Every January or February, I enjoy teaching my students about Chinese New Year, otherwise known as Spring Festival. According to the Chinese zodiac calendar, 2020 is the Year of the Rat. The Year of the Rat starts with the 2020 Chinese New Year on January 25th and will last until the 2021 Lunar New Year's Eve on February 11th. In this article, you'll find the printable Chinese New Year activities I use with my elementary students.
Chinese New Year Activities for Elementary Students
The Chinese New Year has been celebrated for more than 4,000 years. The date that the year begins changes each year, because it is based on the lunar calendar. Depending on the grade level you are working with, you can go into more or less detail when explaining the Chinese New Year (the changing lunar calendar can be confusing for young children). No matter the grade level I am working with, I begin by teaching students about the origins and traditions of the Chinese New Year. Below is a short synopsis of the Chinese New Year from the Travel China Guide:
Every family does a thorough house cleaning and purchases enough food, including fish, meat, roasted nuts and seeds, all kinds of candies and fruits, etc., for the festival period. Also, new clothes must be bought, especially for children. Red scrolls with complementary poetic couplets, one line on each side of the gate, are pasted at every gate. The Chinese character “Fu” is pasted on the center of the door and paper-cut pictures adorn windows. People will also give red envelopes to kids and elders to share the blessing. (Source: http://www.travelchinaguide.com/essential/holidays/spring-festival.htm)
Once students have a basic understanding of the celebrations, I pass out two Chinese New Year activities for elementary students. The Chinese New Year classroom activities you use will vary depending on grade level. Today I’m sharing the two activities I use with my students in grades 1–3.
1. Chinese Zodiac Activity
The first Chinese New Year activity is an organizer for your students to use as they research the 12 animals found on the Chinese zodiac calendar. The download includes a link to all the information you and your students will need to complete the activity.
Students will read factual information about each of the 12 animals found on the Chinese zodiac calendar. They will also learn what each animal represents. Finally, they will record some of the years represented by the specific animals. Most kids find it fascinating to find out which animal represents their birth year.
2. Dragon Accordion Puppet Activity
The second Chinese New Year activity is a template for your students to create their own dragon accordion puppet. Chinese New Year celebrations usually include a dragon dance, because the dragon is a symbol of China and thought to bring good luck. All you need to make the puppets with your class is a copy of the template, a piece of construction paper and two wooden craft sticks for each student; as well as crayons, scissors, and glue. Kids always enjoy making this puppet in honor of the Chinese New Year!
I hope that these Chinese New Year activities for elementary students will be a valuable resource for you to use during the months of January and February. If you use these activities in your classroom, please share a picture with us on Sadlier's Facebook Page! I would love to get a glimpse of your room.