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March 16, 2018

Increasing Students' Cultural Exposure With Holi

By Brian Smith
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    Teaching global awareness gets easier and easier as the world is getting smaller and smaller. With social media and Skype and several apps and programs that were just created while I typed this opening sentence, we can contact anyone around the world. Diversity is also beginning to penetrate children’s literature in a holistic way that was hinted at way back in 1962 when Ezra Jack Keats published The Snowy Day. Check out the We Need Diverse Books movement for the latest updates in the world of children's’ books.

    I love teaching about different cultures and their different traditions. Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, and St. Patrick’s Day are just three of the traditions that I round out my year with and now there is a new favorite in town.

    The book, Festival of Colors by Surishtha Sehgal and Kabir Sehgal and illustrated by the amazing Vashti Harrison, brings the beauty of one of India’s favorite annual celebrations: Holi. Holi is a Hindu celebration that occurs at the beginning of spring according to the Hindu calendar. This year, the holiday fell on March 2. Flower petals are collected and crushed into a powder. On the day of the Holi festival, celebrants dress in white and run through the streets as onlookers toss the powder at them. Visually, it is similar to a Color Run, but the festival of Holi is tied to Hindu mythology.

     

    I became fascinated with the idea of sharing Holi with my students as a way to teach global awareness and explore different cultures. I brought the idea to the first-grade teacher team and crossed my fingers that they would be on board for something new. I didn't need to worry: the other first grade teachers were immediately in. Mrs. Fox, Mrs. Ford, and I started planning six different stations where we would weave in science and social study curriculum goals while teaching about India, the Holi festival, and colors. In addition, I began planning a Skype chat for the first graders with Surishtha Sehgal, one of the authors. For a culminating activity, the team planned a miniature color run.


    The Skype author chat took place on Wednesday and Sehgal was amazing. She was both warm and knowledgeable and the students could have asked her questions all day. Being able to delve deeper into the cultural significance of this celebration with someone who has firsthand experience was a crucial component to our learning.

    Before the author’s virtual visit, we read the book and created a KWL chart. We then chose a spring holiday with similarities to Holi to act as a comparison. The one that my students were most familiar with was Easter. Our intention was to use the information from the KWL chart to complete a Venn diagram comparing Easter with Holi.

    On Thursday, our first graders rotated through six different stations.

    Station One: Video

    We watched a video from YouTube about Holi and then had the students complete a virtual quiz. This station really helped us incorporate our cultural social studies objectives and technology into our stations.

    Station 2: Writing

    We read the book aloud again and then the students completed two questions about the book. This station helped our students work on their writing skills: first grade standards require written responses as part of our reading assessments in my state. The first question was an inferencing question and the second question was a retelling question because those are the areas that we see the most needs for our students.

     

    Station 3: Coffee Colors

    We read Mouse Colors and then discussed how colors mix to form new colors. Each child then took a coffee filter, folded it in half, and then decorated it with markers. Once it was decorated they sprayed their coffee filter with water and watched the science happen as the colors began bleeding together to form new colors. This station worked some of our science objectives into the stations.

     

    Station 4: Color Crush

    We started this station by reviewing the author Skype session, paying especial attention to when Sehgal explained that when the citizens of India are throwing their colors they are really throwing joy, harmony, love, and a reason to start anew.

    We moved on to the book, Salam Alaikum, by Harris J. and illustrated by Ward Jenkins. The students learned and practiced saying the title of the book, which loosely means peace be with you. The students loved saying the phrase over and over. We then allowed each child to pick a piece of chalk that had been double bagged and secured in a zipper baggie. The students took turns using different tools provided for the experiment, smashing the chalk pieces to the finest powder that they could. The powder they created is what we used for our color run.

    When the students finished turning their chalk to powder, they used the amazing book, Colorama: From Fuchsia to Midnight Blue, to try to match the exact shade they created to one in the book. This expanded their color knowledge to realize that green is actually on a spectrum containing many different shades. This Color Crush station also allowed students to work on our science standards, especially the prediction of which tool would create the desired effect as they searched for ways to turn the chalk piece to powder.

     

    Station 5: Indian Art

    This station begins by reading the first half of Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes. Around the middle of the book, we stop reading and predict how the story will end. This is when we introduce the art project. Each child is given an elephant shape on which they glue small pieces of construction papers to create a colorful elephant. This project helps them remember the story of how Ganesha’s sweet tooth helped create an Indian tradition that lives on to this day. While the students completed the art project, we finished the book and discovered if their predictions were right. This station helped us explore more of the Indian culture as we learned a folktale from around the world. It also worked on our fine motor skills, which are still developing.

    Station 6: Color Senses

    We created a big graphic organizer with the title “The color _______” across the top and below that were five boxes with headings, “smells like . . . ”, “tastes like . . . ”, “sounds like . . . ”, “looks like . . . ”, and “feels like . . . ”. Each student picked a color and completed the graphic organizer. This station helped us think differently which is required in our reading as we begin to come across questions that are getting more difficult.


    Each student carries a rubric from station to station and their daily behavior chart is related to the total number of points that they earned while they rotate through the stations.

     

    The Holi Festival: Colorful Fun!

    To prepare for the color run part of the festival, we asked our students to wear white T-shirts or old shirts and bring in sunglasses. We provided inexpensive face masks to cover their noses and mouths. On the Friday, the day of the festival, the kids could not contain their excitement as they counted down to our version of Holi. My students took their baggies of chalk powder and combined the like colors together into gallon-sized resealable bags. This is when the research they did on colors in the Colorama book during station four was brought to life as they could see how the variances combined to create a new color.  

    As the students lined up around the bases of the baseball field behind our school in their T-shirts, sunglasses, and surgical masks, you could feel the electricity build until we finally kicked off the event by yelling, “Holi Hay!”

    This is a unit that you will love teaching but that your student will love learning even more. As the world continues to become more accessible through social media and technology, it was a real joy to provide our students a touchstone for understanding a small portion of this amazing culture.

    Connect with me at my website, www.briansmithspeaks.com, Twitter, Instagram, or on Facebook.

    I can’t wait to see you next time.

    Teaching global awareness gets easier and easier as the world is getting smaller and smaller. With social media and Skype and several apps and programs that were just created while I typed this opening sentence, we can contact anyone around the world. Diversity is also beginning to penetrate children’s literature in a holistic way that was hinted at way back in 1962 when Ezra Jack Keats published The Snowy Day. Check out the We Need Diverse Books movement for the latest updates in the world of children's’ books.

    I love teaching about different cultures and their different traditions. Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, and St. Patrick’s Day are just three of the traditions that I round out my year with and now there is a new favorite in town.

    The book, Festival of Colors by Surishtha Sehgal and Kabir Sehgal and illustrated by the amazing Vashti Harrison, brings the beauty of one of India’s favorite annual celebrations: Holi. Holi is a Hindu celebration that occurs at the beginning of spring according to the Hindu calendar. This year, the holiday fell on March 2. Flower petals are collected and crushed into a powder. On the day of the Holi festival, celebrants dress in white and run through the streets as onlookers toss the powder at them. Visually, it is similar to a Color Run, but the festival of Holi is tied to Hindu mythology.

     

    I became fascinated with the idea of sharing Holi with my students as a way to teach global awareness and explore different cultures. I brought the idea to the first-grade teacher team and crossed my fingers that they would be on board for something new. I didn't need to worry: the other first grade teachers were immediately in. Mrs. Fox, Mrs. Ford, and I started planning six different stations where we would weave in science and social study curriculum goals while teaching about India, the Holi festival, and colors. In addition, I began planning a Skype chat for the first graders with Surishtha Sehgal, one of the authors. For a culminating activity, the team planned a miniature color run.


    The Skype author chat took place on Wednesday and Sehgal was amazing. She was both warm and knowledgeable and the students could have asked her questions all day. Being able to delve deeper into the cultural significance of this celebration with someone who has firsthand experience was a crucial component to our learning.

    Before the author’s virtual visit, we read the book and created a KWL chart. We then chose a spring holiday with similarities to Holi to act as a comparison. The one that my students were most familiar with was Easter. Our intention was to use the information from the KWL chart to complete a Venn diagram comparing Easter with Holi.

    On Thursday, our first graders rotated through six different stations.

    Station One: Video

    We watched a video from YouTube about Holi and then had the students complete a virtual quiz. This station really helped us incorporate our cultural social studies objectives and technology into our stations.

    Station 2: Writing

    We read the book aloud again and then the students completed two questions about the book. This station helped our students work on their writing skills: first grade standards require written responses as part of our reading assessments in my state. The first question was an inferencing question and the second question was a retelling question because those are the areas that we see the most needs for our students.

     

    Station 3: Coffee Colors

    We read Mouse Colors and then discussed how colors mix to form new colors. Each child then took a coffee filter, folded it in half, and then decorated it with markers. Once it was decorated they sprayed their coffee filter with water and watched the science happen as the colors began bleeding together to form new colors. This station worked some of our science objectives into the stations.

     

    Station 4: Color Crush

    We started this station by reviewing the author Skype session, paying especial attention to when Sehgal explained that when the citizens of India are throwing their colors they are really throwing joy, harmony, love, and a reason to start anew.

    We moved on to the book, Salam Alaikum, by Harris J. and illustrated by Ward Jenkins. The students learned and practiced saying the title of the book, which loosely means peace be with you. The students loved saying the phrase over and over. We then allowed each child to pick a piece of chalk that had been double bagged and secured in a zipper baggie. The students took turns using different tools provided for the experiment, smashing the chalk pieces to the finest powder that they could. The powder they created is what we used for our color run.

    When the students finished turning their chalk to powder, they used the amazing book, Colorama: From Fuchsia to Midnight Blue, to try to match the exact shade they created to one in the book. This expanded their color knowledge to realize that green is actually on a spectrum containing many different shades. This Color Crush station also allowed students to work on our science standards, especially the prediction of which tool would create the desired effect as they searched for ways to turn the chalk piece to powder.

     

    Station 5: Indian Art

    This station begins by reading the first half of Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes. Around the middle of the book, we stop reading and predict how the story will end. This is when we introduce the art project. Each child is given an elephant shape on which they glue small pieces of construction papers to create a colorful elephant. This project helps them remember the story of how Ganesha’s sweet tooth helped create an Indian tradition that lives on to this day. While the students completed the art project, we finished the book and discovered if their predictions were right. This station helped us explore more of the Indian culture as we learned a folktale from around the world. It also worked on our fine motor skills, which are still developing.

    Station 6: Color Senses

    We created a big graphic organizer with the title “The color _______” across the top and below that were five boxes with headings, “smells like . . . ”, “tastes like . . . ”, “sounds like . . . ”, “looks like . . . ”, and “feels like . . . ”. Each student picked a color and completed the graphic organizer. This station helped us think differently which is required in our reading as we begin to come across questions that are getting more difficult.


    Each student carries a rubric from station to station and their daily behavior chart is related to the total number of points that they earned while they rotate through the stations.

     

    The Holi Festival: Colorful Fun!

    To prepare for the color run part of the festival, we asked our students to wear white T-shirts or old shirts and bring in sunglasses. We provided inexpensive face masks to cover their noses and mouths. On the Friday, the day of the festival, the kids could not contain their excitement as they counted down to our version of Holi. My students took their baggies of chalk powder and combined the like colors together into gallon-sized resealable bags. This is when the research they did on colors in the Colorama book during station four was brought to life as they could see how the variances combined to create a new color.  

    As the students lined up around the bases of the baseball field behind our school in their T-shirts, sunglasses, and surgical masks, you could feel the electricity build until we finally kicked off the event by yelling, “Holi Hay!”

    This is a unit that you will love teaching but that your student will love learning even more. As the world continues to become more accessible through social media and technology, it was a real joy to provide our students a touchstone for understanding a small portion of this amazing culture.

    Connect with me at my website, www.briansmithspeaks.com, Twitter, Instagram, or on Facebook.

    I can’t wait to see you next time.

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