Teaching New Year's Eve Around the World

Attention all tired, worn-out, harried teachers: I have good news. Christmas Break is right around the corner!  Bad news: With any break comes the dreaded Sunday Night Blues.  But if you're feeling anything like this guy, then I have just the thing to help you make the transition back to school in January.

  One year after teaching Christmas Around the World before vacation, I realized that many of my ESL students didn't know about the tradition of celebrating New Year's Eve.  Thus, this lesson was born to help us transition back to school in January.  I loved that it was a spiral review of some of the countries we had learned about, and a fun and engaging way to get us back to our typical learning routine.

Sometimes when we return from break we have a short week, so this lesson is designed to take as much or as little time as you need.

As with all of my lessons, I include lots of pictures and videos to appeal to my highly visual learners.  I always start this lesson by discussing NYE traditions in the USA, since it's (somewhat) probable that the kids have watched the ball drop or celebrated in some fashion.  For students who have never celebrated NYE, starting in the USA builds background they can relate to.  From there we hop over to the UK, then I cover Spain and Mexico as one lesson, and finally Canada and France as one lesson. 

To learn about New Year's Eve in the USA, I start by playing a video of the Times Square Ball Drop.  This one is long, but it shows the musicians, the crowded streets, the countdown, and the fireworks.  I usually skip around to let the kids see all the important parts. 

We also learn about the song "Auld Lang Syne" since it comes up in a few other countries we'll read about.  I like the Lea Michele version- easy for the kids to understand!

To learn about NYE in the UK, I play a video of Big Ben and the gorgeous fireworks behind him. 

Did you know about the Spanish tradition to eat 12 grapes at midnight? Some people say to eat 12 grapes in the 12 seconds before the New Year, and some say to eat them in the 12 seconds after...it's up to you which tradition you agree with.  I love to let the kids try the tradition firsthand, so I buy a big bag of grapes at the grocery store and portion them out, and we play along- so much fun! (Just beware of choking hazards!)

Lastly, we learn about traditions from Canada and France.  I tend to focus on Canada, since some people go ice fishing, and my students are always fascinated by it! I've showed this video in the past, but there are plenty available on youtube!

For each country in the unit there are visual vocabulary cards, student friendly definitions, and a paired passage.  There are also some venn diagrams and writing prompts at the end for fast finishers or extension.  

Lesson plans for the first week back? Done! It makes my break a lot more enjoyable when I don't have to worry about what we're doing- no Sunday night blues! 

For Auld Lang Syne, my friends! Happy New Year!

Christmas Around the World Lesson and Resources

It's the most wonderful time of the year! And if you are anything like me, it's also the busiest, most jam-packed, entirely head-spinning time of the year! But, like the sign says- don't get your tinsel in a tangle! I have some great resources to help make your lesson less stressful and more fun!

One of my favorite lessons to teach is Christmas Around the World, which I follow up with New Year's Around the World right when we get back in January. 

For this lesson I focus on teaching Christmas traditions in Germany, France, Italy, and Australia.  We watch lots of youtube videos and read fiction and nonfiction books about each country as we study it.  I try and include videos and visuals about the food, the decorations, and the musical traditions in each country.  Rick Steves has an amazing series of European Christmas videos, and by the end of the lesson my students think they are best friends with Mr. Steves! 

By the end of the week, my students have a really well-rounded view of how Christmas is celebrated around the world. This lesson usually takes me anywhere from 3-5 days, depending on how many questions my kids have! I use Diary of an Elf to guide us on our journey around the world- it's a fiction story about an elf who must travel to 5 different countries to find the North Pole in order to save Christmas.

His journey starts by traveling on Air Claus 1 to Australia, where he learns that Christmas happens during the summer! Here are some videos I use to help teach about Christmas in Australia: 

Next, the Elf travels to Germany and learns about Christkinde. We learn a lot about German traditions from these videos: 

And we also learn a German Christmas carol! 

Back in Diary of an Elf, we continue reading as the Elf travels to France, and then Italy.  

France videos: 

We learn to sing Jingle Bells in French- so much fun! The very last line says "Bonne annee Grandmere," which means Happy New Year, Grandma.  For some reason, the kids get a kick out of shouting that out loud!

Italy videos: 

And I throw in some Dominic the Donkey for good measure (and fun!).

After the Elf travels through Germany, Australia, Italy and France he ends up in New York City, where he--- well, I won't give away the ending! But I usually find a clip of that year's Rockefeller Tree lighting to share with the kids.

Once we've finished reading the diary entries, we answer the comprehension questions and complete the fun activities that follow.  Here's an example!

I let my students choose which prompt to complete- this is also great to send home for Christmas break homework (if your school makes you send work home that week!)

Talk about an engaging and memorable lesson! Not only are we studying world cultures and traditions, we are still working hard on comprehension, prediction, and visualization throughout each diary entry. (Put that in your lesson plan!)  Plus, it's fun!! What better way to spend the last few days before winter break? 

If you're teaching Christmas Around the World, I hope you're able to use some of these fabulous videos and resources! 

Check out some other great Christmas ideas!

Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas!

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