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Ancient China Lesson Plan: Shang Dynasty

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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.

Hands on Lesson Plan for Kids on Ancient China & the Shang Dynasty

Hands on Lesson Plan for Kids on Ancient China & the Shang Dynasty

This is part 2 of a 12 part a hands-on unit study on China. Practice Chinese character writing, eat a meal with chopsticks, listen to Guqin music, & more while learning about Ancient Chinese History and the Shang Dynasty. Also included are our favorite Children's books and YouTube video clips. Use these ideas with your class, family, or homeschool co-op group!

Attempting Chinese Character Writing

Attempting Chinese Character Writing

Chinese Characters: Oracle Bone Inscriptions

1. Show pictures of Oracle Bone Inscriptions. Ask the children what they notice about them, how they think they were made, and what they think they might say. During the Shang Dynasty, some of the earliest forms of Chinese characters can be seen on Oracle Bone Inscriptions, which were Chinese characters inscribed on mammal bones and tortoise carapaces of tortoises.

  • YOU WILL NEED: Pictures of Oracle Bone Inscriptions (from books or online)
Ox scapula recording divinations by Zhēng 爭 in the reign of King Wu Ding

Ox scapula recording divinations by Zhēng 爭 in the reign of King Wu Ding

Chinese Characters & Dictionaries

2. There are 47,035 Chinese characters in the standard Chinese dictionary, the Kangxi Dictionary, though only 3,500 basic characters are used by most people. Look at the introduction of a dictionary. How many words in English are there in that dictionary? (My children each had a dictionary and raced to see who could find out first.)

  • YOU WILL NEED: at least 1 dictionary, though preferably 1 per child

3. Watch the below short video clips on Chinese Characters.

Chinese Characters Poem

4. Read Beyond the Great Mountains: A Visual Poem About China by Ed Young, which is a short picture book showing nature-related Chinese characters.

  • YOU WILL NEED: Beyond the Great Mountains by Ed Young or other book showing Chinese Characters
Attempting Chinese Character Writing

Attempting Chinese Character Writing

Attempting Chinese Character Writing

5. Attempt Chinese Character writing. You can try using black paint, but we used black markers. We followed the steps from the below video, pausing it frequently.

  • YOU WILL NEED: Paper & either black paint with paintbrushes or black markers (Sharpies worked much better than Crayola ones.)

Guqin Music

6. Some of the marks on the oracle bones suggest that zithers, the family of musical instruments to which the qin/guqin belongs, existed during the Shang Dynasty.

  • Listen to music from qin/ guqin. What did you think of it?
  • The purpose of listening to music was usually to calm people and bring them peace by helping them to forget about negative thoughts. Did that music help calm you?
  • If you're not limited by time, also watch the below video on how a guqin is constructed by hand. (It has written words but no spoken words.)
Eating a meal with chopsticks: Chicken Teriyaki (from Aldi), peaches, and Oolong tea

Eating a meal with chopsticks: Chicken Teriyaki (from Aldi), peaches, and Oolong tea

Chopsticks "Origin Story"

7. Read The Story of Chopsticks by Ying Chang Compestine.

  • YOU WILL NEED: The Story of Chopsticks by Ying Chang Compestine or other book on chopsticks
Eating with chopsticks

Eating with chopsticks

Chopsticks Etiquette and Use

8. Discuss Chopsticks Etiquette. We read this list of the 10 Most Important Rules along with the 3 additional ones related to China.

9. Prepare a Chinese meal of Chicken Teriyaki (cooked chicken mixed with a frozen kit from Aldi), peaches, and Oolong tea. Attempt to eat it with chopsticks.

  • YOU WILL NEED: a Chinese meal and chopsticks
Some required a bit more practice than others.

Some required a bit more practice than others.

Shang Dynasty Books

Shang Dynasty Books

Shang Dynasty Books

  • The Story of Chopsticks by Ying Chang Compestine
  • Beyond the Great Mountains: A Visual Poem about China by Young, Ed
  • Fun with Chinese Characters. 1 by Tan Huay Peng
  • Fantastic Inventions and Inventors by Kang Zhu
  • Ten Suns: A Chinese Legend by Eric A. Kimmel
  • The Hunter: A Chinese Folktale by Mary Casanova (not specific to any dynasty)
  • Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young (not specific to any dynasty)
  • KONOS History of the World: Volume II - Activity & Discussion ideas
shang-dynasty-for-kids
shang-dynasty-for-kids

I have posted over 40 hands-on unit studies that focus primarily on science and social studies. In each lesson plan I have listed the activities that we did (and included photos), the books we read, YouTube video clips that we watched, and lapbook links that pair with the lesson. I posted links to all of my unit studies and lessons at Fun, FREE Hands-On Unit Studies.

KONOS History of the World Volume II

KONOS History of the World Volume II

KONOS History of the World Volume II

Would you like more? These lessons are inspired by History of the World: Volume II by KONOS Curriculum, which includes many more discussion topics, interesting facts, activities, writing topics, and book suggestions.

© 2021 Shannon

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