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 and discuss continents and oceans
- Listen to and gain information from literature on China
- Compare our U.S. lifestyle to the lifestyle of a child in China
- Class size Venn Diagram
- Class set of Comparing Our Cultures Venn Diagram (PDF)
- Many books on China
- These excellent books can be found in the Teacher Store. Please see the unit booklist for annotations and applications:
- 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
- Make a class Venn Diagram on chart paper with markers. Photocopy the student Comparing Our Cultures Venn Diagram (PDF) for the class.
Step 1: Call the students to the rug or group area in your classroom. Distribute some of the books on China. Allow the students to have some time to explore the literature.
Step 2: Regroup and discuss what the students already know about China. (You may choose to use a KWL chart here).
Step 3: Choose one or two of the nonfiction books on China. (Sometimes I read a lot of information from one book. Other times, I tab specific pages from multiple books to read aloud.) Great books for this are: Ms. Frizzle's Adventures: Imperial China, Look What Came from China, and China: Culture Kit. Try to find parts of the books that relate to the daily life of people and children in China.
Step 4: When you 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 5: Allow the students 10 more minutes to look over and read the Chinese literature with a partner.
Step 6: Distribute the Comparing Our Cultures Venn Diagram (PDF) reproducible to the class. 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 have a quick assessment of each individual's progress.
Step 7: Regroup and begin to share answers. As the students give suggestions, write them on the class Venn Diagram with markers. If this 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 8: When the chart is finished, review the concepts learned. If you are using a KWL chart, begin to fill in "what we learned."
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.
Comparing Our Cultures Venn Diagram (PDF)
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.