Planning speech and language objectives around a theme facilitates delivery of therapy content and makes it more relevant to the student. In addition, working on a theme assists the student to reinforce information presented in the classroom.
Common themes for the month of February in the US include Chinese New Year, Presidents’ Birthdays and Valentine’s of course. However, there are other events that are celebrated in February for various other reasons by other countries. The Office of Equity and Compliance, Department of Human Resources provides a listing of events that are celebrated in other parts of the world. Enclosed are some events that could be incorporated as themes in therapy in the month of February.
Feb 1-2 – National Black History Month
The contributions by African-Americans are celebrated in February. Carter Woodson, a Howard University historian initiated this idea in 1926 because it included birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas.
Feb 12 – Birthday of Abraham Lincoln
Recognizes the 16th President of U.S. who preserved the Union during the Civil War and issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Feb 12-16 – Brotherhood/Sisterhood Week
Promotes cooperation and justice among all religious, racial, and ethnic groups in U.S. The National Conference sponsors it for Community and Justice, the third week in February.
Feb. 14 – Valentine’s Day
Recognizes the value of friendship. I wrote a column on how to carry over this theme in therapy in the February issue of the ¿Qué Tal? column. Please visit the Bilingual Therapies website for more information.
Feb 15 – Birthday of Susan B. Anthony
Recognizes American reformer and leader of women’s suffrage movement. This is an opportunity to discuss thestruggle for equality by women in American society.
Feb 18 – Lunar New Year (may be called Chinese New Year; known also as Tet in Vietnam, and Seul-Nal in Korea)
To celebrate the New Year, children are given money in red envelopes and, one of the main symbols is a dragon indicating good fortune. This holiday occurs on the 2nd new moon after winter solstice. The length of celebration varies from culture to culture within the Asian populations. The holiday might be an opportunity to discuss the meaning of various animal symbols in the Chinese calendar.
Feb 19 – Washington’s Birthday and Presidents’ Day
Honors the first president of the U.S. and leader in the American Revolution, who was born on February 22, 1732. Observed on the third Monday in February.
I have chosen to provide some ideas on presenting the meaning of various animals in the Chinese calendar to celebrate Chinese New Year. A very helpful resource written by Lilly Cheng (1994) titled: Famous folk tales from China (Academic Communication Associates, Oceanside, CA) includes 12 folk Chinese tales. One page has the Chinese text of the story with the English translation on the opposite page. At the end of each tale there are comprehension and thinking questions to review the content and meaning of the story. Suggestions for students to experience the story are also included.
The introduction to the Chinese Zodiac is based on a twelve-year cycle. An animal represents each cycle. A person born in that cycle has specific characteristics that define personality, future, success, and happiness. According to a Chinese legend of many thousand years ago, the Jade Emperor decided to call twelve animals to represent each of the cycles. When the animals got together they began fighting to know which one would come first. The rat won the first place and was followed by the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the sheep, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, and the pig.
Description for three signs follows:
Last year 2006 was the year of the DOG– this also applies to individuals born in 2006 and multiples of 12, that is, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, and so on.
“You are loyal, honest, and work well with others. You are brave, faithful, intelligent, a deep thinker, and humble. You may also be guarded, critical, introverted, stubborn, and selfish.”
This year 2007 is the year of the PIG– this applies to individuals born in 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959, 1945, and so on.
“You are lovable and make life-long friends. You are noble, charitable, sensitive, fair, and faithful. You may also be pessimistic, unbending, insecure, gullible, and defenseless.”
Next year 2008 is the year of the RAT-This applies to individuals born in 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948, 1936, 1924, and so on.
“You are ambitious, creative, happy, and sociable. You are an honest person. You tend to spend your money freely. You may also be critical, manipulative, and a gossip.”
The study of the story can lend itself to various therapy ideas:
- Genre: Talk about the story and define the meaning of a legend.
- Vocabulary development.
- Students discover that the majority of them have the same zodiac sign because they were born on the same year. Which one is it? What are the characteristics? Is it accurate for everyone?
- Each student is assigned to read about a different sign. The adjectives are written on the board and are defined. This is an opportunity to review terms like antonyms and synonyms. For example, “sociable and reserved”, or “distrustful and suspicious.”
- Comparing and contrasting. The student interviews various family members to find out their year of birth and reads them their zodiac. He/she makes a list to share in class.
- Discussions. Each student takes on the role of an animal and talks about his/her experience seeing that animal. A discussion follows about why would a rat be considered “creative,” or an ox “a good leader.”
- The SLP can collaborate with the classroom teacher to request that students look for various other legends in the library.
- Tales about other animals such as Aesop’s fables can be studied next.
Naturally, there may be many more possible activities that can be derived from the story. Adaptations will be necessary depending on the level and communication needs of the students.
Coming up in the QUE TAL issue of March 2007
Serving ELL Students: A 36-Year Perspective from a Monolingual SLP