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The Chinese New Year
- a lesson plan

Materials with permission from Scotland Online & Qi

For a Word version

Chinese poster 1

There is quite a lot of reading material here. First there is a lead in with a discussion about some fortune cookie sayings. Then there is a general article about the Chinese New Year, followed by an introduction to the Chinese calendar where stds find out which animal represents their birth year. Then they read & discuss an interpretation of their animal characteristics.  

Before beginning, 'the Chinese believe the animal ruling the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on personality, saying: "This is the animal that hides in your heart." Find out which is your animal by typing in your birth year in the first box, click on the 'My animal, please' & there you go!

Preliminary information

Time: 75- 90 minutes??

Level: Intermediate upwards

To give extensive & intensive reading practice - stages 2, 3, 4
To give freer speaking practice - stages 1, 4
To review & expand vocabulary connected to describing character - stage 4

That the stds will be interested in the topic.
That the language in the text will not be too difficult.

Anticipated Problems and Solutions:
Some of the vocabulary may be challenging, especially in the last text >> pre-teach essential items or a word building task to begin with - dictionaries while they read.

Chinese cookie sayings & texts with permission from Scotland Online & Qi


Stage 1 - Intro to China & the Chinese New Year & Fortune Cookie sayings
20 mins tch<>stds, std<>std, tch<>stds

1. Brainstorm all the stds know about China - geography, culture, politics, fave Chinese food etc.. get the stds to shout out ideas.
2. Elicit what 'Fortune Cookies' are - have they ever got any when in a Chinese restaurant?
3. Instructions for the activity - that you are going to give one out per person, they have to look at it & think about what it means & then discuss it in small groups.
4. Handout the sayings - go round & help out with any vocab problems.
5. Put the stds into small groups & discuss the sayings.
6. Feedback - which was the best saying - & any language you picked up on when they did the task.

Stage 2 - reading: the history of the Chinese New Year
20 mins tch<>stds, std<>std, tch<>stds

1. Elicit the date & what is happening on ??? - check this out before starting! - the Chinese New Year. Elicit anything they might know about this event.
2. Reading - the Chinese New Year - the History - set the task & explain

A few questions:
1. What do people do to their houses in preparation for the New Year?
2. When do the celebrations begin?
3. What happens on New Year's Day?
4. How do the celebrations end?

1. they clean their houses
2. on the eve of the New Year
3. Hong Bao
4. with the Festival of Lanterns

3. Stds read individually & find the answers - give a time limit to encourage faster reading, getting them away from reading every word.
4. Stds compare answers.
5. Feedback.

6. More detailed reading task - stds find all examples of things connected to the New Year that have a symbolic meaning e.g.. the cleaning of the houses are to rid the house of any bad luck. Other examples are the foods, dress, the Red Packet tradition.

7. Response to the text - ask the stds; which was the most interesting part for them, any similarities with their New Year celebrations etc.

Stage 3 - reading: the Chinese calendar
10-15 mins tch<>stds, std<>std, tch<>stds

1. Tell the stds that the new year is the year of the ??? - see the material to find which year it is - do they know anything about this?
2. Cut up the two paragraphs - handout & stds put the text in order. You might want to jog their memories about language they might need: this goes first, And then this, I'm not sure about that one etc....
3. Pairwork ordering - go round & help out.
4. Feedback - go through the correct order helping the stds to see the right order if they had problems & also pick up on the content, ending with the 'animal that hides in your heart'.
5. Handout the animal calendar - stds find their own.

Stage 4 - reading/speaking - interpretations of their animal signs 'Check your personality type according to Traditional Chinese Astrology'
20 mins tch<>stds, std<>std, tch<>stds

Careful with the vocabulary - there's a lot connected to character. You might want to look at these before beginning.

1. Handout to stds their own animal interpretation - read.
2. Combine stds with the same signs & they discuss whether the characteristics are true of them or not. Go round listening & taking notes. You could give out dictionaries for while reading use.
3. Feedback on content & the language.

You could bring the character vocabulary together in a chart for stds to complete & go away with.

If you want to make more of this last reading you could ask them to rank the animal signs in order of 'positiveness', which would mean them reading all of the outlines or mingling & orally exchanging a summary of their animal, each taking notes & then putting in order. Small groups could then compare & have to agree on an order. Class feedback could then bring an order together on the board. All are positive anyway - careful.

Chinese poster 2

An addition:

The Story of the Chinese Zodiac

Many people have wondered over the years how it was that the rat, the smallest of all the creatures, was given the honour of having the first year of the Chinese Zodiac named after him. This is the story I have heard.

A very long time ago, the Jade Emperor, who ruled the heavens of China, sent a message to all the animals asking them to come together so that he could give each of them a year, which would make it easier for the people of China to keep track of time. The cat and the rat were good friends and decided to travel to meet the Jade Emperor together.

When it came time to leave, however, the cat was taking a nap. The rat, realising that he would have to use all his cunning to be noticed by the Jade Emperor, left his friend sleeping, and set off on his own. This is why there is no year named after the cat, and also why cats have hated rats ever since.

When the rat arrived, the Jade Emperor welcomed him and the other animals and told them that they should all take part in a swimming race. Once again, the rat realised that he would have to be very clever if he wanted to win the race. He found the largest, strongest animal, which was the ox, and pleaded with him to let him ride on its head. The ox was kind and strong, and agreed that they would swim across together. The rat travelled safely across the river on the ox's back, but, just before they reached the other side, climbed over the ox's head, jumped onto land, and reached the finish line first. The rat had proved its cunning, and the Jade Emperor named the first year after the rat and the second year after the ox.

Apart from a straightforward reading text, this might be suitable to cut up, every three lines, & logically order, use as a live listening or use as a dictation, a traditional one or a running dictation (see: Running around - ) - for both younger learners & adults.

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