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Chinese Zodiac and Calligraphy

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Carissa Sadlier
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Chinese Zodiac and Calligraphy


This lesson will be taught during a 4 week block/unit on Ancient China

Rationale/Objective of Lesson – 

I   To introduce the Chinese culture to students and build on it through to modern China over the next 4 years 

I   12 animals of the zodiac and their characteristics while also giving students a connection to this new Zodiac through their birth year 

I   Chinese use two calendars – the western and a lunar 

I   Connection to the beauty of the written Chinese language 


Daily song:

Reader: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin


Day 1: 

NEW:Students will first visit the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas on Cherishing Youth day where they will learn to paint calligraphy – Chinese characters


Day 2: 

RECALL: Recall our visit to the Buddha temple and the drawing of Chinese characters


PRACTICE PREVIOUS: Practice drawing Chinese characters and give students characters for the alphabet – write name – make a new nametag for desk 


NEW CONTENT: Watch a short video about Zodiac animal’s race stop video at increments to discuss the animals – pair share ideas etc…


BOOKWORK: Break up into groups of four and list some ideas on the characteristics of the animals 



Day 3: 

RECALL: Zodiac video 


PRACTICE PREVIOUS: Groups present the different characteristics they came up with – Teacher writes each animal on the board and characteristics children came up with – on top of the animal is the “actual” Zodiac characteristics, but hidden.


NEW CONTENT: Explain the Chinese Zodiac ask children what animal they think they might be and whisper it to a neighbor. Show children the actual Zodiac characteristics and ask them to talk to the same neighbor they whispered too about their choice and if they want to change it. 

Then tell them that they were born in either the rat or the pig. 

2008 rat 2007 pig

Talk with the same group about the characteristics they came up with before and the ones shown on the board. Do these seem accurate? 


BOOKWORK: In main lesson book, children make 1” borders on their page and draw either the rat or the pig


STORY: Read Look! What Do You See? By Xu Bing


Day 4: 

RECALL: The story by Xu Bing and how we practiced Chinese Characters


PRACTICE PREVIOUS: Ask students to come write different Chinese characters on the board connected to our alphabet


NEW CONTENT: Using the character bank on the board and the characteristics of their Zodiac animal, students practice writing the characteristics in English but to look like Chinese calligraphy, like Xu Bing. If children are really excited they can make up their own alphabet or make up a class secret alphabet.  


BOOKWORK: Write characteristics in special writing in the borders around their Zodiac animal. 


Assessment:  Final drawing with characteristics in calligraphy