Researching and Celebrating the Seasons
By Jane Vidrine
This holiday season, you don't have to feel guilty about getting off task with "fluff" activities that don't help you reach your goals of teaching to the standards and perfecting those important skills. Here are a couple of adaptations of the Louisiana Voices Seasonal Round - Unit IX, Part I, Lesson 2 - that will engage your students in the holidays, boost their cultural awareness, and result in fun, colorful, and tasty activities.
Your school music specialist can be an excellent resource for culturally diverse holiday music, a standard approach in many music texts. Of course, the best resource is community members whose traditions may include Ramadan, Hanukah, and Kwanzaa, in addition to numerous ways of celebrating Christmas. When you and your students are investigating holiday traditions, remember that not all traditions are old, but are important in terms of cultural identity and continuity.
So, put a Louisiana twist to your seasonal classroom goings-on, and sneak in some skills at the same time. These lessons work for me, I hope my suggestions are helpful to you.
GRADE LEVEL: 4th - 8th
Click here to view Resources associated with this lesson
Click here to access the "I Learned" Worksheet
Click here to access the Star Seasonal Round Worksheet
LOUISIANA CONTENT STANDARDS BENCHMARKS
ELA-5-M2 Locating and evaluating information sources.
- Students identify and research important dates in the seasonal round of their family, community, state, nation, and around the world.
ELA-6-M1 Identifying, comparing, and responding to United States and world literature that represents the experiences and traditions of diverse ethnic groups. (1, 4, 5)
- Students recognize that holidays and the seasonal round have different meanings to different cultural groups.
ELA-6-M2 Identifying, comparing, and responding to a variety of classic and contemporary literature from many genres (e.g., folktales, legends, myths, biography, autobiography, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, novels, and drama). (1, 2, 4, 5)
- Students document an event in their own communities/region and research the history of calendar customs around the state and the world.
H-1A-M6 Conducting research in efforts to answer historical questions. (1, 2, 3, 4)
ELA-4-M3 Using the features of speaking … when giving rehearsed and unrehearsed presentations.
- Students compare and contrast their own holiday traditions with others and represent those ideas visually, orally and in writing.
ELA 2-E4 Using narration, description, exposition, and persuasion to develop compositions.
Star Seasonal Round Worksheet, Internet and printed sources (suggested below), construction paper, scissors, glue, tape, ribbon, note cards, recordings/song sheets for a variety of holiday songs.
Procedure I (Long Version)
- Brainstorm ideas about ways people celebrate the holiday season, roughly November 20 - January 6.
- To prepare students to investigate diverse holiday traditions, have them journal about how their family celebrates holidays, foods they prepare and eat, customs and rituals they maintain (things that they do every year), special tasks they have or look forward to having (lighting candles, rolling dough, making cards, cracking fireworks), special places they go, their stories about something that happened they will never forget (Santa showing up at their house).
- Once they get their ideas flowing, have students fill out a personal Star Seasonal Round Worksheet.
- Identify cultural groups in your area and/or the state. An easy way to do this is to discuss the backgrounds and heritage of your own students. Talk about the origin of their family names to give them clues to their heritage. After you have developed a list, explain that there are certain cultural groups that have had a great effect on the identity of your region (e.g., Germans who settled in Robert's Cove, Isleños from the Canary Islands who inhabit St. Bernard Parish, Indo-Hispanics who settled around Ebarb-Zwolle). Suggested resources are listed below.
- Assign groups of three to four students to research the holiday traditions of those groups using internet, literature, interviews, newspaper articles.
- Each person in the group is responsible for certain information: foodways (special foods that are prepared by certain people and their significance), customs (gathering after midnight mass for gumbo and gifts), music/recreation (playing dreidl), symbols (Kwanzaa principles). As evidence of their research, students should write important findings for their category on at least 3 note cards they will later use in their oral presentation.
- Each group should create an introduction that tells about how their cultural group celebrates the season, including the name, the background, and the meaning of the celebration, the dates, the cultural group represented, and the origin of the custom as well as where the custom is celebrated in Louisiana.
- Each group creates a Star Seasonal Round for their cultural group's way of celebrating the season. This becomes part of their presentation. Presentations (table top exhibit, role play, or oral report) should include symbols, costumes, food (optional), and an activity the class can do (game, song, or ritual). Each group member is responsible for presenting the category they researched. Their note cards will come in handy. Students should be encouraged to invite members of the community who they interviewed to share their traditions with the class as part of the presentation.
- Note cards and star seasonal rounds are turned in for individual grades. (This especially helps students who have trouble speaking in front of the class).
See procedure II for closure art activity.
Procedure II (Short Version)
Follow steps 1 - 3 from Procedure I.
- Choose three to four cultural groups and
celebrations the students will learn about using the suggested
resources or those you already have. Print information and images
for the students to read. Bring in symbols and play music
representing each cultures traditions.
- Have students fill in another star seasonal round with information about seasonal
celebrations celebrated by Louisiana cultural groups.
- Compare and contrast student traditions with those of people from other cultures. Louisiana Voices Venn Diagram can be used for this.
- Assessment/Closure Art Activity: The star seasonal round can be turned into an art project highlighting each culture with colors that represent that culture.
- Cut out more stars of various sizes.
- Glue the colored stars onto the star seasonal round to make an ornament to hang from the ceiling. OR Make a star representing each cultural group studied. Decorate it with symbols of the groups' seasonal traditions. Attach these stars with ribbon to the star seasonal round to make a mobile for the ceiling. OR as an assessment art activity, give students three or more "I learned" strips. Have each student write statements about what they learned about themselves and others. As they take turns reading their statements out loud, make a celebrating the seasons paper chain and hang it in the classroom.
You may wish to adapt the Louisiana Voices Presentation Rubric for this lesson: www.louisianavoices.org/pdfs/unit5/Lesson7/BlankVennDiagram.pdf.
An individual as well as a group grade is appropriate for this lesson. Categories to which points are assigned include:
- Research - individual (note cards) and group (number and variety of resources
- Presentation - oral (group and individual) assessing content and delivery
- Presentation - cultural artifacts, display, costumes, star seasonal round, arrangement
- Presentation - class participation in game, song, response
- Lagniappe/creativity - food, role play, quiz, tradition bearer
- For a brief overview of Southwest Louisiana celebrations see:
Louisiana Celebrations Rooted in Tradition by Jane Vidrine
- The original lesson for this adaptation is:
The Seasonal Round and the Cycles of Life Lesson 2: Constructing Personal Calendars
- The Star Seasonal Round worksheet was adapted from:
Seasonal Round Worksheet
- Help your students search the Louisiana Voices site for calendar related traditions:
Calendar Traditions Web Quest
- Video clip on Louisiana Voices site:
Laotian New Years Celebration This example of the New Year Celebration illustrates the importance of dance, music, and costume within the Laotian culture. Filmed in Broussard on Easter Weekend, 2000.
- Articles on Louisiana Voices website:
Bonfires on the Levee: A Family Tradition in Ascension Parish - Carol Gravois
Louisiana Celebrations Rooted in Tradition - Jane Vidrine
Making Tamales in Northwestern Louisiana - Dayna Bowker Lee
In the Indo-hispanic community of Ebarb-Zwolle in North
Louisiana, the tamale making tradition of Rhonda Gauthier is central
to family celebrations. Of Christmas, Rhonda says,"The women cook
all day on Xmas eve. All the family fasts during the day. They
attend midnight mass, then return home, eat and exchange gifts."
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.
Although no publications about Latino holiday celebrations in Louisiana
could be located, a documentary children's book on the
Mexican-American tradition of Las Posadas is very sound. The authors
document one child's experience to weave the story
Las Posadas: A Mexican-American Christmas Celebration by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith and Lawrence Migdale (Illustrator). Holiday House, 1999. Note: these
authors also published a book on the Cajun Courir de Mardi Gras
following young Joel Savoy of Eunice, Louisiana. Mardi Gras: A Cajun
Country Celebration Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith, Lawrence Migdale
(Illustrator). Holiday House, Inc., 1995.
Toby Belfer Never Had a Christmas Tree by Gloria Teles Pushker, Judith Hierstein (Illustrator). Pelican Publishing Company, 1991 Living in a small Louisiana town where hers is the only Jewish family, Toby Belfer
gives a party for her friends to explain Hannukah,
including the story of Judah Maccabee, the significance of the
menorah, how to make potato latkas, and how to play the game of
dreidl. Although the book is designed for young children, it serves
well to introduce older students to Hanukah with a Louisiana
The seven-day festival of Kwanzaa was originated by Dr. Maulana Karenga in the 1960s to honor the customs and history of African Americans. The seven principles of Kwanzaa serve to remind African Americans of the struggles of the past and focus on present-day achievements and goals for the future.
The Story of Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington, Stephen Taylor (Illustrator). HarperCollins Children's Books, 1997. The background and the seven principles of Kwanzaa are introduced in a very readable way. Activities at the end of the book include making your own cow-tail switch and baking benne cakes.
For younger children:
A Kwanzaa Celebration Pop-up Book by Nancy Williams, Robert Sabuda (Illustrator) Simon & Schuster Children's, 1995. Each spread in this pop-up book illustrates and describes one of the principles of Kwanzaa. The text teaches the symbols and words associated with the holiday. A book meant to be shared by adults with children - age range 5 yrs.
- German Christmas in Roberts Cove, Louisiana (Acadia Parish)
Each year the German settlement of Roberts Cove celebrates the eve of St. Nicholas, December 5th. Members of the community visit fourteen homes where families group together to receive the St. Leo IV Choir, St. Nicholas who is the patron saint of children with his sidekick, Black Peter, a small boy made up to resemble a child of Asia Minor, and Santa Claus. The group shares Christmas carols, mostly German, while St. Nicholas speaks to all the children and Santa gives them candy.
See more history of Roberts Cove on the Roberts Cove Germanfest site - nice historical pics
A poem about Roberts Cove by Sandy LaBry is part of a reflective activity for the Louisiana Voices Seasonal Round Lesson:
Seasonal Poetry Reflective Journal.