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Learning about Ancient China

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Linda Gonzales Diaz
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Learning about Ancient China

Learning About Ancient China


Rationale: In 6th grade History, one of the essential questions is “How did major religions/philosophies support individuals, rulers and societies?”  In this lesson, students will learn about various Chinese philosophies.

Lesson Objective: Students will examine the 4 major philosophies of China and work in groups to apply a different philosophy to a realistic and relevant ethical dilemma. Students will be able to identify the cause and effect of the warring states period in China. Students will examine how each philosophy helped support individuals, rulers and societies.


CA HSS Content Standards: 6.6.3, 6.6.4

CA HSS Analysis Skills (6-8): Research, Evidence and Point of View

CA CCSS ELA/Literacy: SL.6.1, L.6.5, L.6.6, RH.6-8, RH.6-8.2, WHST.6-8.1, WHST.6-8.7, WHST.6-8.9

CA ELD Standards: ELD.PI.6.1, 3, 6a, 6b, 10b, 11a; ELD.PII.6.1,6

Big question: How does history still affect us today?

Instructional Procedures:

  1. Engagement: Present an ethical problem and 4 possible solutions. (Students are not aware that each approach represents a different philosophy.)

  • Problem: How would you deal with school violence or bullying?

  • Possible solutions:

    • Approach 1: Assign violent students a “big brother” or “big sister” who is a trusted and respected student in another grade. The big brother or sister would teach the student how to behave properly. (Confucianism)

    • Approach 2: Allow students guilty of fighting or bullying to go unpunished, hoping that they will eventually learn from their mistakes and correct their behavior. (Taoism)

    • Approach 3: Have school authorities publish the rules for unacceptable behavior and assign harsh punishments for violating those rules. For example, “students caught fighting will be expelled. (Legalism)

    • Approach 4: Assign the individuals involved in the violent incident into a small group where they learn more about each other and eventually become friends. (Mohism)

  1. Perceived Objective and purpose: Students will use primary and secondary documents to examine the 4 Chinese Philosophies. Students will work together to solve a hypothetical, ethical dilemma affecting their school by applying one of the philosophies to the conflict.

  2. Direct Instruction: (Prior Knowledge)-Students are familiar with Chinese geography and why Chinese societies developed where they did).

  • Zhou Dynasty and the Mandate of Heaven (What it meant and how it applied to government)

  • The Warring states periods

  1. Modeling: Discuss how each one of those approaches is connected to a different philosophy. Use of  a graphic organizer to show students how each answer is connected to a particular philosophy. Students will copy information on their own graphic organizer.

  2. Checking for understanding: Questions about the basic beliefs of each philosophy:

  • What are the 5 basic relationships according to Confucius?

  • According to Daoism, how should people discover how to behave?

  • According to Legalism, what was the only way to create a strong society?

  • According to Mohism, more important than selfish, self interests, what is beneficial to all of society?

  1. Guided Practice: Chinese Philosophy Primary Quotations-Unnamed quotes will be posted around the classroom for students to examine and analyze (quotes A-I). Students will use the graphic organizer they made to help them discover which philosophy best fits each quote.

  2. Critical analysis and application: New Hypothetical ethical dilemma:

  • A student was caught stealing a classmate’s cell phone from their backpack.

Students will be divided into 4 groups and assigned a Chinese philosophy. Using what they have learned, students will come up with a plan of action or consequence toward the offending individual.


  • Students will hold a discussion and debate which solution or approach makes the most sense and which is the most beneficial to the classroom or school as a whole.


Day 2: Objective-Students will analyze quotes by Confucious and Laozi and try to interpret what each one means. Students will work in groups and connect ancient quotes to present day.


"Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves."

"Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it."

"It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop."

"Respect yourself and others will respect you."

"The superior man is modest in his speech exceeds in his actions."


"Without darkness there can be no light."

"Those who know do not say. Those who say do not know."

"The usefulness of a pot comes from its emptiness."

"Try to change it and you will ruin it. Try to hold it and you will lose it."

Students will be divided into small groups and choose one of the quotes listed above and describe what they think that stament means.

Students will come up with an example or scenario where it can apply in real life and then share it with the class.


Day 3-Objective-Students will read various resources about the Great wall of China and learn about its physical features.Students will also discuss the purpose of the Great Wall.

Students will be in small groups and answer the following questions:

"Do you think the Great Wall was effective in keeping out invaders? Was it work the cost of creating it?"

What are other examples in history where walls were constructed to keep others out? What about in today's society, are walls still being used?

Jennifer Chang
Topic replies: 27
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Jennifer Chang's picture
Response to Learning about Ancient China

This is such a creative way of introducing the philosphies of Ancient China! I will definitely be using this! Thanks for sharing!