Happy Lunar New Year! Today's celebration creates a perfect opportunity for a multidisciplinary story time. Since many children are only familiar with the Western / Gregorian calendar, begin by introducing the lunar calendar, which is based on moon cycles rather than Earth's movement around the sun.
Then read aloud a story to introduce symbols and traditions of the holiday. Students will love the alphabet-book presentation and detailed illustrations in D Is for Dragon Dance by Ying Compestine. Get more ideas for using this book and celebrating the new year from this earlier article. After the story, students can listen to a clip of Compestine discussing New Year traditions on NPR's Morning Edition episode from this morning.
Students also enjoy the brief introduction to the holiday presented in Grace Lin's Bringing in the New Year.
The Year of the Dog and the rest of the Pacy Lin series or Lin's Newbery Honor book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.
After the stories, encourage students to make text-to-self connections regarding the traditions mentioned in the books. Students will discover that many cultures share similar traditions. Then demonstrate how students can count backward to their birth year and learn about the Chinese zodiac. The zodiac chart is printed in the back of D Is for Dragon Dance, for the letter Z, and you can download and print a beautiful version created and shared by Jan Brett. I've written about this printable before, but kids seriously love it and will practice patterns and arithmetic with this image for as long as you will let them.
Finally, let students practice creating similes by comparing the upcoming year to a horse, since 2014 is the year of the horse. Kids can browse non-fiction books about horses to get ideas for adjectives to use in their similes.