Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Three Wise Men come to school

I don't usually write about elementary schools since my background is secondary education but this topic is well worth the exception. I would like to talk about some books for young children and traditions surrounding one of my favourite Christmas characters, "The Three Wise Men".

Coming from a small town in northern Spain, I hardly recall the first time Santa "came" to my place with presents on December 25th. The story about Santa likely began after I stopped believing in such things. I can, however, clearly remember the nights of January 5th when the Three Wise Men were believed to come visiting bearing gifts. As a child, I was sure they would come because they walked through the city in a parade ("la cabalgata")  that night so all the children would get their presents the next morning. At the time, I did not mind that "la cabalgata" was much more modest in my town than it was, and still is, in Madrid or Barcelona, for example.

There are numerous examples of activities created by teachers about this topic that can help us to introduce the Three Wise Men. Teacher Laura Zuheros proposes to write a letter with her students after introducing the Three Wise Men in Russia. Manuel Balaguer offers different activities to work with advanced students in United Kingdom.

Both lesson plans can be adapted to our bilingual programs in junior and senior high.

Elementary students would likely embrace learning about the Three Wise Men with enthusiasm. We can have students write the Wise Men letters asking for some presents. They can even directly address their "favourite" Wise Man for the presents. And since traditionally it is believed that the men leave presents in children's shoes, we can suggest to our students' parents to place the children's shoes outside the windows the night of January 5th. What delightful surprise it would be for the children when they discover their shoes full of presents in the morning!
There are are also books that we can read with our students to fully understand the story.
I would like to recommend El dia que los Reyes Magos se toparon con Santa Claus, by Ana Galán. Patricia, a young girl, decides to send the same letter to Santa Claus and the Three Wise Men. Imagine how the problems escalate when all of them meet at her place! Values such as understanding different cultural traditions appear in the book as well as a mild critic of over consumption. The publisher has posted activities about the book online that we can use. You can click on the picture below to access the activities.

For upper elementary students, Andrea y el cuarto Rey Mago by Alfredo Gómez Cerdá, can be a good choice. Andrea is tired of not getting all the presents she asked for in her letter to the Three Wise Men. She persuades her younger brother to stay awake and talk personally to them. That night, she discovers that a fourth Wise Man will come to her home with unexpected intentions. This is a beautiful story worth sharing because it reflects the true spirit and values of Christmas. The publisher also offers activities online.
Learning about the Three Wise Men can improve students' cultural knowledge about Christmas in Hispanic countries. It can be a bit late this year to start a project in our schools but The Three Wise Men will be back next year for sure.