Today was a fun day. I’d prepared my PowerPoint for my Christmas presentation mostly a week in advance, because the first teacher I teach with was being observed that day and wanted to know exactly what was going on. There’s a certain amount of on-the-spot coordinating that goes on, and I suppose some of that is unavoidable, but we decided that an early Christmas presentation (and a Thanksgiving review) would work a lot better than the ambiguous/content-lacking “I want to go to Italy” chapter in the textbook >.<
This PowerPoint was the most painstaking out of the three (Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas), I think, because of the sheer amount of content. My teacher wanted me to cover the birth of Jesus/history of Christmas, and also talk about the differences between Japan Christmas and American Christmas. I originally made three PowerPoints–one for the birth of Jesus, one for Japan vs. American Christmas, and one for Santa Claus. You’d think it’d be easy to put this all in one ppt, but you have no idea how much Christmas information is out there until you start looking.
The ppt went like this: Birth of Jesus, Christmas in Japan vs. Christmas in the U.S., and Santa (historical Santa, and then today’s Santa). I wore a Santa hat to school (including my bike ride over…got some looks for that, haha, but I don’t think they were negative looks), and brought in the stocking my grandma mailed me to use as a prop for a couple days, haha.
I had a small quiz where I asked kids to guess where Santa lived–the choices were Alaska, Finland, the North Pole, and Hokkaido. (The first and last one were kind of throwaways–no one would fall for that). As it turns out, the I second class I taught thought Santa was from Iceland, so I think I’m going to replace Alaska with that! I quizzed the teacher next to me in the teachers’ room, and she said “Finland”…many people think Santa is from Finland, and when I researched this online, it turns out there is actually a fairly strong argument for that. But still, not going to let that one pass. The North Pole it is!
Nobody knew about Santa’s list, either–especially about good kids getting presents and bad kids getting coal. One kid wrote in his comments (感想文) after, 「石炭を入れられないようにがんばります。」 “I will do my best not to get coal put in.” Poor child, what have I done…haha. They seemed to know that Santa comes down the chimney, even though I’m pretty sure nobody has a chimney, and some people remembered Emily telling them last year about putting out cookies and milk for Santa. I think they knew about the reindeer flying, although I’m not too sure if they knew that Santa, his elves, and the reindeer all live together in the North Pole, and that the elves make toys.
For this Christmas lights slide, I want to point out that I did not try to sell this as “every American’s house on Christmas.” I told them that, while most/many people do hang up lights on Christmas, this is a very special neighborhood pretty close to my house, and that you can search in the newspaper to find out where the neighborhoods with really cool lights are. I think it was the first time for some of them to hear that, too.
In Japanese, lights (whether it be Christmas lights, or similar lights hung up somewhere for some other reason) are called “illumination” (イルミネーション), which is a good example of borrowed words from English that get their meanings changed. Something that the kids (and I think all the teachers) learned for the first time was that Christmas lights aren’t called “illumination” in English. One of my teachers came up after and said he hadn’t known about that, and when he asked me how the word “illumination” is “normally” used (in English), I had trouble coming up with an answer. I feel like you kind of have to jump through some hoops to get that word to work in a “normal” context, especially an everyday conversation type of context. Suggestions are welcomed in the comments section, haha.
I also had pictures illustrating Jesus’ birth, ending with a nativity scene to show everyone what they might see if they visit the US around Christmastime. In their comments later, many students wrote that they were surprised to learn that the Christmas celebration is based on Jesus’ birthday (Japan adopted the secular aspects of the holiday only, probably because there aren’t that many Christians in Japan). I had similar responses for the history behind Thanksgiving, the holiday of which students much less familiar with. The story of Jesus’ birth could have been a bit difficult to explain, so I ended up showing the slides to the teachers before the class started and explaining in Japanese what was going on so they could help me explain when I explained that part of the presentation in (mostly) English. I think the best method of doing these holiday presentations is writing them in English that the teacher (not necessarily the students) would understand, and putting Japanese in parentheses for unusual words (like “coal” or “manger”) that people wouldn’t be expected to know.
We didn’t have games in this presentation because it was pretty long, but I had lots of fun pictures, and asked lots of questions of the students, letting them discuss things together (Where do you think Santa lives? Where do you go to buy a Christmas tree–at a department store? Once you buy it and cut it down, then how do you get it home?) I had a lot of fun with the Christmas tree posts. The kids were really surprised to see that not only are there huge pumpkin farms (Halloween), there are Christmas tree farms where you can purchase real Christmas trees, cut them down, tie them up and carry them home on top of your car!
This slide starts with just the “Before” picture, and then the arrow moves over and the “After” appears. I’m SO glad right now that I take pictures of so many random things, like our live, pre-decorated, lopsided Christmas tree. It was very illustrative!^^
So, that concludes today’s Christmas lessons! I ate with one of the 5th grade classes today, and after we’d all sat down, said itadakimasu and it was time to eat, some of the students started moving their arms and counting, and then suddenly everyone was singing me happy birthday in English!! hahaha. I was so surprised and happy! Later, some of the girls in class wrote me a birthday note/card and it was really sweet (and funny)^^ Thank you, awesome wonderful 5th graders and your thoughtful teacher!^^