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Gail S Hennessey's picture
Gail Skroback Hennessey taught for over 33 years, teaching sixth grade in all but two years. She earned a BA in early secondary education with a concentration in social studies and an MST in social...
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Chinese New Year is a Great Opportunity to Explore China in the Classroom

China was covered in NYS 6th grade social studies. I covered China around the Chinese New Year each year and planned our trip to a chinese restaurant at this time. Students learned to use chopsticks and to say "hello," "please," "thank you" and "Happy New Year" in Chinese. It was always a very popular activity.  If you can't go to a chinese restaurant, stop at one and ask if you can get fortune cookies to share with your students. I found that they were happy to "give" them to me or for a very small fee.

In the classroom, an activity that was always fun(and I had to alert the principal as the smell of candles burning would draw attention, for sure), was the students made traditional Chinese Lampblack(from soot collected on plates from holding a candle underneath. Vegetable oil was added to make a brown/black ink)Students dipped Q-tips into their ink to write Chinese characters.

Traditional Chinese music was used during the activity to get some additional cultural aspects into the lesson.  We also did Tangram puzzles, drew/colored a Chinese Pagoda and wrote fun facts they learned about China.

A story we read was the Chinese Folk Story, "Story of the Foolish Old man Who Moved Mountains", about a man that went out to shovel a mountain that was blocking his view.

We also covered the Chinese Zodiac and the story behind it and why man wasn't given a year in his honor.  

Map work was always an important component of our study of China.

Throughout all cultures, I stressed that cultures shared ideas by meeting one another. For example: Chinese invented fireworks, yo-yos, the umbrella, waterproof clothing, the wheelbarrow, ice cream, an earthquake-detecting machine, paper, and lots more.

Here are some Chinese New Year customs to share:
•Long, uncut noodles are a symbol of long life and friendship.
• Giving oranges and tangerines are symbols of wealth and good luck.
•Dumplings are eaten as a symbol of a happy family.
• Wearing red is thought to bring good luck.
Lots more customs at my website where kids can see lots of photographs of my trip to China (as well as those of my purple bear, Purpleannie). Check it out:

You may find these resources of interest: My unit with notes, activities and links. Informative web quest to use as an introduction to China or during Chinese New Year. Extension activities included, too.