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The Emperor and the Chinese New Year

The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen uses beautiful watercolor images that mimic the traditional Chinese Art of Jianzhi, or paper cutting. Let the story of The Emperor and the Kite be the inspiration for students to create their own eye-catching paper cuttings in celebration of the Chinese New Year.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Introduce the lesson with the Chinese folktale The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen. Ask the students to discuss the illustrations in the book (positive and negative space, silhouetted forms with patterns and areas removed, simple colors).
    2. Introduce students to other examples of Jianzhi or paper cutting (e.g. web sources). Discuss how this traditional art form is studied and what steps the artist must use to create this type of art.
    3. Briefly discuss how diverse cultures have different art forms, different holidays, different important symbols, etc. Show students the animals of the Chinese horoscope.
    4. Using the Crayola® Doodle Pad, have students sketch a simple silhouette of the animal of their choice. Have them sketch areas and patterns that they wish to cut out of their animal. Pay close attention to eye and mouth detail; try to leave uncut space for pupils and teeth. Shade in areas to be cut out.
    5. Have students transfer their sketches to thin, brightly colored paper.
    6. Demonstrate safe cutting skills. Fold paper slightly to cut out shapes while keeping their animal intact. Discuss how cutting out half a shape using the fold as a line of symmetry will give them a larger symmetrical shape (e.g. hearts, stars, circles). Students can practice on their sketches.
    7. Have students cut out their animals and the unwanted areas to create patterns and designs. Small tears and unwanted cuts can be repaired on the back of the paper cutting if needed with a bit of tape. Additional simple holes can be added with a hole punch (optional).
    8. Carefully cover the back of the paper cutting with a Crayola® Glue Stick and glue onto a sheet of black construction paper for contrast.
    9. Laminate (optional) and display.
  • Standards

    LA: Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest in stories, myths and traditional literature from different cultures.

    LA: Make connections between the text of a story and a visual presentation of the text.

    VA: Conduct research to support making a work of art or design.

    VA: Utilize tools in a manner that prevents danger to self and others.

    VA: Identify and analyze cultural associations suggested by visual imagery.

    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.

    MATH: Generate patterns.

    MATH: Draw and identify lines and angles, and classify shapes by properties of their lines and angles (specifically recognize line of symmetry to produce intended shape).

  • Adaptations

    Choose another folk story to illustrate as a class project using Chinese paper cutting techniques, or alternatively, a traditional American craft such as needlepoint. Students need not actually use needles but do as Jane Yolen did by using markers or crayons to create their cross stitches on graph paper.

    Compare and contrast The Emperor and the Kite with other Chinese folk tales (e.g. Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel) or stories with the same central message (e.g. How to Train Your Dragon, the movie version).

    Have students create their own kites.

    Have students write a diary from the point of view of the Emperor or his daughter detailing their feelings at various points of the story.


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