Fourth graders are currently learning about China in Social Studies, so I thought a unit on Chinese New Year would be great for them. I researched different traditional Chinese art forms, and I was mesmerized by the beautiful and intricate tradition of cut paper. I was also happy to learn that it is the year of the monkey, an animal which I thought would really appeal to a bunch of funny and energetic kids.
First, I introduced the concept of the Chinese Zodiac, or Shengxiao, which translates to "birth likeness." This scheme relates each year to an animal, and those born in that year are reputed to have certain attributes. Then, I showed them traditional cut paper examples. Next, they sketched their monkeys. I xeroxed their sketches onto red paper, and they cut out their shapes. Finally, they glued them onto white paper.
Click here to see which Chinese Zodiac animal you are!
As I mentioned, this is the first time I've done this project. Though I advised the kids to keep it simple, it was not easy! However, one thing I love about being an art teacher is how differentiated the projects can be. When they are starting a project, I always remind kids to know themselves and to choose a design that is within their range of ability, but still challenging. This was a project with a margin for error, and an emphasis on creative problem-solving, which is how I like all the projects to be.
Here are some examples. Personally, I think they're some of the most striking work I've seen this year in the art room!