While searching on-line for resources for Tet, the Lunar New Year celebration in Vietnam, I found a wonderful poster a fellow adoptive mom made for her son’s class. I asked Priscilla Holberton to share her activity here. Priscilla tries to keep up with all things Asian and adoption in Washington, DC on her web site MyAsianKidDC.com and blog, where she recently wrote her own Kindergarten lesson plan using the toys that she has collected over the years. She is the adoptive mom of a five year old boy who was born in Vietnam.
Last year, when I decided I wanted to include information about the Chinese Zodiac in my presentation of Lunar New Year in my son’s pre-K, I searched on the Internet but never found a poster-size illustration. I have been looking again this year to no avail, so I decided to make my own.
My child was adopted from Vietnam; the whole country of Vietnam celebrates Lunar New Year, which is called Tet in Vietnam. Vietnam celebrates Lunar New Year because the country was occupied by China for 1000 years. It is the same holiday, but the animals of the zodiac are a little bit different, probably because of a translation error, although nobody really knows for sure. Instead of a rabbit, Vietnam has a cat. The explanations I have read have to do with the sound of the words in Chinese and their translations to Vietnamese. Another difference is instead of the year of the ox in China it is the year of the water buffalo in Vietnam. I have not found any references to why the change, but I have been to Vietnam and there are a lot of water buffalos. They are the cattle of Vietnam, so it makes absolute sense to change ox it to water buffalo.
With no commercial poster of the Chinese Zodiac, I had to make my own. We had gone to Vancouver, BC, Canada in the summer of 2011 and I spent my 2 hours in the biggest Chinatown in Canada searching for Chinese paper cutouts of the Chinese zodiac animals. I absolutely love the design of the paper cutouts, but most places didn’t carry them. I found a few individual cutouts at one store, but not enough to make a calendar. I finally searched on the internet and found some animals of the Chinese zodiac. I used pictures from these websites last year:
I like this new coloring sheet with the animals even better. Plus you or your kids can color it in.
I really like the Chinese paper cutouts, so I found this web site, which is selling what I searched and searched for two years ago both online and in Chinatown, Vancouver, BC. I am ordering them today so I will have them in time for next year! The smaller ones would work for a poster size. The bigger ones you would need some bigger paper to fit them all on. I plan to scan them in and print them out so I retain the originals, but have a print of the paper cutout.
Make your own Chinese Zodiac Poster
These are the tools you need:
Big plate or other object that makes a circle (or string, pushpin, & pencil)
Printouts from your computer
1) To make the circle on the poster board, I was lucky enough to have a really big plate. In the absence of a huge plate, use the pushpin, string and pencil method described on E-How (#2).
If you used the pushpin method to create a circle, then you already have the center, otherwise you have to find the center of the circle (which I had to): I cut a circle out of a piece of newspaper, the same size as the circle I drew on the poster board. Then I folded it in half and in half again until I had a quarter pie. That gave me the center of the circle.
2) I then used a ruler to draw the center horizontal and vertical lines. I then divided the quarter pies into thirds, by estimation. You could use a protractor to determine the correct angle of the pie pieces (which is 30 degrees).
3) I got the picture I glued to the center of the zodiac by doing a search on “yin yang” in Google images. It covers up where all the lines in the center meet.
4) I got the lettering “Chinese Zodiac” by using this website. No need to download the font, I just used the “custom preview” and typed in “Chinese Zodiac,” and right clicked to get the image on my computer. It is saved as a .png object. Although I have both Fireworks and Photoshop on my computer, I checked and you can open up both a .png object and a .jpg object in MS Paint, which is free. I understand that Mac has “preview” for opening up such objects. This would be for printing or editing the pictures.
5) Get the pictures you want to cut and paste together.
6) Cut, and glue according to the websites which give you the correct order of the Chinese Zodiac (see China Today for the order, years, and personality traits of the Chinese zodiac animals).
7) After all of this work, you are going to want to keep it for future years. I bought a drawing and storage tube like this. I got it in the bookstore of a local community college. This is the most low-tech of projects, as you can see by the tools needed for the project. You can pretend you are back in junior high or middle school and are making an extra credit project for your social studies class.
I did not bother to change the cat or the ox in my handmade poster. When we get to these years, I will explain the difference between the two different zodiacs. It was originally based on the Chinese zodiac and I am teaching “Lunar New Year” which incorporates both Chinese New Year and Tet. And the differences between the two make a teaching moment.
What a great way to teach a bit about culture, with something made at home. There are so many applications- you could have the kids look up what year of the Chinese Zodiac they were born, and talk about traditional personality traits associated with each of the animals. Thank you so much Priscilla!
Want to introduce your prek through 1st grade students to Chinese New Year? Our Chinese New Year Math and Literacy Unit is one resource you don’t want to miss! Available at the Kid World Citizen Teachers Pay Teachers Store, this unit is an incredible collection of Common Core aligned reading, writing, math, and critical thinking activities, as well as craftivities and coloring sheets. Go now! >