It’s that time of year once again!
Parents everywhere scramble to catch back-to-school sales. Teachers eagerly decorate their classrooms. Children savor the last drops of summer...
For millions around the globe, the back-to-school season is a time of excitement and new beginnings.
While every family has their own unique way of ushering in the new academic year, we thought it would be interesting to explore how back-to-school is celebrated around the world!
Note: For a student lesson plan about back-to-school traditions around the world, keep reading!
Back to School Traditions Around the World
Germany (end of August/early September)
For over 200 years, German children have kicked off the new school year on a very sweet note. On the first day of school German students receive a schultuete-a large, decorated paper cone filled with candies and school supplies. This unique back to school gift is meant to sweeten a student’s first day and mark the beginning of a new and happy school year.
Russia (September 1st)
Russia takes the first day of school very seriously and has even designated the date of September 1st as “The Day of Knowledge.” On this special occasion students bring their teachers bouquets of flowers and receive colorful balloons in return. The first day of school is also commemorated by wearing formal clothing and attending special school celebrations complete with speeches, music and dancing.
Japan (early April)
Back to school in Japan is an especially important occasion considering that the country is believed to have the longest school year in the world (250 days)! Students entering school for the first time receive their randoseru, a hard-sided leather backpack (traditionally red for girls and black for boys), which holds school supplies including origami paper and special slippers required for the inside of school. Some students also pack a traditional lunch of rice with seaweed sauce and quail eggs thought to be lucky for the start of the new academic year.
Saudi Arabia (end of August)
While most of the world kicks off the new school year with unique first day of school traditions, in Saudi Arabia the festivities last for a full three days! During the celebrations teachers bring their students flowers and food and use this time to encourage the children to get to known one another and make new friends.
The school year in India, which typically runs from June to March, traditionally opens with Pravesanolsavam, or Admission Day. To celebrate, students are often given gifts from their families including an umbrella-a necessary item considering that the new school year coincides with the start of the monsoon (rainy) season!
Israel (end of August)
Some students entering school in Israel are in for a sweet treat-in certain communities children are given a board or paper inscribed with the Hebrew alphabet and covered in honey. Having students lick the alphabet is intended to represent the sweetness of learning and in more religious schools, the sweetness of the Torah (Jewish holy book). New students also sometimes walk through an arch made by older students as a traditional and personal welcome to the school.
Primary school students in Italy begin the new year by purchasing their grembiuli-a compulsory smock to be worn over their clothing (typically blue/white for boys and pink/white for girls in Kindergarten and dark blue for all other students). Bought from clothing stores, the grembiuli can be personalized and decorated to reflect individual style. Attached to their smock students also wear a ribbon whose color represents their grade-quite the easy identification system!
Kazakhstan (September 1st)
Like in other countries, the first day of school in Kazakhstan involves giving teachers flowers. In Kazakhstan however, each student brings just one single flower which the teacher uses to form a class bouquet, symbolizing the coming together of the students. School celebrations include speeches, dancing & music as well as the unique tradition of selecting one new student to be carried around the room for all to see. In addition to the festivities, children receive gifts from their parents including a bag of pencils, candles and sweets.
STUDENT ACTIVITY: BACK TO SCHOOL TRADITIONS AROUND THE WORLD
Content Objective: Students will be able to explain and compare/contrast back to school traditions from around the world
Language Objective: Students will be able to read short texts about back to school traditions around the world and identify the main ideas. Students will be able to summarize/list the main traditions from each country
-Printouts of pictures and short texts (in English or target language) about back to school traditions from around the world
-prepared student question sheet
- Hang pictures & short texts about back to school traditions from around the world throughout the classroom (don’t forget to number/title each picture/text set)
- Prepare a student question sheet for each of the countries with leveled questions based on the students’ language proficiency. Example questions could include “summarize the back to school traditions in Germany, list 3 cognates from the text about Italy, categorize which countries have traditions which are similar” etc.
- Instruct students to circulate the room (can work in pairs) to read the various texts and answer the questions. When it seems that students have had enough time to complete all of the readings, gather them back into a whole-group setting and lead a discussion on what they discovered (depending on language level/class, discussion can be in English or target language)
- As a formative exit slip, students can answer a simple reflection question such as “Which tradition from around the world do you like best and why?/How does back to school around the world differ from the U.S./Canada?/ What are your own back to school traditions?”
From all of us here at Prométour, we wish you a very happy and safe return to school!