Category Archives: Thai School Activities

National Children’s Day 2016

National Children’s Day is a day to celebrate children, recognize their importance in Thai society, and most importantly, to have lots and lots of fun!

National Children’s Day is held every year on the second Saturday in January.  Although not technically a national holiday, the day is celebrated throughout Thailand.  Businesses put on events with games and activities (magic shows, contests, workshops, parades, etc.); and many zoos, museums, and other attractions offer free admission to children.

Many government offices, which are usually not open to the public, are open on Children’s Day for children and their family to visit.  Children can take a guided tour of the Government House (office of the Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers–similar to visiting the White House in the US), and this year the Government House lawn was turned into a dinosaur theme park.  The Royal Thai Air Force puts on an air show and allows children to explore the aircrafts up close.

One temple in Nonthaburi even installed a number of large replica characters from comic books, movies, and literature.

There is clearly a lot going on to celebrate being a child in Thailand.

Every year the Prime Minister  announces a motto for Children’s Day. This year’s motto was:

เด็กดี หมั่นเพียร เรียนรู้ สู่อนาคต

“Good children are diligent and crave for learning, for a bright future.”

Since Children’s Day falls on a Saturday, our school celebrated by having a big party on Friday afternoon.

The P5 students organized the games, and the P6 students were in charge of the gift swap.  Every student and teacher brought in a wrapped gift (worth at least 50 baht,or ~$1.50) that could be for anyone at the party (students aged 1-12, teachers, or parents).  Jake and I settled on some really beautiful, decorative notebooks since a notebook is age appropriate for just about anyone, and our students are drawing every chance they get.

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The P6 students numbered every gift and made a  chandelier with hanging paper hearts.  At some point during the party everyone picked a heart, and the number inside determined which gift we received.

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Gift swap

One of the P3 students traded her original gift for my notebook, and ran over to show me how excited she was.  Jake got a Mickey Mouse pencil case, and I got some sort of Thai educational computer game–both were clearly intended for Thai children.

The most interesting part of this party though, were the games.  There were games planned for every single grade, from nursery 1 (1-2 year old babies) all the way up to P6 (11-12 year olds), and every single one was extremely entertaining.

Nursery 1 had what I am calling “baby races”.  One to two year olds “raced” across the yard–guided mostly by the older students and teachers.

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Lining up the babies…

Inevitably this results in one child racing towards the finish line; a few children taking a few careful steps forward and then either freezing in fear, or backing up slowly; and the rest running off in every possible direction other than towards the finish line.

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baby race chaos

Nursery 2’s game (2-3 year olds) involved picking up various balloons and putting them in colorful, plastic bins–essentially cleaning up.  They also needed quite a bit of help.

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Kindergarten 1 (K1) had an actual eating contest.   The 3-4 year olds stuffed their faces to see who could finish their snack bar the fastest.  This was hilarious, and it took the foreign teachers a few minutes to figure out exactly what was going on.

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The next Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut

K2 and K3 students (4-5 year olds and 5-6 year olds respectively) played musical chairs.

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This round of musical chairs was very successful in that their was only one crying incident, and the tears stopped immediately once she received her prize.

Prathom 1 (also called Primary 1, P1, or 1st grade) raced across the yard to scoop up water from a bin, carry it back to the start, and see which team could fill up their water bottle the fastest.

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The P2 students (2nd grade) each wrapped a balloon around their ankle and tried to pop each other’s balloon with their feet.  The last one with their balloon still intact wins!

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The 2nd graders who play football (soccer) every day after school were the best at this game

P3 and P4 had some sort of flour-blowing race.  The students lined up (girls first, then boys), raced across the yard, and then competed to see who could blow all of the flour off of a paper plate the fastest.  This results in a huge cloud of flour, and flour all over the face and hair of everyone participating.

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Lining up. The P4 boys are very competitive.
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Flour-blowing in action
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Who finished?

P5 students MC’ed the event and helped organize and set up all of the games throughout the party–so I guess that’s why they didn’t have their own game.

Finally, P6 competed in limbo, where the girls were way better than the boys.

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Every student received a gift after playing the game, plus their gift swap gift, and then additional gifts were given out throughout the party as well.  So every child left with their arms overflowing in presents.

Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time, myself included.

How did you celebrate National Children’s Day?  If you’re not in Thailand, does your country have a similar holiday?  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Thai School Activities: Music in the Garden

At the school where I work in Chiang Mai, Thailand; we participate in “music in the garden” every Thursday.  Music in the garden has the feel of a block party or a barbeque where all of the students and parents come together after school, make and sell food, and listen to musical performances by some of the teachers (and sometimes students!).

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Music in the garden

To set-up, every student has a job.  Some students help set up the tables and music equipment, while some of the younger students help roll out mats to cover the grass in the garden.

Most of the students however, are helping to cook delicious food.  The students work in small groups and  have a mini-cooking class every Thursday.  Every week they cook something different and there are always at least 4 or 5 dishes to choose from.  We have had fried rice, eggs, chicken, BBQ mushrooms, noodles, pork and sticky rice, among many others.  There is also always a homemade drink of either butterfly pea flower water or punch.

cooking
cooking

Around 4:30pm we walk outside to join the students and parents.  The older students are set up at tables around the garden in order to sell their homemade food for between 5 and 20 baht per plate ($0.14-$0.57). Some of the parents and grandparents also bring food or other items to sell.  The grandmother of a 4th and 5th grade brother and sister brings multiple varieties of popcorn (caramel, bbq, spicy, or seaweed flavored) every week.  The mother of another 4th grader always brings the dried pork and sticky rice.  At last week’s music in the garden, a group of parents sold jelly candies and mini-candles.

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Lining up for flower water
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Hard at work
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Selling food and keeping track of the money

As for the music, one of the primary teachers always plays the guitar.  The PE/nursery teacher usually sings.  At one music in the garden, one of the 6th grade girls sang and played the guitar as well as any adult you might hear playing music live around town.  This same girl is one of the singers on the school song recording they play every morning during morning assembly.  At an earlier music in the garden, one of the 2nd grade girls (a 7 year old!) played some type of mallet instrument very beautifully for the entire hour.

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Man of many talents
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The usual duo for our Thursday evening garden show
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12 year old musician in the making
A very talented 2nd grader
A very talented 2nd grader
gathering a crowd
gathering a crowd

While the teachers and older students play music and sell food, the younger students (nursery-P3) run around and play.  Since we teach primary school, this is where Jake and I get our weekly dose of kindergarten fun.  Since we are both foreign and not their regular teachers, the kindergarteners find us (mostly Jake) extremely exciting.   There are lots of high fives, funny faces, general goofiness, and climbing all over Jake who is essentially a giant.

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Some of our P1 students just hanging around…
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We have yet to get this little one’s name (asking in both English and Thai), but he’s Jake’s biggest fan.
monster attacks
Monster attack!
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Juggling mini-candles….how to get 4-6 year olds’ undivided attention

Music in the garden is generally a highlight of our week.  We get to relax, eat great food, listen to music, and hang out and get to know our students outside of the classroom.

One of our third graders teaching us Thai writing on Jake's phone
One of our third graders teaching us Thai writing on Jake’s phone

Do you want to hear more about our school activities?  More about places to see in Chiang Mai, or about living in Thailand in general?  Let me know!

Yoga Wednesdays

At our small, alternative school in Chiang Mai, we have a few unique activities that we participate in each week that are pretty different from what we might do at an American school.

For example, on Wednesdays we do yoga with all of the prathom (elementary) students.

on wednesdays we do yoga

P1-P3 (1st-3rd grade) usually do yoga in the library, which also doubles as our office and is where Jake and I spend most of our time when not teaching.  P4-P6 (4th-6th grade) are usually just upstairs in the music room.

We join the group in the library every Wednesday since the translated schedule we received on day 1 clearly stated, “the school would like you to do yoga with the students”.

I love yoga.  I bought a (pink, Hello Kitty) yoga mat at Big C shortly after we moved into our apartment and I’ve been doing great, free, full-length yoga classes online from home.  Jake on the other hand, kind of hates yoga.

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A typical Wednesday afternoon

The only problem I have is that the class is entirely in Thai, and I have yet to learn very much Thai at all.  I also set up my mat at the very back of the room behind all of the students.  Then whenever we lie on our backs, each row usually alternates head forward or feet forward so that no one’s feet are near anyone’s heads—a very big no-no in Thailand.  For Thais, the head is the most sacred part of the body, while the feet are the lowest and the filthiest.

This usually puts me facing backward for any poses that start off on our backs.  I don’t understand most of the Thai directions, so I spend most of  this time craning my neck around trying to figure out what everyone else is doing, getting into whatever pose that might be, and then realizing that they have already moved on to something else.  The other problem with just copying whatever the  students are doing is when 6-9 year olds are your model yogis, often none of them are doing the same thing as the instructor anyway.

This should say, "Me at Thai yoga".

However,  the yoga instructor always seems very happy that we  join her class, and the mid-workday savasana is amazing.

As a final highlight, the Kindergarteners do yoga on Tuesdays.  Kindergarten yoga is possibly one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.

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My favorite photo--yoga chaos
My favorite photo–yoga chaos

If you’re thinking of visiting or living in Chiang Mai and like yoga, there are tons of yoga studios, retreats, and classes you can take.  I’m actually considering attending the Chiang Mai International Yoga Festival in January, so I’ll keep you updated on that as well.

Anyone else do yoga?  Would you have liked weekly yoga in school as a kid?  Comment below to let me know what you think!

The “Thankfulness Candle”

Happy Thanksgiving! Thais obviously do not celebrate Thanksgiving, but gratitude is an important part of many Thai festivals throughout the year.  In fact, every Monday morning the students at our school practice gratitude.

On Mondays,  the students move into the library mid-way through morning assembly, just as they do on every other weekday.  They do their usual morning prayers and wai the Buddha, chants, and meditation.

At this point, the teacher who leads the morning prayers and rituals lights a small flower candle to pass  around the room.2015-11-16 08.44.20

Each student, one at a time,  wais their neighbor on their right to accept the candle.  2015-11-16 08.51.32

The student receives the candle from their right, holds it in both hands, and announces to the room something or someone they are thankful for.  They then pass the candle to their left and wai their neighbor who receives it.

"ขอขอบคุณ....." ("Thank you for.......")
“ขอขอบคุณ…..” (“Thank you for…….”)

After stating what they are thankful for and passing the candle, the students hold hands, close their eyes, and meditate until the candle goes full circle around the room.2015-11-16 08.52.04

I think this is a great way to start off each and every week.

What are you thankful for?

 

Morning Assembly

Every morning between 8:10 and 8:15am (we run on Thai time) Jake and I walk over to the courtyard of our school to attend morning assembly.

Before we begin, all of the students line up around the courtyard first by grade, and then  with boys and girls separately in height order.  They form a square around the courtyard, with one student who will lead today’s assembly standing at the front.

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P3-P6 lining up for assembly. The students do wear uniforms that vary from day-to-day, but they are dressed here for Friday morning exercise.

We begin with all of the students and teachers standing at attention and singing the national anthem, while 2 students raise the flag.  Next, all of the teachers go to the middle of the courtyard and the students wai and greet their teachers.  The teachers then return back to their spots on the outside of the square, and the students wai again.

The student in charge of the music this morning  then plays the school song “Lok Nayoo” which is about “our beautiful world”.   The students (with the help of one of their teachers–a monk turned musician turned teacher, and an extremely kind man) wrote, produced, and recorded this song all on their own last year.  It’s extremely catchy.

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This morning’s student DJ

During Lok Nayoo the students put their hands behind their backs, sway from side to side, and sing along with the recording (although as expected, the younger the student, the louder they sing).

When the song ends we applaud and the student leader says “Teacher, please”.  At this point either Jake or I (we alternate) go up to the front of the assembly area to tell the students a “3 minute story”.

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Me telling a 3 minute story about an imaginary trip to Bangkok to discuss transportation (bicycle, train, and airplane) and comparative adjectives (fast, faster, fastest). Also note that this was on Scout Day–the students and Thai teachers wear scout uniforms every Tuesday.

The “3 minute story” is not exactly a story, but more an opportunity for the students to hear some English and practice speaking (we do a lot of questions and answers) first thing in the morning.

Each morning we talk about anything at all, but we come up with a new topic every day.  Some of our 3 minute stories are a big hit (jobs and what the students want to be when they grow up was very popular, although so was a 3 minute story about watermelon).  Others kind of crash and burn.

We have learned that props definitely help the 3 minute story, or at the very least, actions and motions.  Silliness is also encouraged.  And we’ve discovered it’s better to make the story too easy and keep it simple, than to have it be too hard where we are left hearing crickets and seeing a bunch of confused faces.

After the 3 minute story, the students line up and head into the library where the activities that follow vary depending on the day of the week.  However, they always start with prayer, which includes third level wais to the Buddha statue and chanting, followed by quiet meditation.

After meditation there are usually some songs (“itsy bitsy spider” is one we recognize) and then we finish with the students all laying on their backs in a savasana-like pose with arms and legs straight and their eyes closed, for more meditation.

After anywhere from 1-10 minutes of lying down meditation, the students are dismissed one grade at a time to go back to their classrooms and start the day.

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walking to the main classroom buildings from the library…time to teach!

How does this compare to how you used to start your school day?  If you are teacher, in Thailand or elsewhere, how does your school’s morning assembly and rituals compare?  Let me know in the comments.  And I’m always looking for new 3-minute story ideas!