Story of Silk
Students learn the steps involved in making silk and why it was such a prized fabric.
- Grades: 1–2
- Unit Plan:
Students will learn the steps in the silk-making process. They will arrange sequencing cards to illustrate the steps. Later students will unravel a silkworm’s cocoon.
- Listen to and discuss The Empress and the Silkworm by Lily Toy Hong
- Color, cut out, and arrange Silkworm Sequencing Cards
- Unravel a silkworm cocoon
- The Empress and the Silkworm by Lily Toy Hong
- Silkworm Sequencing Cards (PDF)
- Crayons, scissors, glue sticks
- Colored construction paper (12- by 18-inch) cut the long way. (One per student)
- Silkworm cocoons
- Pot of very hot water
- Pencils, toothpicks
Set Up and Prepare
- Practice unraveling a silkworm cocoon at home. Cocoons may be purchased from a biological supply house.
- Have copies of sequencing cards and other art materials ready.
Step 1: Read aloud and discuss the legend The Empress and the Silkworm by Lily Toy Hong. Be sure to read the author’s note in the back.
Step 1: Review The Empress and the Silkworm.
Step 2: Distribute sequencing cards, scissors, glue and construction paper. Then ask students to color, cut out, and glue the cards in the correct sequence.
Students will work in pairs. Depending on how long this takes you may want to divide the activity into two days. Before students begin the activity you may want to demonstrate the process.
Step 1: Each pair will receive one cocoon and will need a pencil on which to wind filament. Toothpicks may help them as they begin. Before unraveling, the cocoon should be soaked in very hot water for a few minutes.
Step 2: Ask students what they notice before, during, and after they unravel.
Step 3: After students have unwound the silk filament, take three or four cocoons and demonstrate how several filaments are twisted together to make silk thread.
Step 4: Discuss why and how silk was kept a secret.
Step 5: Discuss the fact that silk making was hard work and as a result silk was a highly prized fabric.
Supporting All Learners
There are second graders who have difficulty with sequencing and will need help sorting and arranging their cards. Circulate and check the arrangement of cards for everyone before they use glue.
There are so many wonderful books about China. I have listed several in the booklist but here are a few additional books you may want to read aloud or have available for individuals to read:
- A is for Asia by Cynthia Chin Lee
- China ABCs by Holly Schroeder
- The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen
- Gung Hay Fat Choy by June Behrens
- The Khan’s Daughter by Lawrence Yep
- The Last Dragon by Susan Miho Soentpiet
- Monkey King by Ed Young
- Go, an ancient Chinese game of strategy sort of like chess, and Dominoes can be taught and played at home.
- If there is a Chinatown in your area, encourage families to visit.
- Children arrange sequencing cards and glue to construction paper. Working with a partner, they unravel a silkworm cocoon.
- Paying attention to students while they worked at their seats?
- Clearing up any misunderstandings about sequencing?
- Encouraging partners to help one another?
- Taking time to summarize what was learned?
- Arrange sequencing cards in correct order?
- Observe their cocoon closely?
- Discuss what he/she observed?
- Work cooperatively with partner?
- Work independently while unraveling silkworm cocoon?