I sat down a few years ago with two other librarians to discuss units and lesson plans. We don’t share often enough, in my opinion, so this time when two others committed time to share was very nice. During our session one librarian mentioned that around the Chinese New Year she likes to kick off a unit of Chinese folktales. It sounded like a great idea, so the next year I tried it.
HUGE hit! I think this unit has been the favorite of first graders for the past two years. I have a BookBox created for this set of books. It’s embedded over yonder –>
Week 1: Two of Everything
In this story, Mr. Haktak finds a pot in the garden that will duplicate anything put into the pot. I cut a big pot out of posterboard and have it out for students. They write/draw what they would like to duplicate on a post-it and we stick them to the pot.
Week 2: Five Chinese Brothers
A classic from 1938 that still captures student’s interest today. One brother is accused of murder and set for execution. The other four identical brothers trade places with him one after the other, avoiding death due to their special skills. Even though the topic is a bit dire, the book is phrased in such a way that it doesn’t bother students. It’s a good opportunity to discuss the need to follow directions. This year I let students draw pictures of their favorite brother, but sometimes I just read the book and engage in rich discussion.
Week 3: Tikki Tikki Tembo
It’s lovely when students are still engaged in texts that I and generations before me enjoyed as children. Tikki Tiki Tembo….ahhh, I can say the name from memory, but I sure can’t spell it out! Poor Tikki falls in the well and because of his great long name, it takes his brother Chang forever to get help to him. There is a Weston Woods video of this one, so if you have Discovery Education streaming or Learn360 then you and your students can watch instead of read. Unfortunately, we lost our subscription to both over the past few years due to funding cuts. The kids had to settle for me, but they didn’t seem to mind too much.
Week 4: The Seven Chinese Sisters
I save this one to the end of our unit because it’s just the most fun. Similar to the Five Chinese Brothers, each sister has a special skill. One can skip count, another rides a scooter, and one can make great soup. I like the unconventional skills in this one because it helps students know that they don’t have to have a superhero or sports skill to be talented. Anyway, a dragon kidnaps Seventh Sister and the older girls go to rescue her–each using their skill along the way. For this story, I find clipart that matches the skill of each sister. The first year, I made grocery bag vests and taped the large pictures to the vests. Students played the parts of the sisters and acted out the story. This year, I’m going to use my badge clips and laminate the pictures. They’ll be easier to store for the future. The kids loved the vests, but they didn’t hold up past a few weeks of use.
The first year with this unit, I let each class divide into groups and reenact one of the stories. We used our flip video cameras to record the show. The kids LOVED this and enjoyed getting to be camera operators. It is time consuming though to make the video and take time to watch it, so it stretches the unit out by a few weeks. I have also read The Seven Chinese Brothers in the past, but this year chose to use only the four books listed above.