2022 – The year of the Tiger

I’m not one to obsess over zodiac signs and how accurately they can define our personalities. However, I enjoy reading my horoscope from time to time and seeing how accurate it is. I think that everyone is quite familiar with the Western zodiac, and believe it or not, zodiac signs tend to come up in conversations every now and then! What about the Chinese zodiac, though? The Chinese New Year is approaching, so why not take this opportunity and learn something about this beautiful culture?

Last year I had a chance to prepare a class on the Chinese New Year – the year of the Ox. In that A2+ class, we watched a TED-Ed video The myth behind the Chinese zodiac, learnt the origin of the zodiac signs and based on our personality traits, we tried to predict which sign best suits us. The class was a success! It brought a lot of laughter as we found out what animal best defines each one of us. We also referred to each other by the animal until the end of the class!

You can download the lesson plan, the presentation and the worksheet at the end of the post!

Start the class by writing – Happy New Year! Since it’s already late January / early February, your students will be confused and have questions about it. Say that you know of celebrations happening on the 31st December and the year starting on the 1st January. You can talk about different celebratory traditions that you have in your country and how your students celebrated this year. Proceed by saying that the new year is celebrated differently in other parts of the world. If your students haven’t guessed that you’re referring to the Chinese New Year, you may give some clues. Write that the Chinese New Year is celebrated in February. Write _____ February 2022 and elicit the correct date (answer: 1st February 2022).

Ask about students’ dates of birth and elicit their Western zodiacs. Say that in the Asian culture, the zodiacs are a bit different. Show pictures of the Chinese zodiac (out of order) and ask to write the English names of the animals. Check the answers. Say that, unlike in the Western culture, the zodiac signs change once a year. This year we are celebrating The year of the ______. Students guess the animal (answer: Tiger).

Zodiac signs appear in a specific order that was decided based on the race. Put students into pairs/small groups and ask them to predict the order in which the animals came in. Check the answers and ask to justify their orders. Watch the video The myth behind the Chinese zodiac (0:00 – 2:15) and see if their predictions were correct (answer: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig).

Before watching the video again, this time in its entirety, go over the multiple-choice questions from the TED-Ed website – The myth behind the Chinese zodiac by Megan Campisi and Pen-Pen Chen. Explain any new words if necessary. Students watch the video and answer the questions. Check and explain the answers.

Look at the animals one more time and ask students to think about the personality traits that come to mind. Do students believe zodiac signs define our personalities? Show vocabulary describing character traits and ask students to choose two that best describe them. Reveal the signs associated with each trait. Check students dates of birth and together discover their Chinese zodiac. Look at the personality traits one more time, this time looking at the ones associated with their zodiacs. Do they agree with these descriptions? Why (not)?

Finish the class by doing the craft. Students draw their Chinese zodiac and write a maximum of five sentences talking about their actual personality traits with explanations.

Happy New Year! I hope that your students will enjoy this class as much as mine did!

Halloween Escape Room

If you want to have a fun and relaxing class, look no further. I’ve got something just for you! Your teenagers will love this Halloween-themed escape room style class. All you need to do is monitor the answers and make sure that your students don’t get too heated in this instalment of spooky classroom activities!

As educators, we need to promote student independence, group work and above all, know when to sit back and just relax. What bothers me the most about typical Halloween classes is that teachers normally choose the same activities over and over again. I think that it’s important to know the history of holidays, but we also need to think about keeping our learners engaged and motivated in learning languages.

Before I knew how to manage my planning time and prepare good lessons, I’d often resort to searching and downloading free worksheets from websites such as iSLcollective. It’s a great website with so many resources, but what I realised when I worked alongside other colleagues is that we often chose very similar if not the same activities. It saves a lot of time, but these classes are predictable and at times boring.

As I was researching different possible Halloween activities, I started thinking about exercises that are fun, different from your normal class, allow independent group work and most importantly, give you some time to sit in the corner of your classroom and just observe. Escape rooms check all the above! This class is designed for A2+ level groups (possibly Flyers).

If you are back in the classroom, you can download the tasks, print them out (and laminate if you can!), divide your students into pairs (or small groups) and start! Make sure that students know that they compete against each other. That will make them more determined to finish the tasks as quickly as possible. At the end of the post, you can download a set of three tasks for free. If you want a full version of six tasks, feel free to visit my TpT store.

Task 1 – This is Halloween

If you divide your students into smaller groups, you can start with the song. In this way, all students can do the task at the same time and then continue at their own pace. Play This is Halloween, a classic Halloween song, and ask your students to write the number of times the word Halloween is mentioned. This will make them settle down and concentrate. Once the song finishes, students write their answers on the answer sheet. If the answer is correct, they can move on to the second task – if it’s wrong. They get to listen to it one more time!

Task 2

Following the typical Flyers exam task, give your students three definitions of Halloween related objects and creatures. Students read the prompts and write their answers. Remember to accept only the answers that are spelt correctly! If your students get a bit stuck, you can help by giving some hints. If they know the word in their L1, you can allow the use of dictionaries – it is about learning after all!

Task 3

Students put a jigsaw together. This can be done using the physical or a digital version of the jigsaw (in case your learners have their phone in the class). Both versions have the same number of pieces. The puzzle has four questions written on it. Once your students put the puzzle together, they need to answer the questions about the escape room and the number of phonemes in Halloween and witch. Explain the meaning of phoneme if necessary.

A jigsaw from the task 3.

These are just examples of tasks that can be done in the escape room style class. I think that this escape room shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes, which gives you some time to teach certain vocabulary or phonemes that may be useful in this activity.

As always, these are only some ideas that you can expand on or use as a filler. Click the file below to download the a set of three tasks, an answer sheet and the answers for free.