basically rub our hands over it to create the "dragon" face. We unfolded the paper, then added some glitter and eyes. Once they were dry, I cut them out to really highlight the dragon's face. I was truly in awe of how they turned out, they were so unique and interesting to look at. See below for the materials used, as well as the finished products. 

As we were finishing off our study of Lunar New Year, some of the students began asking if we could do our own dragon parade like they had seen in all of our books. Originally I wanted to use large boxes to create one big dragon, but I quickly realized I couldn't get enough boxes so quickly (and I'd probably run out of paint!), so it was onto plan B. I ended up cutting egg cartons in half, and using those as individual mini dragons. Again I chose red and yellow for paint colours, as that is what we had seen in our books. We used glitter, googly eyes, sharpies, confetti pieces and feathers to decorate our dragons. 

I love that each child was able to add their own flair to their dragon, and now they get to take them home, instead of leaving one large dragon at school. Lastly, we paraded through the hallways with our dragons, proudly wishing the other classes a happy Lunar New Year! 
I genuinely enjoyed this exploration with my students, and I learned right along with them. It was something different, and quite frankly, refreshing. Usually I find in January we end up learning about snowflakes or snowmen (which is always fun, don't get me wrong!), but this was a welcome change for me. I hope some of these ideas are helpful to you, if you decided to study Lunar New Year with your littles too! 

Thanks for reading :)


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