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Teaching About Chinese New Year: Traditions

The Year of Ram is slowly coming down the pike. Do you have Chinese New Year activities all planned out? Here are some ideas I would like to share for teaching Chinese New Year, and I am sure your students will enjoy learning it very much!

First, know about Chinese New Year Traditions: start out of a story that gives students an overall view of Chinese New Year celebrations. Students can work in groups or read individually for 5-10 minutes, then come back as a whole class to discuss:

1) what does the book talk about?

2) what are the main characters in the story?

3) what do people do in the new year?

4) what are some of the new words/sentences that you don’t understand? You can also create exercises (matching/ filling in the blanks/ multiple choices, etc.) for students to work on while reading.

Teach new vocabulary or sentence structures that you think are important in the book. You can use direct instruction in this part, or use the Total Physical Response approach for students to physically interact with vocabulary words and improve their pronunciation.

Estimating time: 1 hour

 

The book, Chinese New Year from Chinese Traditional Festivals is a very good book to start with.

Like Thanksgiving to American, Chinese New Year is the most important festival for Chinese people. The book Chinese New Year introduce various celebrations and traditions, including shoot off firecrackers (放鞭炮, fàng biān pào), making dumplings (包饺子, bāo jiǎo zi), family reunion (家人团聚, jiā rén tuán jù), New Year eve vigil (守岁, shǒu suì), story of the year (年的故事, nián de gùshì) and etc. Read the book with your class and introduce the traditions with your students.

 

Second, guided practice/independent practice: review the Chinese New Year celebrations with a speaking practice. If you have an advance class, make it a writing practice for the students. Here is a sample practice session, lesson 40, 中国的节日 from Discovering Chinese Pro, a web-based curriculum that caters to differentiated learning and allows teachers to easily extend the interactive learning experience beyond the classroom.
 Want to try it out during Chinese New Year? Request a free one week trial account here. You can also contact our account  managers (Kelly , David and Amy) for more information.

Estimated time: 0.5 hour

Encourage students to use the words they just learned and describe what is showing in the picture:

The images below depict how Xiaowen’s family celebrates Chinese New Year. Introduce the traditions and celebrations you’ve learned through the class to your classmates. In your composition, identify the following and try to create the ending for the story:

1. Setting – 情境
2. Characters – 人物
3. Plot development – 情节发展

Download free worksheets here: Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese.

 

Third, let’s learn by doing and have some interactive activities! If you have enough time, bring up a dumpling session in the class! You would need only dough, filling, pot and heater. It’s an easy and fun activity to do in school or at home.

Teacher preparation time: 1 hour (at home)
Activity time: 40 minutes

包饺子 is an important tradition of Chinese New Year, part of it is because the shape of dumpling is similar to ancient gold or silver ingots (元宝, yuán bǎo), which symbolize wealth. Also of the sound of “jiǎo” is close to “jiāo” (交), which contains the meaning of meet and reunion. Make sure students understand the cultural background of 饺子 and start making their own in class. You can get the wrapper at Chinese market or you can try to make it yourself. In the book it also mentioned to add in different vegetable juice to color the dough, it will be really fun for the students to eat and learn the color.

For the filling, the most basic and popular flavor is napa cabbage mixed with ground pork and green onion. You can also try different flavors for more variety.

Now, bring on the wrapper and filling, and a small bowl of water, let’s make some dumplings!

1. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the filling onto the center of the dough

*Tips: notice how you can use your hand to shape the dumpling? Place the filling on the notch of your hand.

2. Bring up the sides of the wrapper, use the water as glue, spread half of the circle at the edge of wrapper. Then press and pleat the edges to seal in the filling. Lift each dumpling by the pleated edge, transfer to the baking sheet and press down lightly to flatten.

3. Boil a pot of water and add in the dumplings. Stir the dumplings nicely so they don’t stick to the bottom.

4. After all the dumplings float up, add in one cup of cold water, wait until the water boils again and the dumplings will be ready to serve!

What do you have in mind for your mandarin classroom? Leave a comment and share your ideas with us!

 Looking for more ideas or resources on teaching Chinese New Year in your classroom? Check back for our daily updates on CNY  activities or contact your account managers (Kelly ,  David and Amy) for assistance.

Joanne

Joanne

Joanne Hsu is a Marketing Associate at Better Chinese. Originally from Taiwan, Joanne came to the States for school and is excited to introduce and share Chinese culture with the world. Please visit our blog if you love Chinese culture and Chinese language teaching or just stop by for some interesting stories about China.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. Fan Sun
    February 13, 2015

    Great post! Really inspiring and fun!

    • Joanne
      Joanne permalink
      February 13, 2015

      Dear Fan, I’m glad that you like it :) Try it in your classroom and share with us!

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