International Festival of Attention-Grabbers – Korea

Hi and welcome back to Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers!

Does your community – region, town, city, school – host an annual International Festival?

International festivals are celebrations of different cultures and countries, and you don’t need a passport to attend. I’ve traveled the world as if I were a set of fingertips dancing across a global map,

International festivals put the world at your fingertips!

like the teacher’s hands in my blog pic here. I enjoy attending festivals that feature different countries and cultures.

Displays of national flags, photographs, traditional clothing, jewelry, arts, crafts and cuisines help international festival-goers learn about diverse cultures. NOTE: If your class takes field trips see if an international festival is scheduled within traveling distance this school year. Perhaps you can plan to attend one.

The displays are colorful and inviting, but I learn the most from listening to people tell stories about themselves and their homelands.

Meet Sun Hee Bae (pronounced in English as Sunny Bay) from Korea. Sunny’s name suits her. She greets visitors with a warm smile, one that

Sunny and her younger sister in dresses made by their mother

has grown since she was a little girl, as shown in my blog pic here with her younger sister, Eun Hee Yoon.

Sunny was born in North Korea in a town called Whag Hea Do (pronounced in English as Hung Hey Do). Her family moved to South Korea in 1951. Sunny’s father worked for the government and she and her siblings grew up in Seoul.

Sunny catches people’s attention today in much the same way as her third grade music and dance teacher, Yum Young Soon, did when Sunny was a young student. Yum Young Soon is now over 80-years old!

The Korean words for teacher are Sun Sang Nim. As Sunny explains, “We children called all of our teachers Sun Sang Nim.”

Yum Young Soon was Sunny’s favorite Sun Sang Nim. Sunny says that she had a big smile and was very sweet. “I loved her and I was happy to work hard for her.”

Music and movement held Sunny’s attention. “We were in dance class two times a week; I loved to sing and dance,” Sunny remembers. Her Sun Sang Nim played organ and piano. “We were a poor country when I was a little girl. We didn’t have many musical instruments.” Sun Sang Nim played and sang, all the while asking the children to follow the lyrics.

There’s no question in Sunny’s mind that teaching through music and movement helps children learn. Research supports this assertion. To this day Sunny remembers her Sun Sang Nim’s song about water flowing all the way to the ocean. “The song flowed like water flows,” Sunny smiles at her memories, “and we learned about a river (kang in Korean), a lake (hosoo) and the ocean (bada).”

The Korean word for dancing is ssongal. Sunny recalls another song about drops of dew dancing on flowers as the flowers blossomed in the morning, feeling fresh. More about Sunny in a moment, but first consider this…

If your school offers music as a “special,” ask the music teacher if she/he plans to offer any opportunities to integrate dance with music for interested students. Yes or no, instruction using music and movement instruction doesn’t have to be limited to “specials.”

And, you don’t have to be professionally trained in music and dance to incorporate these disciplines into your instruction.

Try a simple attentionology trick that I designed to help kids learn key math concepts through writing, music and movement. Use the outline below to start…


  • Select the math concepts from your curriculum that will be the focus of this activity.
  • Teach or review the concepts, using strategies you know to be effective.
  • Introduce the Dancing Numbers activity, telling your class that you want to “play with” (or further review, depending on grade level) the math concept that’s the focus of your lesson.
  • Step One –  Using the board so that everyone can see, write a short song (silly or serious – choose what best suits your students) about the math concept. Sample song for grades 1 – 2: Zero is a lonely number/The number one’s a lot more fun/One and one make two/So the numbers grow/Add them up higher and higher/So the numbers grow.
  • Step Two –  Make up a simple melody or use a familiar one to set the lyrics to music. Ask the class to sing with you, repeating the lyrics you’ve written on the board.
  • Step Three – Invite the kids to stand up and move their arms to the music and song, following your lead. Drop your arms down low and make a zero with your thumb and index finger. Slowly start to bring your arms up higher; make the number one with one index finger. Make “ones” with both index fingers and bring them together to make “two” as you raise your arms higher…and so on.
  • Step Four – Improvise as you and your class sing and move to master key math concepts with this attentionology trick.

Back to our visit with Sunny…Some of her music and dance instruction was for special occasions. “I remember five other girls and me having to learn a new dance for a big anniversary celebration at our school, Donam Elementary School,” says Sunny.

Sunny still enjoys listening to music and now she has become a teacher herself, as grandmother to a four-year old boy named Brooks. Sunny enjoys passing on the Korean language and culture to the youngest generation in her family. “I teach Korean songs to my grandson,” she tells me, “and Korean words for basic learning.” “I enjoy it,” she adds; “we have fun!”

Sunny also enjoys international travel. As an adult she has toured many European countries with her sister, shown in my blog pic below on a visit near the French-German border.

Hands across the ocean. Sunny (center) and her sister appear much happier than the sculptured man!

Sunny’s (and her sister’s) happy manner and sense of humor are evident.

Maintaining a “sunny” disposition, even in the face of adversity, adds strength to any teacher’s ability to catch and keep kids’ attention.

Introducing children to countries of the world through music, dance and storytelling contributes to a comprehensive education. When kids discover the world they learn that people of every nation are more similar than different – a key piece of knowledge in a global marketplace. See if you like the way I express this concept in my poem below…

Chancing Peace

Explorer, you chance peace

as your quest for knowledge

chips away at the ancient

walls of ignorance and fear.

The joy of learning is to know

that people of every nation

are more similar than different,

seeking acceptance in one world.

If you can’t find an international festival to attend, consider hosting one at your school…with help, of course! Look for festival planning tips in upcoming Attentionology blogs.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings! Talk with you next Monday – Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers.

Look for Mid-Week Focus on Wednesday,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
Quick tips for common classroom conundrums: K-5
Situation: Young students are getting noisy while you’re trying to teach.

Solution: Hold up "Listen Star," a toy magic wand that you’ve designated to be a cue for quiet. Tell the class, "When you see our friend, 'Listen Star' dance across the classroom sky, that’s your signal to HUSH for a moment."

Related Posts: Let "Listen Star" Work Magic for You