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China Unit Activities

Compiled By: Mrs. G

Teaching world cultures can be a lot of fun. Here are some activities to use to enhance your unit of study on China.

Posted by: Virginia

Here are a few ideas for your unit on China. The Chinese invented the original calculator -- the abacus!! Give each child a pipe cleaner and some Fruit Loops or Cheerios and show them how to slide the cereal onto the pipe cleaners. Fold over each end of the pipe cleaner so the cereal does not fall off and --- you have an abacus for a counting activity. (It would be great to find the Chinese words for counting one to five).

Also the giant panda bear is a national symbol of China. You could make pandas by using paper plates -- a large plate for the body and a small plate for the head. Add black construction paper ears, paws, nose and eyes and you have a panda bear. You could also draw two circles onto white paper and have the children make the paws, ears, etc. with thumbprints. Those turn out really cute also.

Finally, the children could decorate some Chinese fans. Two types of fans can be made -- one by folding paper accordion style and another by cutting a large circle from tagboard and taping a chopstick to the back for the handle.

Here are a few books I'd suggest to go along with your unit:

LonPoPo: A Red Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young

Two of Everything: A Chinese Folktale, by Lily Toy Hong

Once There Were No Pandas by Margaret Greaves

Tiki Tiki Tembo by Arlene Mosel.

Chinese New Year Lanterns
Posted by: biz

You can make Chinese New Year Lanterns. They're pretty simple and look great. You take a red piece of construction paper and fold it in half. Then you cut about 10 1-inch slits in the half paper. Then you unfold it to full size and re-fold it into a cylinder shape (without a top or bottom) and staple it together. The last step is to staple on a yellow handle. There are probably better instructions for these online.

Demi has some fiction books with Chinese themes/characters. You can photocopy some of the pictures of dragons or phoenixs and have the kids either color them or make them "glitter." We had them trace the picture on plastic wrap with a black sharpie and then color it in with colored sharpies. We then taped this onto a piece of construction paper covered in tin foil. They look really great but take a couple of days.

I've had students make a Chinese New Year Dragon out of cereal boxes as well. You can have them each bring in a cereal box (or some sort of box about that size). You cover it in construction paper and glue on tissue paper and decorations (sequins, puff balls, etc.). You then line up the boxes on a bookshelf or on top of a cupboard to make the whole dragon. It looks really cool b/c each segment looks different so the whole thing is really bright and colorful.

You could make Chinese fans in a similar way with pictures of dragons or Chinese symbols.

If you're in the older grades you could do a timeline of the immigration of the Chinese to the US. The book Coolies by Yin is really great.

Animal and flower symbols are also really important in China. You could have kids research different animal meanings (Phoenix, Dragon, Lotus flower, etc.)

That's all I can think of - have fun!!! What a neat project!

I don't know how to spell it properly but Ni hao (knee how) is Mandarin for Hello and She-she (sh - a, sh - a with a long a sound) is thank you.

Craft ideas for your theme
Posted by: Ally

A teacher I know shared these craft ideas with me:

1. A dragon...decorate dragon face on paper plate...she did it with paint but could be pieces of construction paper, pastels...and then she attached the plate to a popsicle stick, then got a piece of yellow construction paper (large) and folded it into a fan...attached the fan to the "head" of the dragon and added one more popsicle stick to the "body" of the dragon. They also used glitter and paint to decorate the made a great hallway display.

2. Pagoda laterns...cut two laterns out of red manilla tag paper (I don't have a scanner otherwise I could send you the template), then the kids fold each piece in half longways, then staple twice in the middle and fold out each will be able to stand on its own. Then you punch a hole in the bottom of each of its "legs" and attach tassles of yarn (red and yellow) It looks very nice hanging in the classroom.

3. has coloring pages for each of the animals in the Chinese calendar. I made these into a booklet and gave them to the kids to work on as an "extra" whenever they finished up their classroom work and had a few minutes to spare.

4. If everyone in your class is the born in the same year, you could make a display of "Year of the ____________" and a short write up of the traits of that animal...then the kids could draw a picture of themselves explefying a particular trait.

5. Have the kids bring in any items they have that relate to Chinese New Year or China and create a little classroom the display I have seen, there is silk pj's, a mug with Chinese Characters, jade, chopsticks, Chinese money, examples of Chinese writing...

The kids in this class really seemed to enjoy this theme...I am sure you will all have fun...Ally

Chinese New Year
Posted by: angel77

This is one of my favourite holidays to share with children. I tie it in with fairy tales usually and/or dragons. We look at the Chinese zodiak and they find theirs, we look at cultural places in China, we try chopsticks, make fans and dragons and read lots of books.

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Chinese Calendar Activity
Posted by: JKB

I have a Chinese Calendar Activity that I use with my third graders. I will attach it, in case it is useful to you.


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Some Ideas
Posted by: Mrs C

Eat with chopsticks. :)

Build a miniature Great Wall.

Make paper lanterns & dragons.

Do a calligraphic scroll using the Chinese alphabet (which I am sure Google could find for you), or make a bracelet with name in Chinese characters.

Learn the Chinese zodiac & write funny horoscopes.

Build & float Chinese junks.

Research & make a diorama of pandas in their natural habitat.

Learn to count to 10 in Chinese & then create a Math problem using the Chinese words.

Have students create dot-to-dot pictures using Chinese numbers; shuffle, have others do & color for display.

Treasure hunt along the Silk Road with Marco Polo...geography & Chinese exports.

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Posted by: BookMuncher

One year, we worked together to create a chinese dragon. We made the head out of a box and the eyes out of two big plastic cups, turned on their side. I cut the box so the child under the head could see out the front of the mouth. The kids took turns with our aide painting the head and then we attached a long piece of fabric to the back, painting gold scales on it. The whole class could fit under it, and after studying the Chinese New Year, we did a parade around the school saying "Gung hay fat choy!"

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Chinese caligraphy
Posted by: calumetteach

There are some books out there written in English and Chinese. You can also get Chinese writing from a restaurant. Discuss how many characters there are in the Chinese language and how they transcribe their writing differently from us.

I had a newspaper page that has basic words in Chinese ... dog, cat, love, mom, dad etc. (you can probably find them online... mine were from the newspaper's "mini-page for kids". The kids wrote a simple message in Chinese using black watercolor paint. Then they wrote what it said in English underneath. It looks awesome and it ties in well with soc. st. studying other cultures etc. I don't worry if they've done the writing correctly... if there was someone who could really read them it would be fun to have them try to figure them out!:)

If you can find a copy of the Chinese zodiac have them look to see what year they were born in and what their animal and sign represents. You could list the things they do to prepare for the New Year and contrast it with what we do for the New year. Then they could choose a tradition and draw pictures to go with the Chinese and American holidays.

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Chinese Food
Posted by: connieg

Chinese often celebrate with dumplings. Be sure you don't cook them in peanut oil though. You can fill dumplings with lots of things or even buy them frozen. I made fortune cookies once and they are a nightmare. You need to be quick! I don't believe they are really that authentic anyway. Chinese people like rice, vegetables, fish balls, tofu, etc. I might try a hot pot! That is a great celebration.


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Mask Making
Posted by: Mrs. G

Using the internet or books you have on china, show children different artifacts from the Chinese culture and different types of Chinese masks.

Then have the students create either drawings of masks or paper mache' masks to represent the culture.

For simple mask you can just use card stock and have the students draw the face and cut out the eye holes and such. They can use string to hold the mask on their faces.

China activities
Posted by: Mrs. G

During your unit on China have students keep a journal of things that they have learned. They can decorate the cover of the journal with Chinese symbols.

Children love to make shadow puppets when you turn on your overhead projector. Now they can because this was part of the Chinese culture. Students can research the kind of shadows made my the Chinese and then replicate them for the class.

Hold a Chinese festival. Let students dress up and participate in different Chinese activities.

British imperialism in China
Posted by: Lloyd Yeo

Borrow any Jet Li movie 'The Once Upon a Time in China I, II and III' is pretty interesting and show the Chinese reaction to new inventions like the camera in one of the scenes or to Westerners. You could also show the war scenes from a movie called the Opium War to introduce to your class the idea of imperialism and how it all began in China. Ask the class to ask questions about the culture or elicit feedback from them.