Video: This is how we do Sports Day in South Korea

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It was the day before Children’s Day and there was great excitement in the air. The halls of my school were unusually, almost eerily, quiet and the sun shone through the windows onto the empty plastic chairs. Outside on the great sports field, students lined up in front of their homeroom teachers, getting ready to start the day we’ve all been waiting for (and yes, I include myself in this story): Sports Day!

Children’s Day, or 어린이날 as it’s known in Korean, is a national public holiday with a long and vibrant history. It’s celebrated on May 5th and was founded in 1923 by the children’s writer Bang Jeong-Hwan (방정환) in an effort to instil national pride and identity in young people. It became a national holiday in 1975 and today, children celebrate the day by playing the traditional game yut nori, going to amusement parks and spending the day with family.

The whole country is in on it, and establishments from stores and movie theatres to parks and zoos have special family discounts (Sunday, May 8th is also Parent’s Day, you see). Kids get up early to watch animations on television and this year I reckon there were many kids (and perhaps some teachers) who had themselves a Marvel movie marathon. One rather famous cartoon character is 머털도사 (Meoteol Dosa) which roughly translates to “teacher with wild hair”.

 
At both my schools my students were looking forward to Sports Day on Wednesday, Children’s Day on Thursday and Parents’ Day on Sunday, not to mention the wonderful four-day weekend it fell on. So naturally, the challenge for a teacher is to come up with lessons that will keep them engaged when their little minds are really going through their dance routines and getting more and more psyched up for the big day.

On Tuesday, half my after school students were absent so I gave the remaining souls some construction paper, origami sheets, colour pens, stickers and free reign (and a few example sentences) with instructions to make a Children’s Day card for their friends. Needless to say, I was swimming in the cuteness that day. Here are a few examples:

 
Which brings me to Sports Day. Officially I was assigned to help keep score but the sixth grade girls in charge were completely competent and I ended up running around, taking pictures and chatting to students. It was a great day and I took a little video of some of the activities to give you a glimpse into what goes on at an elementary school sports day. They are all quite unique, I must add. My husband’s school, for example, did Tai Chi for their warm-up routine, and I wish I could convey to you his description of his one student’s Dragon Ball Z-esque moves and concentration.

Enjoy the video!

Follow EPIK e-Press for more insight into Teaching English as a Foreign Language in South Korea.

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