Part 1 The Seasonal Round
Lesson 2 Constructing Personal Calendars
English Language Arts, Social Studies
Purpose of Lesson
Students identify important dates in the life of the school and the community through research and interviewing. Next they identify important dates in the state and nation and research various holidays and special occasions. They design personal calendars to compare with calendars of other students, community members, and cultural groups around the state and the world.
Lesson Objectives/Louisiana Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Foundation Skills
1. Students identify and research important dates and customs in the seasonal round of the school, community, state, nation, and around the world.
2. Students decide which dates are relevant for them to include on personal seasonal round calendars that they design and decorate.
3. Students consider the sacred and secular aspects of calendar customs and recognize that holidays and the seasonal round have different meanings to different cultural groups.
4. Students document an event in their own communities and research the history of calendar customs around the state and the world.
5. Students may conduct activities in other languages, for example, interviewing people who speak other languages or studying calendar customs in other languages.
2-5 class periods
You will need copies of the Seasonal Round Worksheet or copies of a one-page yearly calendar for each student; supplies for making a large Master Class Seasonal Round Calendar; brochures and photographs of local events; and art supplies for creating Personal Seasonal Round Calendars. If your students will be doing fieldwork, you may need digital cameras, audio recorders, or video recorders in addition to notepads and pencils as well as appropriate fieldwork forms. Print out and duplicate any worksheets or rubrics that you will be using.
Background Information for the Teacher
These activities may be used with 8th graders as well as 4th graders. Each school and each community have a unique seasonal round. By tallying school dates such as vacations, grading periods, or sports seasons; community dates such as festivals, parades, agricultural seasons, or hunting seasons; important dates in other parts of Louisiana; and national holidays such as July 4, students learn how calendar customs and cycles affect their own lives. They build context for developing an overall personal seasonal round calendar, eventually choosing the dates that are important to them to plot on their individual calendars. Students will see that the line between sacred religious holidays and secular celebrations is not always clear. They will recognize that holidays have different meanings to different folk groups and individuals, including themselves. And they will learn that holidays throughout history have been associated with seasonal changes. Find a lesson on foodways traditions associated with special occasions in Unit VII Lesson 4. This lesson also relates to Unit III Lesson 1 and Lesson 2.
Make copies of the worksheets you'll be using. Gather information that will help students research important school dates and community dates and access and bookmark webpages listed in the Technology Resources above and those listed below in this paragraph. Think of dates that are important to your own seasonal round. How do you mark seasonal changes in large and subtle ways? Decide whether students should work on all phases of research or divide into teams to identify important dates for the school, community, state, and nation. In addition to the introduction to this unit, read Holidays and Schools: Folklore Theory & Educational Practice, which describes folklorists' efforts to mediate possible conflicts that teachers and schools may face around holidays. Several Louisiana Folklife Articles are useful as teacher resources and may help in students' research. Look especially at Louisiana Celebrations Rooted in Tradition and other articles under Ritual Traditions. Find helpful articles on egg knocking, river baptism, home altars, Jewish folklife, rural Mardi Gras, and other seasonal traditions. Also see Festivals, Cultural Tourism, and the Louisiana Folklife Program. If these are written above your students' reading ability, refer to the Adaptation Strategies for ways to adjust and modify them to levels that students can understand.
4th Grade and 8th Grade Activities
1. Students should research dates and seasonal changes that are important to the school, community, state, and nation to create a Class Master List of Seasonal Customs. Begin by brainstorming dates from each category then, working individually or in teams, delve into calendar customs in the depth that suits your curriculum. Assign a significant fieldwork project or merely compile a class master list, which can be used to construct a Class Seasonal Round Calendar. Regional variations will be apparent. St. Joseph's Day on March 19 is important to many Catholics in South Louisiana, for example, while Protestants in North Louisiana look forward to summertime revivals. People of German descent in Robert's Cove organize an Oktoberfest each fall, while Ruston residents celebrate a summer Peach Festival. African Americans in different parts of the state observe Juneteenth in honor of slaves who did not receive word of emancipation for many months.
2. Students should begin to construct their Personal Seasonal Round Calendars with dates of personal significance, such as birthdays, sports seasons, or family customs. Discuss how some holidays are specific to one family or community and how each family celebrates holidays uniquely. Then they may choose dates from the Class Master List of Seasonal Customs or their research from Step 3 below to include and enter these on draft copies of the Seasonal Round Worksheet. When satisfied with their drafts, they may decorate their final Personal Seasonal Round Calendars using art supplies and hang the calendars in a classroom exhibit.
3. Individually or in teams, assign students calendar traditions of their choice to research in depth using books, the Internet, and fieldwork interviews. They may investigate origins, history, customs, music, foodways, regalia or clothing, beliefs, and folk groups who practice it. What makes this tradition significant to practitioners? Students may design a significant fieldwork project on local seasonal traditions (see Unit II) using the Event Research Worksheet to help them with their research. They may use images from the Creole State Exhibit -- Ritual, Festival, and Religion to illustrate final oral presentations, computer slide shows, or exhibits. An option or a way to help students identify traditions they want to research is to print copies of the Calendar Traditions Web Quest and bookmark the page for students. They may follow the links online, writing the communities or cultural groups and important calendar traditions on the printed worksheets or notebook paper.
4. Discuss which holidays are related to religious beliefs, which honor the state or nation, which are unique to a community. What holidays combine religious and secular customs? How does commerce enter into holidays? How do popular culture media such as TV, radio, magazines, or the Internet portray holidays? Older students can address questions of how these portrayals compare with actual celebrations in their community and how they influence students' concepts about holidays.
5. Construct and design a large Class Seasonal Round Calendar to hang in the classroom. Students should reach consensus on what to add to the calendar as they identify new events or customs throughout the year.
6. Ask students to complete the Seasonal Customs Worksheet, then add at least two seasonal customs or events that they have learned about.
7. Ask students to read the oral history excerpt on the Seasonal Poetry Reflective Journal, collected from Mrs. Mary Claire Wilfert about seasonal change in the landscape at Robert's Cove, Louisiana, around 1930. Then read aloud the contemporary poem that this excerpt inspired a Lafayette writer and educator to write. Discuss the poem and ask students to identify descriptors in the poem that they find effective. Ask a student to read the oral history aloud and another student to read the poem again. Do they hear more the second time? Assign students to write a poem based on their research into the seasonal round in Louisiana. Invite another class to a poetry reading and display students' Personal Seasonal Round Calendars.
8. Have students prepare a report that shares the results of their research. They could compile their worksheets, personal calendars, and fieldwork interviews into a book, write a summary, prepare an electronic slide show, choreograph a circle dance, or present oral reports to the class.
9. For an alternative activity, use the Researching and Celebrating the Seasons activty, the I Learned Worksheet, and the Star Seasonal Round Worksheet to focus on Louisiana's diverse holiday traditions.
4th and 8th Grade Explorations and Extensions
1. Invite another teacher or someone identified through fieldwork to visit the class and describe a calendar tradition. Be prepared to interview and document the guest (see Unit II).
2. Use the French or Spanish version of the Seasonal Round Worksheet to interview people who speak these languages, asking them what dates are important to them and why. Share your own personal calendars with interviewees' seasonal rounds. As a class, compare the various calendars and research unfamiliar holidays. Ask students whose families speak other languages to translate the seasonal round calendar into other languages.
3. Research and design a large seasonal round calendar depicting the major holidays of cultures around the world (see Unit IX Resources). Do holidays cluster around particular months or seasons, for example the solstices or equinoxes?
5. Write a song for a special occasion or research music traditional to calendar customs. Create a podcast of seasonal songs for the school website or classroom listening center.