Monday, January 28, 2013

Lesson-up Express:It's Time for a February Fling

It's Time for a February Fling

In his delightful book, Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months, Maurice Sendak managed to find  something joyous to cheer for every month-even dismal as dirty snow February. His words even hint at love, the predominant emotion of this month.
    In February it will be
    my snowman’s
    with cake for him and soup for me!
    Happy once
    happy twice
    happy chicken soup
    with rice.
(Maurice Sendak  Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months)

Love, romance and sometimes marriage have been focal points the stories surrounding the celebration of Valentine's Day, the central holiday of the month. Some say that it was named after Valentinus, a Catholic priest who performed marriages for soldiers and their ladies even through the Roman rulers had outlawed the practice. The Romans thought that men were better soldiers without families. Valentinus disagreed and was sentenced to death for his beliefs. While in prison, he cured the blindness of Julia, the daughter of the prison warden. They fell in love, and right before he was executed. Rumor has it that he sent the fair Julia a letter signed, "from your Valentine," creating the much-repeated Valentine love letter phrase.

The Catholics made him a saint and chose February 14th  for the Feast of St. Valentine. Another side of this historical story, though, believes that the Catholics wanted to overshadow the non-Christian Romans' pagan festival of Lupercalia, a fertility fete. During the festival, a goat was sacrificed and men slapped the fields, and the women of childbearing ages, with the skin to promote fertility. Then men and women were paired up by a lottery-type system to live together for a year, resulting in many babies and some marriages.

The Middle Ages brought a love letter from Charles, the Duke of Orange, to his wife who was cooling her heels in the Tower of London prison. Geoffrey Chaucer jumped on the Love Wagon with his  Canterbury Tales, where courtly love reigned in the stories and probable actions of the Knight, the Squire, the Prioress and the inimitable, Wife of Bath.

Maybe all of these celebrations were conjured up because February is no box of chocolates in the weather and holiday columns and something had to bring people joy. The Italians even describe this second month of the year as "corto e maledetto-short and accursed." Hmmm. As I look out my windows at this bone-chilling wet and raw day, I have to agree. Obviously, so do millions of people who feel that love and romance will chase away the dreariness and ennui it brings to bear. For now, over one billion cards are sent on this holiday filled with verses of love, florists are busy creating aromatic bouquets of flowers and merchants fill their shelves to overflowing with hearts full of candy.

This month calls for a much needed February Fling down the Curriculum Corridor. Here, to paraphrase Mr. Sendak's words, teachers can be, "Happy once, happy twice, and even happy thrice" with the activities that I offer in this blog. With 20 teaching days, this trio of Common Core  aligned lessons will spark students' vitality, will captivate them mentally, and will increase their comprehension and higher-order thinking skills. Students will latch onto the concept that love and passion are synonymous with learning, just as they are to romance.

Happy Teaching,

Let's make this a quartet of February Fun.

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