Exploring Ancient China | 2nd Grade

December 24, 2020

Happy New Year everyone!

When I taught second grade, one of the major units we would cover beginning in January is our Ancient China unit. This was pretty lengthy in that I find teaching cultures to be a lot of fun but it can be a lot of material to cover in just a few weeks. In my experience with teaching Ancient China I’ve found that my kids LOVED it - from learning about their history and traditions to how we celebrate Chinese American culture here in the U.S...it’s just a lot of fun and a lot of learning!

Plus, there's much to be said about how teachers go about teaching culture within the classroom. This is a great opportunity for self-learning and understanding on our part to ensure we're teaching authentically. Invite Chinese-American student families to be a part of your lessons, be intentional about picking Chinese-American authors or stories that tell accurate accounts of history. These little steps help teachers tackle all of the material that a unit on ancient cultures and civilizations bring.

Now onto the workbook!

Because the material can be quite a lot, I've created this Ancient China Workbook. It's a single packet that has been the proven way to keep all of our learning in one place. It also allows my students to practice early note-taking skills, which I think are extremely important! I’m surprised at how well they learn to take notes and locate information for themselves during this unit.

This workbook consists of these major topics we cover during the unit:
  1. Geography 
  2. Climate
  3. Written Language 
  4. Inventions
  5. Contributions
Plus some fun topics that adds to the engagement of learning about Ancient Chinese culture:
  1. Silk
  2. Chinese New Year/ Lunar New Year
  3. The Chinese Zodiac
  4. Clothing and Hair

Utilizing Online Resources - BrainPopJr & Reading Rainbow

When I first began teaching this unit I wanted to incorporate a variety of mediums of which to teach each topic. Some would be lecture and traditional note-taking while others would be a video, a read aloud, or some kind of activity. My school at the time had a subscription to BrainPop and BrainPopJr, of which I used all the time! This workbook was created for students to take notes during the videos instead of just sitting there.

Don't have a subscription? No worries! A teacher answer key is included at the end of the packet as well as a companion .PPT presentation.

The videos I use for this entire unit can be found here:

Map Reading Skills

Learning about maps and how to use/read them are a part of the Social Studies standards early in the school year (at least when I taught in Virginia). It's a skill that has so many benefits and this Ancient China workbook begins with an introduction of where China is geographically located and its landforms and climate.

Next, students begin to dive into Ancient Chinese culture! These pages go on to cover their written language of calligraphy, the importance of silk, and a little mini-lesson on Chinese New Year/Lunar New Year.

One of the best learning days during this unit that year after year students get most excited about is when we discuss the Chinese Zodiac or Chinese Horoscopes. The zodiac comes with its own folktale about the 12 animals that represent the 12 months of the year. Each animal symbolizes a birth year and it is believed by the Chinese that babies born within that year have characteristics that the animal represents.

This is a highly engaging mini-unit and my students have always loved finding their zodiac and discovering a little more about themselves...

Ancient Chinese inventions and contributions can be used and seen even today, which makes this topic so interesting to my young learners. This section of the workbook students learn more about Chinese customs as it relates to clothing and hair styles as well as the inventions that helped contribute to everyday life.

Optional Extension Activity

One thing I added to this revamped version of my packet is an optional student brochure project. I found my first year teaching 2nd grade I had students who enjoyed being challenged and grasped the content pretty quickly. So, I created a project that can either be done with the whole class or as extra credit for those thirsty for more.

I’ve included a parent letter explaining the purpose of the project, an info page for students explaining what’s expected, and a rubric. I’ve also added blank templates of these forms so you can edit them to fit your classroom’s needs!

I’ve loved this unit since I first began teaching it and I hope you find this resource helpful in tackling the content!