Sharing culture (Easter in the ESL classroom)

I feel encouraged.

Today I started teaching my kids a lesson about how we celebrate Easter in the U.S. With the timing of the midterm test, I have more than enough time to teach the textbook, so I’ve decided that in between each textbook chapter we’ll have a culture lesson. Something to give everyone (myself included) a breather and a chance to have some fun.

So, I decided to start with an Easter lesson.*

In Korea, Easter is really only celebrated by dedicated Christians, so some of the kids don’t even know what it is (which was shocking to me at first, since I think just about every kid in America, religious or not, knows about Easter).

And obviously Korea doesn’t have any of the fun traditions that we associate with Easter in America – the Easter Bunny, Easter baskets, chocolate bunnies, egg hunts, Easter dinner with family.

So I’m teaching my kids about these traditions (with lots of pictures to keep their attention, and the occasional translation from a CT).

First I show them this video, and although it’s a bit young for them, even my 15-yr-olds didn’t ridicule it. Then I ask them what the bunny was doing, and if they know what holiday the video is about.

The presentation part only takes about 10-15 minutes of me explaining Easter traditions and teaching them new words, such as “chick,” “lamb,” “lily,” “bonnet,” even “hot cross buns.” I retrieved some old pictures of my family’s Easter traditions (dying eggs, finding the Easter baskets, having Easter dinner together) (thanks Mom!), and they got a huge kick out of finding Maddy Teacher in the photos. Then I quickly review the new vocab words with them.

(Incidentally, they think it’s hilarious that we call it “dyeing eggs” and “egg dye.” It’s fun to explain to them that d-y-e has a different meaning than d-i-e.)

Then comes the fun part: Class Easter Egg Hunt! I have pre-hidden 18 paper eggs around the room, and each egg has a question about Easter on it. The kids have to find the eggs and write the answers on their answer sheet.** This takes up the majority of the class time – about 20-25 minutes, which allows me to take a deep breath while still feeling like I’m educating them. Kinda. At any rate, a lot of them come to me during the hunt to get help with questions or spelling or just chat (which I’m okay with, since we’re practicing English).

In the last 10 minutes of class, we check the answers together. I give M&Ms to the kid who had the most right answers, but then I tell them that since in America, all (basically) children get candy, I give them all a Tootsie Pop. There’s usually 5 minutes left at that point, and I give them an Easter word search to work on.

Let me tell you, nothing shuts up an excited class of Korean kids faster than Tootsie Pops and a word search.

It’s cute how totally engaged they get. When the bell rings, they don’t even jump up like they’ve been stung as they normally would; they sit there and keep working on it till I tell them to get out. Haha. Kidding, but I tell them class is over, Happy Easter, bye!

This is undoubtedly one of the most successful lessons I’ve ever taught. It’s exactly the break we ALL needed (even though school’s only been in session for 2 1/2 weeks). They are overjoyed when, at the beginning of class, I tell them we will NOT use the textbook today.

And I get to each this lesson from today until next Wednesday, to every grade and every class! So that’s pretty cool.

*I got the idea for this lesson, particularly the classroom egg hunt, from another native English teacher’s open class I attended early last year (although I made my own materials), so I’m grateful to her for the idea. At the time it was totally impractical for me to do this lesson [with the egg hunt] because I didn’t have my own classroom; I was constantly moving from class to class. But now that I have the “English Zone,” I can hide the eggs before the kids come in. It’s amazing.

**My biggest problem has been getting them to leave the eggs there, not take or move them. Even with multiple repetitions of this rule in English and Korean, I always have to rapidly go through the classroom after each class, checking off egg locations on my list and making sure they’re all still there. And printing off new ones for the ones that got inexplicably lost. Sigh. But it’s worth it!

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