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.

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