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Chinese Architecture

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Esther Dupree
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Chinese Architecture

Chinese Architecture Lesson Plan

To be presented after the Chinese New Year Unit

My Student Population:

9th-12th grade students with moderate to severe autism.  I teach a self-contained class where my students range from non-verbal to generally high functioning.  All students are on the alternate curriculum and are focused on receiving a certificate of completion and hopefully will transfer to a career and transition center where they will focus their learning on vocational skills and life skills.


Our class has a multi-unit theme of “One City, Many Cultures”.  We study different the origins of cultures that influence Los Angeles.  Included in our lesson is a unit on China.  We study China around Chinese New Year as we have field trips to Chinatown to meet some tour guides and shop owners who explain the cultural significance of Chinatown in Los Angeles.  We study the immigration of Chinese people into Los Angeles and we study different aspects of Chinese culture, geography, history and daily life.  I want to incorporate a architecture lesson into our unit on China.  Due to this class, I will be adding an architecture unit to several of the places we study.  This unit will allow students to identify architecture as a profession and that buildings have people that design them to look a specific way on purpose.  Students will be taught to know that different cultures have unique identifiers in their architecture.  Students will learn some vocabulary, practice drawing and painting, discussing their art with peers and adults and reflect on the learning process.  Students will write over a multi-day period.


Activities and Standards:

LAUSD Standards for Students on the Alternate Curriculum: SEACO (Special Education Access Guide to

State Standards)  Unfortunately, LAUSD recently removed all science standards and standards regarding specific aspects of history (among other academic areas), so we only have writing standards for students on the Alternate Curriculum.


WHST.10.11-12 Grade 11-12 students Write routinely over extended time frames (time for reflection and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

WHST.4.11-12 Grade 11-12 students Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

RH.7.11-12 Grade 11-12 students Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.


We will look at some traditional Chinese architecture and work to design a Chinese pagoda based on our research.  We will be using pencils, black markers, and watercolor paints.  I want my students to learn some vocabulary: China, pagoda, architecture and materials.  Students will work on researching designs to use as models for their own paintings.  Students will spend time researching and then drawing a design for a pagoda. 

Students will write about how they want to design their building, the materials to be used and what they want it to look like.  Students will also write about how they hope their building will be decorated to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Then students will use a marker to finalize the outline and finally paint their pagodas with watercolor paint.  After the painting is complete, students will post their work and invite other students to do an art walk.  Each student will stand by their painting and explain their art to the other students who come in to ask questions.  The viewers will leave comments for each piece of art and the class will go over the feedback from the other students after they leave.  We will reflect on the learning process and share our reflections.

After a group introduction to Chinese architecture, students will be able to use internet research to design, draw and paint a Chinese pagoda.  Students will also write about (if they could build their pagoda in real life) what they want their pagoda to look like, what materials it will be made from and how they want it to be decorated for Chinese New Year.


Lesson Plan:

Day 1:

We start by introducing China by first looking at a bulletin board.

I hand out a fact sheet to each student and students take turns coming up to the board and matching each fact to the various images. 

Next, we introduce architecture.  We talk about what it is, building design and why it’s important.  We discuss the first known architect, Imhotep ( an Egyptian) and how he designed Pharoah Zoser’s Step Pyramid.  We then talk about 6 aspects of Chinese architecture:

  1. Emphasis on horizontal line. (side to side or flat)
  2. Emphasis on symmetry-even balance (the same on both sides)
  3. Buildings are usually made out of wood (materials)
  4. Roof is curved
  5. The Chinese dragon—an emblem reserved for the imperial regime, was heavily used on roofs, beams, pillars and doors
  6. The ancient Chinese favored the color red
    1. (Gersh, n.d.)

We then compare Chinese pagodas to the Step Pyramid.

We then watch a slideshow of 10 examples of Chinese pagodas. (China Highlights: Chinese Architecture, n.d.)  While we look at the slideshow, we compare the pagodas to images of Los Angeles buildings taken during our fieldtrips.  We talk about what materials the buildings in Los Angeles are made of vs. what materials the pagodas in China are made of.  I ask questions about what parts of the pagodas look different from the buildings in Los Angeles and what parts look the same.

I then instruct them to spend 20 minutes using the internet to find examples of pagodas they like.  They will be given a graphic organizer to write about what they want their pagoda to look like, what materials it would be built out of if it were built in real life and how they would want it decorated for Chinese New Year.

Students will also be given a graphic organizer to sketch ideas for what they want their pagodas to look like.

Day 2:

Students will use the rough drafts for their writing and drawing from Day 1.  Aides will work with students to complete the second draft graphic organizers.  After students make final decisions on what they want their pagodas to look like, they will write a final draft of what they want it to look like, which materials they want it to be built out of and what it will look like if decorated for Chinese New Year.  Students will then be given a white piece of watercolor paper and have the rest of the period to sketch their pagodas in pencil.  Aides will assist them and help them use iPads for research if needed.

Day 3-4:

Students will be given the period to work on painting their pagodas.  They will trace their pencil drawings in black marker and then start using the paints to fill in all the colors.  Students also will have the period to work on their final draft of the description of their pagodas.

Day 5-6:

Students will post their paintings on the wall along with their final drafts of the description of their pagodas.  Each student will stand by their work as specific students invited to come in to class review their work and discuss the art with the students.  Students will be asked why they chose the look of their pagodas and asked to give reasons why they designed it that way.  Each visitor will complete a review of each painting with ‘glows’ and ‘grows’ for each student.

Once the art walk is completed, we will sit in a RJ community circle and go over all the feedback from the visitors.  We will discuss what they thought of the project and what they liked and didn’t like about it.  We will ask them what they think they could do better next time and what their favorite part of their painting and writing is. 

Student assessment will include the rough and final draft of the pagoda descriptions as well as the rough and final draft of their artwork.  Aides will also complete IEP goal tracking observation during the unit so we can see their progress on communication, reading and writing skills.



Works Cited

China Highlights: Chinese Architecture. (n.d.). The Top 10 Classic Chinese Pagodas. Retrieved from China Highlights:

Gersh, H. (n.d.). Chinese Architecture in Art. Retrieved from The Primary Palette: