The final quarter of the school year is finally here and students are introduced to a new genre: traditional stories. With the goal of internationalism in mind, we read stories from many different cultures through various genres, namely: myths, legends, and folk tales.
“The Crane Maiden”, a Japanese folk tale, was a perfect opportunity to talk about Japanese culture, traditions, beliefs, and literature. The story has all the elements of a folk tale:
- features human and animal characters
- supernatural beings and events are part of the story
- a lesson or message about life is presented
To start the lesson, students were asked to list down words they can associate with the word CRANE. A variety of answers came up (symbolism, elegant, origami, hope) and one of the most common was “1,000.” I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a few of my students have read Eleanor Coerr’s “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.”
For those who have not read the story, a short clip was shown to the class about a girl named Sadako who developed leukemia 10 years after the bombing of Hiroshima. A friend of Sadako one day visited her in the hospital and told her if she makes a thousand paper cranes, she would survive. Sadako died making only 600+.
Through the story “The Crane Maiden,” students learned the relevance of cranes in Japanese culture. As an extended activity, students made their very own paper cranes.
Luckily, two students from my class are experts in origami. They facilitated the making of paper cranes.
It was interesting to see how most of them challenged themselves in creating a difficult origami piece. Nevertheless, they persisted.
At the end of the activity, some students donated their paper cranes for our bulletin board but there were some, too, who wanted to keep theirs to show their parents. However, what made me prouder was how these students reflect about Japanese culture as they were making their paper cranes. What stood out the most for me is one question blurted out by one of them:
“This is so difficult! How can you make a thousand of this?”