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January 23, 2014 Chinese New Year Adventure: A Common Core Experience By Kriscia Cabral
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    Celebrate the Year of the Horse with a journey to Chinatown that goes deep into Chinese culture and includes a Common Core State Standards kicker. There are dozens of Chinatowns in North America. For this unit, choose the one nearest you, or use the most famous Chinatown in the United States: Grant Avenue in San Francisco.

    Students will work in teams to create the road trip of a lifetime. They will outline their trip and eventually present their virtual journey to Chinatown to the class. By the end of this brief unit of cultural studies, students will have their own personal interpretation of Chinese culture and the meaning of Chinese New Year.


    How to Get Started

    Introduce the lesson with literature. I use the book, The Last Dragon by Susan Miho Nunes. In this story, Peter is sent away to Chinatown for the summer to stay with his great aunt. Although Peter starts his journey feeling upset and homesick, he turns his misfortune into a learning experience with the help of an old dragon that needs to be restored.

    Now that the mood has been established I invite my students on a journey to San Francisco's Chinatown. From our classroom in southern California, this makes for a very interesting trip. Students form into groups of four or five. I then pass out a directions sheet and discuss what each group will be required to do.

    • Each group will create a road trip experience from San Diego to San Francisco.

    • Along the way, the groups must choose at least four places to stop and learn more about the Chinese culture.

    • With each stop, students must document what it is that they learned through any medium (presentation, video, written form, art, etc.).

    • Students will map out their trip using Thinglink and prepare a presentation of their journey to share with the class.

    By the end of the project, students will have ownership of their personal learning. The amount of educating that takes place between group discussions and presentation to the class outweighs any whole group lesson I might have put together. 


    Bringing Math Into the Equation

    Want to add math instruction to this lesson? Have students use Scholastic’s Budgeting for a Trip lesson in correlation with their journey. Students will need to estimate the cost of the trip, create a budget, and later calculate the number of miles they’ve traveled. They will also need to figure out the "actual" cost of food, lodging, and visits to attractions. This information can be added to the group’s final presentations.

    How do you plan to teach about Chinese New Year? I’d love to hear from you!

    Thank you for reading!



    Common Core Standards Addressed


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