Rainy day lessons

Posted on April 8, 2012 by

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One of the idiosyncrasies of Georgian life (in the village at least) is that school can be quite a walk.  Now, nobody likes to walk in the rain or snow, so that means when the weather is bad, I’m lucky if I have half of my students at school that day.  If it’s a really snowy day and the marshutkas don’t run, there are even less.  This means that if I teach a lesson, over half of my students won’t be there for it and will subsequently be behind a few students, with the majority having to play catch-up and me most likely having to use another class period to explain the same things.  To add further chaos to the situation the students that already know the material on the next day may become bored and disrupt the class.  So to help combat this, I’ve been thinking of ways to keep everyone closer together after these unfortunate weather days.

The best idea I have come up with is etymology and derivatives.  I can teach a few new words or take the words we have just learned and pass on what knowledge I may have on the subject.  This keeps the children interested in English but doesn’t really add any new grammar or vocabulary (it’s story time really).  Today was especially fruitful as we have just learned the months and I threw in the days of the week as well.  I have always been a huge mythology nerd and I took Latin in high school so I know the etymology and mythology behind all these names.  So I explained that most of English either comes from Latin or German and then started with the months.  I’ve always enjoyed etymology and I think it is fascinating how words come into being.  My students seemed to like it as they sat still while I described the god Janus with two faces, looking to both the past and the future with my co-teacher translating for me.  Describing Mars and telling how spring brings with it nicer weather and therefore the opportunity for glorious battle (also adding in that the planet is named after him as well).  I explained how the calendar didn’t always have twelve months and that’s the reason for September-December.  I described the hubris of the Roman emperors Julius and Augustus Caesar each needing their own months.

Then we moved on to the days of the week and I told them of the Norse gods and the relation to old German.  I described Tyr, Odin, Thor, Frigg and the Roman god Saturn (also the planet), although I didn’t think to also describe the connections to the romantic language days of the week (named after Mars, Mercury, Jove, and Venus).  I even explained to them the origination of most of their days of the week.  In Georgian Saturday is შაბათი/shabati which of course derives from Shabbat/Sabbath meaning “to cease,” in Hebrew.  It is the Jewish day of rest while Christians later moved it to Sunday because Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday.  I have been surprised that no one I’ve talked to (students, teachers, and host family) has known the etymology of the term.  I suppose the word is a hold over from Georgia’s war-torn past but the definition left when the invaders did.  Monday-Thursday in Georgian just count the days past shabati, so I believe it’s important they learn where the term originates.

Feel free to share this lesson with your class (Wikipedia is your friend if you need help with some of the days/months I didn’t cover well) and please share any ideas you have for rainy day lessons.

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Posted in: Lesson Plans