St Jordi/St George

As many people who were in a country that has St George as a patron saint will know, yesterday (23 April) was St George’s Day. What fewer people know is that St. George is also considered the patron saint of Catalonia, a region in Spain.

As some of you may know, I am not teaching English at the moment but I was asked to cover two English courses on St. George’s Day and I had to come up with a lesson plan. Instead of continuing on with the book, I decided to do a more cultural lesson with the students about St. George/St. Jordi.

The two classes that I was covering were ages 11-12 and 13-14, which is usually an age group that I prefer to stay away from, around the A2/B1 level. Unfortunately I only found out just before the classes started exactly what level/ages they were or I would have modified the lesson somewhat.

The lesson

Setup and comparison

To start the lesson I asked the students and had them share about anything special that they had done during the day. The younger class hadn’t done much in the way of celebrations due to still having school, but some of the students in the older classes had new books and flowers, which are traditional gifts between loved ones in Catalonia (men get books, women receive multicolour roses in Valentine’s Day fashion). We then looked at the legend of St Jordi that the students were more familiar; the version that is more well-known in Catalonia (written here in English by a translator from Catalonia) we read through aloud.

While the version had vocabulary that was definitely beyond an A2/B1 level of recognition (such as ‘dwellers’), the students generally understood the legend in English due to their familiarity with the legend in Catalan. I broke the text up into three approximately equal chunks and we discussed what had happened before each break so that I could make sure that they understood. Afterwards, I had them identify the things that the villagers did to get rid of the dragon before St. George, what they tried to give to the dragon, etc. We also identified the tradition behind giving a rose (a rose tree growing from the scarlet blood of the dragon from which St. Jordi picks a large, red rose to give to the princess) and came up with some ideas as to why men receive books (the reason for which is as-of-yet unknown).

We then compared the Catalan version to English versions. For the younger class, I used a clip from the British Council and for the older group, I used a video clip from YouTube. We watched each one at least once, the first time just for gist understand (and asking the students leading questions about the contents) and the second looking for differences between each version. We talked about these versions and their differences (such as the Catalonian version taking place in Catalonia and the English version [from YouTube] mentioning that it takes place in North Africa) and I used that as a springboard to talk about celebrations in England (pageants or plays, parades, festivals, etc.) versus in Catalonia (book and flower selling/giving).

Application

With the remaining time, we played a game that has some similarities with the legend of St. George (in the sense of a village terrorised by a supernatural being or beings) known as Werewolf.

Werewolf (or we happened to have the game in Catalan, known as Homes Llops) is set in a village where each night, werewolves come to the village and kill someone. The game is played by any number of people, but the more people, the more interesting the game. The basic concept is simple: if you are a werewolf, you are trying to kill everyone who is not a werewolf. If you are not a werewolf, you need to kill the werewolves before they kill everyone. But how do you do this? In each round, the majority of the players have their eyes closed at any particular time. Each player has a role that they have been assigned secretly at the beginning of the game and those who are not villagers also have some things that they can do each night (1 night = 1 round).

The entire game is set within a narration of events which is told by a narrator. Once the night is over (and each special player has their round to do an action within the night), the narrator wakes up everyone and announces who has died (if anyone) and the survivors (including the werewolves) discuss who could be the murder (often with information or disinformation supplied by the narrator or some of the special players, such as the seer who can look at a different card each night). Then the village votes to kill someone off. This person reveals their card and if it is the last werewolf, the villages have won. If not, the next night happens and so on until either everyone but the werewolves are dead or the villagers kill all of the werewolves.

The result

Overall the lesson went quite well. As I hadn’t been well informed of the level of the classes, their ages, and their abilities, I think we worked through generally quite well. I was able to eventually deal with the troublemakers who saw a supply/substitute teacher as an excuse to do whatever they wanted and be disruptive influences (no wonder I prefer adults!).

Did anyone do anything for St George’s Day/Diada de Sant Jordi? Feel free to let me know how you celebrate this holiday in your country (if your country celebrates it) or if you are a teacher, please tell me what you do in relation to St. George’s Day to teach about culture in the comments below!


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