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Didn’t think I’d be adding new stuff to Lucky Hill, but…’tis the season.

Well, this isn’t exactly new. I figured I’d share one of my best lessons, and one that I believe I didn’t use to its full potential, namely my lesson on Halloween and Dia de los Muertos (Mexican Day of the Dead). I’ve mentioned this lesson before in my long post about the gaijin-san costume, where I brought up how differences are pointed out in Japan to the point of never letting people and students consider the similarities between things and people. That’s where this lesson comes in; it offers students the chance to learn about Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, and compare & contrast the two with a familiar Japanese holiday, Obon, in a Venn diagram.

FestivalsoftheDeadVennThis is the part of the lesson that I feel I didn’t do so well on, because I went in assuming students knew what a Venn diagram was. I think I asked the JTEs if they did, and was told that they knew it, but only in a math context. Overall, I underestimated how much this concept of using Venn diagrams in language arts would throw the students off. While some homerooms got it immediately, others struggled to grasp this concept, and we ended up running out of time in most classes.

If I were to do it again, with students of the same level, I would divide the lesson into two. I’d start off with the Venn diagram, and compare simpler things, such as “dogs and cats,” “Pokémon and Yugi-oh,” “Arashi and Exile,” and so forth. Then I’d do the introduction to Halloween and Dia de los Muertos in the second lesson.

Below you will find all my old materials for this lesson. First, the actual lesson plan. The worksheets I made are first in this PDF, the lesson plan is the last page here:

Festivals of the Dead Lesson

I used a presentation after the students had done the dictation/info gap exercises. I originally made this presentation in Keynote, but WordPress isn’t letting me upload that file (despite saying that “key” is an acceptable file format…) so I’m including a PowerPoint export of the file here. It may not display as nicely, but you’ll get the point.

Dia de los Muertos and Halloween

You may notice that the slide about spirits doesn’t have a picture. I could be wrong, as it’s been a long time, but I think I left it like that to explain the difference between “spirit” and “ghost,” namely that we usually think of a ghost as something that can be seen and felt, whereas a spirit is usually only felt. (On top of the fact that ghost usually refers to the spirit of a dead animal or person, whereas spirit can be like…the soul of a tree. That’s how I understand these words anyway. Ahaha…)

The last piece of this lesson is the Venn diagram. I simply gave students a sheet of B4 paper, and they had to draw the circles themselves. I’d drawn an example on the board. I suppose you could pre-print the diagram to save some time. There were a few students who had to bust out protractors and compasses to draw Absolutely Perfect Circles but…not too many.

Of course, even with all these materials, I think it’s crucial to do lots of research on your own into these things. One thing I’ve noticed, especially since coming back to the States, is how much people take their own culture for granted, and then end up misrepresenting their culture because of that ignorance. Actually, perhaps what prompted me to post this lesson now was a friend sharing an article on Facebook, namely this one telling people they shouldn’t dress as La Calavera Catrina for Halloween. The author, a Mexican American, makes the surprising statement that Dia de los Muertos is “a traditional event not at all related to Halloween” (emphasis mine), despite the fact that she’d mentioned Dia de los Muertos’ relationship with All Saints’ Day. I was like, “Uh, where do you think the word ‘Halloween’ comes from?”

New Oxford Am Dict def of HalloweenPeople can get so caught up in their need to defend their culture that they fail to realize that having things in common with other cultures doesn’t take away from their culture in the least. Sometimes, it seems like people straight out get into a game of one-up. “Neener neener, my culture’s older therefore better and valider than yoooours!” That’s an attitude that I think was present in that article, and it’s an attitude I’d often hear in Japan as well. That’s why I liked doing this type of lesson that brought together traditions from across time and place. There’s nothing wrong with a culture not being 100% unique, especially not when it comes to something as universal as death.

Well, I hope my lesson plan will prove useful in some way or another for someone out there! Until next time, folks.

Random おまけ!

There’s a town in Star Ocean: First Departure which has, perhaps, perpetual autumn. It also has one of my favorite Star Ocean tracks ever, namely “Sweet Time.” Actually, I think I’ve mentioned this track somewhere on this blog before, but…it’s good enough to repeat. Enjoy!

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