Comparing American and Chinese Lifestyles
Students learn about China through literature and use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast their lifestyle to that of Chinese children.
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
- Unit Plan:
As students begin to learn about a new culture, I always immerse them in literature from and about the country. I include fiction and nonfiction books, poetry, and just about anything I can get my hands on that deals with the country. This lesson begins our unit on China. I use some books to read to the students, while leaving other books in our reading center for students to explore on their own.
- Determine what they already know about China
- Locate China on a map
- Listen to and gain information from literature on China
- Compare our U.S. lifestyle to the lifestyle of a child in China
- A world map
- Chart paper
- Comparing Our Cultures Venn Diagram (PDF)
- Books about China. See the book list, or try several of the following:
- Ms. Frizzle's Adventures: Imperial China by Joanna Cole
- Look What Came From China by Miles Harvey
- The Red Blanket by Eliza Thomas
- Daisy Comes Home by Jan Brett
- Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan's Chinese New Year by Madeline Slovenz-Low
- Ming Lo Moves a Mountain by Arnold Lobel
- Ruby's Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges
- Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young
Set Up and Prepare
- On chart paper, use a marker to create a Venn diagram and display it in front of the class. Optional: You can also create a KWL chart to incorporate into the lesson.
- Review the books and mark pages that relate to the daily life of people and children in China.
- Make a class set of the Comparing Our Cultures Venn Diagram (PDF).
Step 1: Call the students to the rug or group area in your classroom and tell them that today, they will learn about China. Show them the world map and ask if anyone can find China on the map. Have a student, if possible, point to China.
Step 2: Distribute some of the books on China. Allow students some time to explore the literature.
Step 3: Regroup and discuss what the students know about China. (You may choose to use a KWL chart here, documenting what students know under the "K" column, and what they want to learn under the "W.")
Step 4: Choose one or two of the nonfiction books on China, such as Ms. Frizzle's Adventures: Imperial China and Look What Came from China. Read through the books together if time allows, or just review pages of the books you've marked ahead of time.
Step 5: When you've finished reading, hold an open discussion about what the students learned about the Chinese lifestyle. Talk about things that were interesting, shocking, or exciting.
Step 6: Pair up your students and allow them 10 more minutes to look over and read the literature about China with their partner.
Step 7: Now distribute the Comparing Our Cultures Venn Diagram (PDF) reproducible. Review the three parts of the Venn and what they are used for. Allow students some time to complete the Venn diagram to the best of their ability. This will help you gain a quick assessment of each individual's progress.
Step 8: Regroup and begin to share answers. As the students give suggestions, write them on the class Venn diagram with markers. If it is later in the year, you may want to have the students write their answers on the chart. This always entices them to participate.
Step 9: When the chart is finished, review the concepts learned. If you are using a KWL chart, fill in "What We Learned" column.
Supporting All Learners
Make sure you have literature in your library that supports all levels of learning. Assist students to "just right" books so that they will be able to comprehend the text. Another strategy to helping learners is to partner them up. When the students are working individually on their Venn Diagrams, assist or allow another student to assist any learner who is having difficulty producing answers.
This is a great unit to begin to ask parent for assistance. Reach out to any Chinese families you may have in your classroom. I have always had great lessons develop when I spoke to individuals who are native to the country I am teaching. See if a parent can come in to discuss China and the Chinese culture with your class.
Ask questions of yourself and the lesson:
- What went well?
- What didn't?
- Was the literature I supplied reaching all learners?
- Did the students gain information from the literature I chose to read?
- Was this literature interesting to the students?
- Were most learners able to retain information read aloud to them?
- How could I reach more students?
- Monitor the class as they write their Venn diagrams. This is a quick time period, but it allows you to see who retained the information from the book. Don't make this time slot too long or the lower learners will get frustrated.
- Ask and monitor for understanding during group discussions.