Chinese New Year

Tomorrow is Chinese New Year.  If you're hoping to explore the lunar calendar beginning with students, read on for links and ideas to make the day a success.

Start by learning about Chinese New Year traditions through a holiday read-aloud of D Is for Dragon Dance by Ying Chang Compestine.  This story follows a boy and girl as they prepare for Chinese New Year, introducing symbols and traditions in an alphabetical list.

Introduce the Chinese Zodiac with a beautiful printable from Jan Brett.
Let students use the chart to figure out which animal will be associated with this year.  Then let them find which animal is associated with their birth years.  Challenge students to find patterns in the chart, such as how many years will pass before one of the animals is repeated.

Finally, allow students to make their own paper dragons using a template from Kaboose and a piece of crepe paper streamer.  Just decorate the dragon face,
cut out the masterpiece,
and attach the tail.
We used a stapler, so there was no waiting for the glue to dry.

Find out more about Chinese New Year history and traditions at A China Family Adventure.


Leap Year

2012 is a leap year, in which February will have 29 days. Get students involved in this infrequent occasion by learning the history and traditions of the day.

Leap Year was established in Rome by Julius Caesar in 46 BC after Cleopatra introduced him to Egypt's more accurate calendar.  To learn more about this Leap Day love story and the history of Leap Year, read the National Geographic News article, "Leap Year: How the World Makes Up for Lost Time."  Scholastic has a shorter, slightly simpler article about the day that would work for younger students.

Then find out how Leap Day has been celebrated in different places throughout its history.  One tradition holds that Leap Day is an occasion for ladies to propose to men, as shown in this century-old Leap Year postcard.

In 1904, the New York Times reported a Leap Year Dance in which the women wore linen collars while men carried bouquets and other feminine accessories.

In 1988, the little Texas/New Mexico border town, Anthony, declared itself to be the the Leap Year Capital of the World and began holding their Worldwide Leap Year Festival, a quadrennial Leap Year birthday celebration.

 Introduce students to one the most famous Leap Day stories, The Pirates of Penzance, by way of the San Francisco Opera Guild's Teacher's Guide and Resource Book.  The guide includes a kid-friendly summary of the story as well as lots of information and activities related to the opera in which a boy born on February 29 must wait until his 21st birthday (which won't occur until he's in his eighties) to be set free from his apprenticeship as a pirate.

After studying the history of the day, tie in math skills as well with Scholastic's Leap Year Math Quiz.  It's also a great day for practicing skip-counting by fours.  Play Cat Man Math Blues for a fun variation on the usual recitation.  Just scroll down the page to the Skip by Fours section.  I found this fun song by way of Mrs. Woody's Wonders, where you can find lots of other Leap Day links.


Keeping Track of Goals in the New Year + FREE printable

January always feels like a chance to forget about feeling guilty and start doing things better than in the past.  It's a perfect opportunity to get organized and prepare to succeed.  To get the year off to the right start, I found a few printable tools for keeping up with important dates, and I made some some new organizing tools, which I'm going to share with you!
Visit Red Stamp to find two free printable 2012 year-at-a-glance calendars.  This is perfect to help you and your students see the big picture of the year ahead.

I also printed out a yearly birthday calendar, so that I can keep better track of family and friends' birthdays this year.
You can get this easy-to-edit download free from The Project Girl.

To keep up with other commitments in the new year, get one of these printable agendas. Then, check out more tools for accomplishing New Year's goals.

I've always used a spiral-bound academic planner for keeping track of all my work responsibilities, but household management is a whole different monster.  To keep up with all of our chores and goals, I made up a weekly tracker.
To get your own copy of this Weekly Chore and Goal Chart, click HERE.  It has room for two people to track weekly chores and goals.  On the right side you can mark off your eight cups of water and daily exercise as well.  At the bottom, there's a place to plan a weekly dinner menu.
I also made this second version that includes two weeks of chores and goals for one person.  Get the Two Week Chore and Goal Chart HERE.  This version could be be slipped into the front of a student's binder to keep track of weekly responsibilities.