As my elementary school Christmas lessons draw to a close, I would just like to offer up a quick summary of my experiences.
First, my Christmas lesson in numbers.
Number of Christmas tree/ holly/ candy cane shapes I have printed, guillotined apart and distributed: approximately 600 each.
Number of times I have listened to my shogakko Christmas CD: about 20.
Number of students who have cried in my classes: five (I’m still not sure why)
Number of giant, paper Christmas trees I have cut out, drawn, or otherwise constructed: 14
I must confess that I have had an absolute ball with these classes. Partly because I am given total control over what happens in the classroom, so I do stuff I think is cool, and partly because the kids just love it.
I started every class by donning a Santa hat and announcing that I love Christmas. Then I would teach Christmas words using big cards with pictures on them, adding more words as I went up the grades.
With ichi nen sei and ni nen sei I then played the keyword game–I say Christmas words until I get to the keyword when they race their partner to grab the eraser in front of them. I use this game for almost all vocab teaching at this level because it’s so easy and they get SO excited.
Then we played Christmas Junken but replaced paper, scissors and rock with santa (hands on imaginary belly), reindeer (hands over head like antlers) and Christmas tree (arms stretched up to make the point of a tree). Then all together we would say (while bobbing up and down) “Christmas Christmas ho ho HO!” On the last HO we would throw our shape and any kids who threw the same as me were out and had to sit down.
I stole this game from my friend Liz, and it was such a hit. There is nothing funnier than tiny little Japanese elementary school boys pretending to be Santa.
With my san nen sei and yo nen sei I did “let’s decorate the tree”. I told them all that I love to decorate the Christmas tree, then peered around like I was looking for a tree to decorate. They absolutely went ballistic when I called their teacher up to the front and said they would make a good tree.
You have never seen hands shoot into the air faster than when I said “Okay, I need three students to help me with the tinsel…” They loved wrapping tinsel around their teachers, but I had to laugh when one kid very seriously wrapped the tinsel around the poor teacher’s neck a few times.
I also had gold and silver baubles which got hung off fingers, ears, glasses, lanyards, zippers… But I think the real cherry on the cake (if you will) was the big gold tinsel star I had fashioned into a headpiece.
With my go nen sei and roku nen sei I gave them paper bauble shapes and had them write letters to Santa.
I gave them the template “Dear Santa, I would like ~. Love, ~” and just let them rip with their Christmas desires.
Most of them wanted DS3, PSPs, iPhones and so on, but I had a couple of hilarious responses. One girl asked for the Statue of Liberty, one kid asked for a little brother (adorable!) and one rather strange boy requested a koibito (boyfriend).
They then cut, coloured and glued the baubles onto the big green cardboard tree at the front. I was really happy with this activity because it forced the kids to do a bit of writing (which is not taught at this level even though I think they are capable of it) and it let them use a bit of imagination, and got them moving around a little. Plus it left them with a really cool Christmas decoration for their classrooms!
Then san through to roku nen sei classes made Christmas cards. I gave them bits of white card, Christmas shapes and some text to copy and let them loose.
I wish I had some photos of some of these cards because some kids were so creative. Some of the girls drew adorable bows and characters and designs, and some of the boys turned their Christmas trees into demons with holly for wings. Most of them coloured inside the lines, and only a few managed to actually cut bits off their designs.
I really enjoyed saying things like “I appreciate your nod to conventional Christmas tree designs here” and “I like your refusal of traditionally accepted form on this one.” Japanese kids give the best blank looks.
I ended up with a few cards that said “Dear ~ okasan (they didn’t understand that ~ was a placeholder), Memmg Crismas. Love, なまえ Ryo (again, didn’t understand that なまえ just meant write your own name), but they were all just lovely and the kids had a really good time.
Elementary Christmas lessons were daily blasts of awesome and excitement, but I’m looking forward to having a go at Christmas with my older kids next.