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Simple Shoji Screen

Japanese shoji screens are decorative as well as functional. Create a miniature shoji screen with symbols of this unique culture.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. In Japan, shoji screens traditionally served a variety of practical functions—as room dividers, doors and privacy screens. These portable screens were also used in other ways—as part of tea ceremonies, Buddhist rites or as a backdrop during dances. Invite students to research the origins and uses of these screens.
    2. Traditional shoji screens were often decorated with hand-painted artwork. Simple cultural and natural designs allowed the light to pass through but still provided a decorative element. Provide the class with a look at photographs of shoji screens. What designs do you think best capture Japanese culture and why?
    3. Students use crayons to create a Japanese-inspired design on a piece of tracing paper. Tracing paper is translucent so it resembles the rice paper used in a real shoji screen. When drawing original designs, students make sketch lines with the crayons by using gently overlapping strokes to build up dense, lively-looking shapes. Create new colors by overlaying light coats of various crayon colors.
    4. To create the frame of the shoji screen cut dark construction paper into strips. Arrange the strips into a grid-like pattern. Use a glue stick to glue the strips to the tracing paper.
    5. Provide time during the school day for students to present their projects and explain their choices of designs.
  • Standards

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    SS: Identify examples of institutions and describe the interactions of people with institutions.

    VA: Select media, techniques, an processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of choices.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Use subjects, themes, and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values, and aesthetics that communicate intended meaning in artworks.

    VA: Describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Shoji: How to Design, Build, and Install Japanese Screens by Jay Van Arsdale; Making Shoji by Toshio Odate

    Folding screens actually originated in China. However, it was the Japanese that evolved the screens into a range of variations. Students investigate additional information about the byobu, tsuitate, and fusuma types of shoji screens. Create a visual model to accompany an organized talk for classmates about the screen type investigated.

    Encourage students to gather information on the architecture of shoji screens. How are they constructed? How do the materials used in the screens lead to their versatility? If different materials were used, how would this limit the screen's functionality?

    Ask students to research the history of origami, another Japanese art form. Practice creating a basic origami figure such as a drinking cup or crane. Display your creation in the classroom with a short summary.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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