Special Halloween Classroom Activities
Halloween is just around the corner, so I wanted to share my lesson plans related to this fun American holiday! Since 中元节 (Zhōng yuán jié, Hungry Ghost Festival) is on the fifteen day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar which typically falls over summer break or during the beginning of the school year, it is hard to find a good time to introduce this Chinese holiday. Over the years, I’ve found it effective to introduce 中元节 by comparing it with 万圣节 (Wàn shèng jié, Halloween).
1) Introduce the history and cultural background of 中元节 / 鬼节
In China, 农历七月 (nónglì qī yuè, seventh lunar month) is known as 鬼月 (guǐ yuè, Ghost Month), and the 第十五日 (dì shíwǔ rì, fifteenth day) is called 鬼节 (guǐ jié, Ghost Day) or the Hungry Ghost Festival.
During this festival, which is based on 佛教 (Fójiào, Buddhist) and 道教 (dàojiào, Taoist) beliefs, Chinese believe that the gates of Hell are opened, releasing hungry ghosts to walk among the livings and seek offerings.
Chinese people celebrate the festival by 供奉 (gòng fèng, paying tribute) their dead ancestors, as well as 孤魂野鬼 (gū hún yě guǐ, unknown wandering souls), so that they can be put to rest instead of hanging around bringing bad luck to the living.
2) Discuss with the students if there are any superstitions on what one can or cannot do on 万圣节 (Halloween) or during the 鬼月 (Ghost month).
3) Ask the students to vote on whether Chinese people celebrate 万圣节.
4) Do Chinese people celebrate Halloween too?
Share with students that Chinese people, especially those who live in the urban cities, are exposed to the spirit of Halloween more and more each year. Shops and restaurants will be decorated with Halloween icons, and there are many Halloween-themed parties for those who are over the age of 18 at a variety of bars and night clubs.
Online posts like “What plans do you guys have for Halloween?” have popped up on forums such as 新浪微博 (Xīnlàng wēi bó, Sina Weibo) and 百度贴吧 (Bǎidù tiēba, Baidu tieba). The responses couldn’t be more different. Take a look at a few of them to get a sense of what Chinese think of Halloween.
5) Ask students what they are going to be on 万圣节 (depending on your class size, you may group the students to encourage discussion), and share some ideas related to Chinese.
6) If you have a long 80 minutes block schedule class like me, you can also discuss with your students the Chinese zombies — 僵尸 (Jiāngshī)
7) Game Time! This is a very popular game in Taiwan called “僵尸拳” (Jiāngshī quán, Zombie Fist)
This game has to be demonstrated to really get it- There are many YouTube demonstration on this game, just search for the keyword “僵尸拳“.
My students love this game. They have even started to play it during recess and challenge their friends who are not taking Chinese. (I also told my students, if they can teach another teacher on campus this game and film it, I will give them extra credit)
8) Afterwards, I show them a short (6 minute) scary film to wrap up the lesson and introduce their homework assignment.
Video available on YouTube: 张震讲故事–电梯
9) Homework: Read a ghost story
I google several easy to read ghost stories online (some funny ones) and make them into handouts for them to translate (examples: Reading Passage – Beginners, Reading Passage – Advanced). The next day, they would read the story aloud to the class and translate sentence-by-sentence. I typically split the class into groups of 3-5 students per story. I usually have 5 different stories (funny and scary ones, since some students refuse to read a scary story). Then, while each student would know the entire story, he or she would only have to read aloud one or two paragraph.
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I hope this is useful to your teaching! Happy Halloween!