Check out how kids worldwide celebrate the start of a new school year.
Every year, as students return to school in the U.S., Instagram and Facebook timelines fill up with pictures of smiling kiddos holding chalkboards that proclaim the year and grade they’re about to start. But this isn’t the only way to commemorate the start of school.
Kids from Germany to Kazakhstan to Brazil celebrate the first day of school with a variety of traditions. Share these with your world language students as they return to the classroom after summer break. Maybe these traditions will even inspire new back-to-school icebreaker activities!
In India, kids get back-to-school gifts similar to children elsewhere in the world: school supplies and new clothes. But, because the first day of school in India coincides with the beginning of monsoon season, and many students walk to school, they are also gifted a new umbrella.
In Germany, kids starting first grade are gifted with giant paper or cloth cones, called Schultüte, filled with candy, school supplies, and small toys. Literally translated as “school bags,” the tradition of giving Schultüte goes back to the late 18th century. Folklore expert Christiane Cantauw explains that the tradition is not about treating children but rather about making it clear that a child's status changes as they begin a minimum of 12 or 13 years of schooling.
For many kids around the world, shopping for school supplies is a fun rite of passage, but families in Brazil have to be a little savvier. In the weeks before school, the price of school supplies commonly increases by fivefold. As a result, many caregivers have made it a back-to-school tradition to shop for school supplies immediately after a school year has ended when prices are more reasonable. Maybe acquiring all those bright and shiny new school supplies a few months early makes Brazilian kids more excited for the coming school year!
For students in many countries, the first day of school means diving right into academics, but in Indonesia, the first days are focused on students building community with each other and their teachers. According to Kid World Citizen, schools in Indonesia split students into groups to do collaborative activities that will help facilitate teamwork throughout the year. The idea is that classroom learning will be more effective if students are comfortable with each other first. While an increased focus on SEL is gaining momentum in much of the U.S., it has been an integral part of Indonesian schools for decades.
Japan's first day of school is generally on or around April 1st, and most first-year students receive a backpack, or randoseru, often handed down from other family members, as a present. These bags are sturdy (and expensive) and typically last students throughout their educational journeys. Japanese students also eat a special lunch of rice with seaweed sauce and quail eggs on their first day back, which promises good luck throughout the year.
When a seven-year-old child starts school for the first time in Kazakhstan, it’s a family-wide affair! The day is called Tyl Ashar, or "Initiation into Education," and caregivers organize a ceremony and cook a large feast with lamb, rice, vegetables, and sweet desserts. Guests gather and listen to the new student recite by memory the names of seven generations of grandfathers to honor their ancestors. As a reward, children are gifted with sweets, pencils, and candles (a tradition from when students had to study by candlelight). Kazak children continue the celebration by taking a single flower to school for their teacher, who will gather the blossoms together to make a bouquet.
Before a new school year starts, elementary-aged Italian kids go shopping for a new “work smock,” or grembiule, which they will wear over their clothes during class. Traditionally, kindergarten boys wore blue and white checkered grembiules, while girls wore pink and red ones, with all children switching to deep blue from first grade onwards. However, now many children sport creative designs or have their grembiules personalized with their names. The only old-fashioned rule that has stuck is that every student must wear a specific color ribbon to indicate their grade level.
Classroom Ice Breakers for the First Day of School
Need a little extra help getting your students as excited about the new school year as you are? Check out these three easy and engaging ice breakers that will have even beginning language learners speaking the target language in no time.
Start the School Year Right With Language Is Limitless
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