From Spring Fever Ad Nauseam to Columbus Day

By Sabrina Völz

ColumbusI might be preaching to the choir here, but everyone knows that teachers are pressed for time. And I am sure you are, too. Recently, I came across a useful website for those who teach English at the A1 to B1 levels and are looking for some downloadable worksheets on British and American seasons and holidays – some which even go beyond your typical Halloween or Christmas topics. If I could erase one topic from English classes across German elementary schools beyond the first year, it would be the season ‘spring.’ My daughter had the topic in some way every year from kindergarten to the sixth grade and was bored to tears. But I digress. If you are looking for a collection of worksheets on diverse holidays and seasons, then you might want to try Hueber’s page.

On the above website, you’ll find a variety of activities dealing with topics, such as “Dressing Up for Carnival” and “St. Valentine’s Day.” I have to admit that I couldn’t resist taking a peek at the worksheet on “Columbus Day,” all the while holding my breath.

As someone whose research and teaching interests focus on ethnic studies, I wanted to know if yet another publisher was going to – excuse my pun here – ‘whitewash’ Columbus Day or if Native perspectives might actually be addressed. After all, we do want our students to change perspectives and become more empathetic, don’t we? Well, you can imagine my disappointment when I saw no reference to indigenous peoples. Nevertheless, there is a wealth of information on that worksheet, so we don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water. Let’s just combine it with a thought-provoking storybook, such as The Encounter by Jane Yolen. The book is not perfect, but its visual images are breathtaking. You know how the saying goes: A picture is worth more than a thousand words. Many of them can be found in the YouTube trailer on the book; the viewers’ comments are also telling. Other great teaching materials can be found on Columbus Day and Yolen’s book on the Vamos a Leer: Teaching Latin America Through Literacy website.

Let’s move beyond ‘spring’ and start to enjoy the great variety of holidays and seasons the year has to offer.