Level 1: China Unit Study

For this week’s lessons, we’re taking a trip to China to learn about Chinese culture and its rich history. We’ll explore the Silk Road and discover one of China’s most useful inventions, the magnet, while also learning about architecture, character writing, letter recognition, music, art, cooking, and ending the week with a family movie night. Zǒu ba! (Let’s go!) Click here to download your tracker for the week.

Have you printed a Learn and Live passport? Don’t forget to add a stamp to your passport as you travel to China!

Note: Occasionally we include project upgrades (for kids ready for more) and modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings). We’ll mark those with the plus (+) or minus (-) symbols.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Letter of the Week: ch

New to the letter of the week? Start here! Next, print your /ch/ coloring sheet and Letter Guide. Let your child color the coloring sheet as you work through the next part of the lesson.

The letter of the week is actually not a letter at all! It’s a digraph—two letters that make one sound. We will learn that the ‘ch’ together says /ch/, as in China. The letters ‘ch’ make three different sounds in English, as you can see here. Is your child struggling to pronounce this phonetic sound? This article might help.

Remember, the guide isn’t a worksheet! The first page is for you, the grown-up. Use it to introduce the letter name, the sounds it makes, and to demonstrate how to draw each letter. Display the Letter Guide in your school area along with the completed coloring sheet to reinforce the lesson throughout the week.

Next, use the second sheet to create a page for your child’s phonics book. Review the book a few times each week until your child has mastered these phonics.

Lesson 1: 

Start by reading The Story of Ping (or listen to it online here) and introduce the little duck who travels the Yangtze River. Review the letter Y sound for the yellow Yangtze River.

Activity 1: Print out this picture of Ping on cardstock, and ask your child if they would like to connect the dots and color Ping yellow like in the book. (If they want to use another color, that’s fine, too!) Then, use your hole puncher or other sharp tool to punch out the dots and let your child try lacing through the numbers with yarn.

Activity 2: Using your world map, find China and point out the Yangtze River, the longest river in a single country. This short video shows what it looks like in real life. (You might also want to point out the pagoda since that’s the next craft project!)

Activity 3: Let’s create a pagoda collage craft. Print out this picture + Chinese characters for home, family, love, parents, and siblings. Have your child color the pagoda as desired, and then cut out the sections and the characters. Next, use glue to arrange them on a piece of colorful cardstock or construction paper like this:

Share these points with your child as they work on this craft:

  • A pagoda is any kind of tower with multiple eaves. They are common in eastern and southeastern Asia.
  • Most pagodas are built for religious purposes. They are usually Buddhist. Some are used as Taoist temples.
  • Pagodas come in many different sizes, with taller ones often attracting lightning strikes. 
  • Ancient pagodas were mostly built of wood, as were other ancient Chinese structures. Wooden pagodas are resistant to earthquakes, however many have burnt down, and wood is also prone to both natural rot and insect infestation. (source)

You can also show them pictures of the ancient and modern pagodas in this link.

Lesson 2: 

Ready for an adventure on the Silk Road? Read Riding on a Caravan to get started.

Activity 1: Many different goods traveled along the Silk Road, including tea.  As your child does this simple tea craft, tell them this legend.
(+)Watch this video of the history of tea.

Activity 2: Rice writing. Fill a tray or baking sheet with a thin layer of rice and practice letter and number writing (work on writing the /ch/ letters). While you set up this activity, you can tell your child that rice is grown in China where the farmers flood the field with water from rivers and make rice paddies. This blog has some beautiful pictures of Chinese rice paddies you can show them.

Activity 3: Let’s learn about pandas in this video and then do this adorable panda craft. Here are a few more facts and photos for you to share with your child while you make your craft.
(+) Practice some panda copywork or tracing with this printout.

Lesson 3: 

Did you know magnets originally came from China? Today, insert a science lesson, starting by reading What Makes a Magnet? This book actually contains two experiments you can complete fairly easily (magnet “fishing” and making a compass). We recommend pausing during reading to complete the experiments as you read about them with your child—this will help bring the lessons to life for them. The activity linked below is essentially the same as the “make a magnet” experiment in the book, but it is a little simpler. Choose whichever version you prefer—they both teach the same concept!

Activity 1: Make a compass

Activity 2: Dragon craft. Before beginning this project, explain to your child that the dragon is especially significant in Chinese culture and that they are seen as lucky and good. (This article explains more about their significance so you can explain it to your child.) You can also play this compilation of dragon parade videos while you work on the project.

Lesson 4: 

Today, read Ruby’s Wish, a beautiful book based on the true story of Ruby (the grandmother of the book’s author). This book will teach children the value of hard work and determination. Be sure to point out the lanterns, the Chinese characters, and the abacus as you read the book together.

Activity 1: Make an abacus. (If you don’t have an old frame, you can make one out of scrap cardboard.) This math activity will be fun to make and be useful for practicing math skills all year long. Here are a few ideas on how to use an abacus to teach elementary math. Here’s a video if you want to see it in action.

Activity 2: Character Writing Project. Just like Ruby, have your child practice their Chinese calligraphy! This activity teaches you how to write a few numbers in Chinese characters.

Bonus: Ready for a little fun? Play this video “Let it go” in Chinese from Frozen.

Activity 3: Simple Paper Lantern Craft

Lesson 5:

Today is art and music day! You can also feel free to review any projects or books from the week that your child was especially engaged in.

Activity 1: Watch this short video of a Chinese dancer performing a classical fan dance.  Click here for a few interesting facts about the dance and share them while your child watches the video. (For example, did you know fan dances were used to tell stories and to entertain guests?) Ask your child about the dance and what they think the dancer is trying to tell us. Talk about the movements—you can even try to imitate them! Talk about the music and what instrument could be making that sound.
(+) Make your own paper fan to dance along with the video! This simple tutorial shows you how.

Activity 2: Elephant and two boys. Show your child the photo of the sculpture. Ask them what they see. What do they think it would feel like to touch this statue? Is it smooth? Cold? What is it made of? How old do they think it is?

This statue is a made of jade which is a mineral found inside large rocks. (See a picture of it here in its natural state.) Jade is sometimes green like in the art piece we are discussing. It can also be yellow, white, pink and variety of other colors. It gets cut, shaped, and smoothed to be made into ornaments or jewelry and is common in many Asian art pieces. It is a rare mineral and takes a lot of work to make into art and jewelry so this make it very expensive. (source)

***Click here for more tips on how to talk to children about art.

Draw a picture of the Elephant and two boys sculpture. Color it in any color.

Activity 3: End the week with a family movie night! Make this simple fried rice recipe together for dinner and then watch Mulan. 🎥

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.

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