Teaching Children about Ancient China

In second grade, students study ancient civilizations. One of these civilizations is ancient China. Students learn about the architecture, inventions, and written language of China (SOL 2.1). The resources provided below will activate background knowledge, support instruction, and capture student interest.

Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China
Retold by Ai-Ling Louie and Illustrated by Ed Young

Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China can serve as a cross-curricular connection. While students study ancient China in Social Studies, they can read Chinese literature in Language Arts. You can compare this original version of Cinderella with the modern-day version or interpretations from other cultures. Yeh-Shen tells the story of a beautiful and kind young girl who is forced to serve her stepmother. Yeh-Shen’s only friend is a goldfish. One day, Yeh-Shen’s stepmother cooks the fish for dinner. A distraught Yeh-Shen saves the fish’s bones, which contain an ancient spirit. On the night of the spring festival, the ancient spirit gives Yeh-Shen an intricate evening gown and a pair of gold slippers. The spirit states that she earned these gifts through her kindness to others. That night Yeh-Shen attends the festival and loses a golden slipper. The story concludes when the king returns Yeh-Shen’s slipper and marries her shortly afterward.

Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Imperial China

Written by Joanna Cole and Illustrated by Bruce Degen

Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Imperial China uses the fictional story of Ms. Frizzle’s field trip in ancient China to teach students about ancient Chinese culture. The top two thirds of the page are dedicated to Ms. Frizzle’s story as she and her class travel back in time. As they travel through China, the students learn about Chinese writing as well as the art of silk making. Meanwhile, the students are also searching for a way to travel back home in time for a Chinese New Year celebration. Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Imperial China includes the written story as well as detailed illustrations and speech bubbles. This comic book style contrasts with the lower third of the page. In this section, the author describes ancient Chinese culture. She explains how to make Chinese silk, identifies Chinese inventions, illustrates the process for growing rice, and includes additional facts about Chinese culture. Ms. Frizzle’s field trip allows students to explore ancient China through a story that combines relevant facts with entertaining fiction.

D is for Dancing Dragon: A China Alphabet
Written by Carol Crane and Illustrated by Zong-Zhou Wang

D is for Dancing Dragon: A China Alphabet examines Chinese culture in alphabetical order. A four line rhyming poem is written for each letter. For example, the page dedicated to the letter G contains a poem about the Great Wall of China as well as a large illustration. In the margin the author includes additional facts about the Great Wall. The entire book follows this model. The poems outline the essential knowledge while the sidebars contain supplementary information. D is for Dancing Dragon allows you to differentiate based on reading level. Students who need more support can learn the essential knowledge through reading the poems and studying the illustrations. Meanwhile, students who need to be challenged can read the more difficult sidebars. This book provides a close look at twenty-six aspects of Chinese culture in a manner that is accessible and entertaining for all learners.

Ancient Civilizations: China
Written by Dolores Gassós and Illustrated by Estudi Toni Inglés

Ancient Civilizations: China is arranged like a student encyclopedia. Each chapter addresses a different aspect of Chinese culture. These topics range from ancient Chinese inventions to Chinese architecture. The chapters contain a brief description of the topic, multiple illustrations, informative captions, and vocabulary definitions. This book is an ideal resource for student research. Using Ancient Civilizations: China students will develop an understanding of their research topic, visualize essential features of that subject, as well as define vocabulary words related to their assignment.

You are in Ancient China
Written by Ivan Minnis

You are in Ancient China is a great tool to build students’ background knowledge about ancient China. The combination of detailed photographs and student-friendly text make this a valuable resource for students in the lower elementary grades. Through reading this book, students will explore the daily life and customs of the Han Dynasty. Notable sections in this book include descriptions of Chinese cities, the use of Chinese characters, ancient Chinese art, and science and technology from China. Since this book is divided into topics, students can elect to read the entire text or specific sections. This versatility lends the book to a variety of uses. For instance, students can read this book in order to gain broad knowledge about ancient China or read sections of this book in order to research a specific topic. You are in Ancient China allows students to visualize and comprehend the unique culture of ancient China.

Additional Student Resources:

  • The Great Wall of China: Learn more amazing facts about the Great Wall of China
  • Review Cards: Print these review cards to study the differences between ancient China and ancient Egypt
  • Tangram Puzzle: Can you complete the seven pieces of cleverness?
  • Fun Facts About China: Do you know who invented ice cream? To learn more fun facts about China, click here
  • Terra Cotta Army: Uncover the Terra Cotta Army and learn about their exciting history

Additional Teacher Resources:

  • Ancient Chinese Book: Teach students why the Chinese characters are written vertically by making ancient Chinese scrolls
  • Paper-Making Project for Kids: Experience the process of Chinese paper-making with this hands-on craft
  • Folktales from China: Connect Language Arts and Social Studies with these ancient Chinese folktales
  • Learning About Ancient China: Use this webquest with your students to teach about Chinese writing, the Great Wall of China, and the Chinese calendar
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