6 Chinese New Year Activities for Primary Teachers and Children
Chinese New Year begins on the first day of the new moon between 21 January and 20 February. This year it falls on Saturday 25 January 2020. The new year will be 'the year of the rat'. To help teachers plan for fun learning experiences and celebrations with their class in the lead-up to the lunar festival, here are 6 Chinese New Year activities:
1. Learn to count to 10 in Mandarin.
This Chinese New Year activity is ideal if you're short on time to prepare and need something which is easily adapted for different ages and abilities. Start by showing children a short instructional video showing how the numbers 0-10 are written and pronounced. There are loads of videos out there, but I especially like this beatbox-style instructional video – it's brilliant fun and a great way to practise counting:
You could then quickly practise saying the numbers aloud, referring back to the video or playing the sound clips on this website to help you and your pupils with pronunciation. Why not make some cards for a matching game, too? There's loads of ways to use a set of cards with the simplified Chinese characters for 0-10, the numerals and the written English and Chinese words, too. Here's a table of them to copy/paste into your own slideshow or blank cards template:
|English (numeral)||English (word)||Mandarin (numeral)||Mandarin (word)|
After that, throw it over to your pupils. What ideas do they have for playing games with Chinese numbers? Can they play their own simple bingo game? Can they write a Chinese number sentence? Can they write their own Chinese number rap? Finish these Chinese New Year activities by asking children to demonstrate how they have memorised the numbers, or how they've used them creatively.
2. Get crafty with traditional Chinese paper cutting.
This traditional art form is thought to have become widespread in China due to its simplicity and beauty. Only paper and scissors (or a knife) are needed to create beautiful pictures. Show children these examples of Chinese paper cutting:
Ask them to describe what they can see, and how they think they are made. After that, get cracking with making paper cutting works of art of your own! We recommend using bright red paper for a festive New Year feel. Encourage children to draw simple designs that will be easy to cut out.
Top Tips for doing Chinese paper cutting with your class:
- Explain that children must draw simple outlines, faintly in pencil, then shade the parts that will be cut out
- Remind children that all parts of the image that will not be cut out must be connected to each other, and to a 'frame' around the edge of the picture
- You could suggest that children draw characters from a book you're reading, or perhaps draw a picture of this year's animal (2020 is the year of the rat)
- Demonstrate making a hole in the paper using a sharp pencil with sticky tack underneath (this is the safest way to make a hole to start cutting with scissors)
3. Make and fly Chinese kites.
Flying kites is an ancient Chinese tradition and a competitive one at that! Kite festivals are held across China throughout the year. There are competitions for constructing and flying kites. Historically, kites were a military technology, used to convey messages over long distances. Today, many traditions and superstitions related to flying kites persist: kites are flown for good luck and prosperity, and to ward off evil spirits – but mainly just for fun! Show children some of the beautiful, intricate designs of Chinese kites:
Making and flying kites is a fun activity for younger learners. If you're looking for a complete, ready to teach Design & technology scheme of work about designing and making kites for Year 1 and 2, we've got you covered!
If you're looking for a quick, easy and fun activity that you can complete in a single session, check out this lesson for making Japanese carp kites using art materials and toilet roll tubes – easily adapted for making Chinese goldfish kites instead!
4. Play popular Chinese sports: badminton, ping pong or even hacky sack!
Yes, you read that correctly: hacky sack—the beach game of choice for 90s slackers—is a popular, traditional Chinese pastime! Called Jianzi, the game is played with a brightly-feathered 'shuttlecock' rather than a small ball. The aim is to keep the shuttlecock off the ground for as long as possible, passing it between players, who may touch, catch and pass it using any part of their body except their hands. It's a fun game to play with children of any age, provided you tweak the rules and equipment depending on age and ability. For younger learners, use beanbags and allow them to touch and pass with open-palmed hands. Older children might like to try playing the game with actual shuttlecocks. To extend the activity, challenge children to develop their own versions of the game. Ping pong and badminton are national sports in China, so they're ideal to play with your class as part of your Chinese New Year celebrations. If you've got the space and the equipment, get your PE kit on and have some fun!
5. Play Mahjong.
Mahjong is an ancient, tile-based game that is similar to the card game Rummy. Although like playing cards, there are a number of different games including solitaire-style, one-player games that can be played using the 144 tiles in a set. The traditional multiplayer game of Mahjong might be a little too challenging to teach your pupils in a limited amount of time, but the tile-matching computer game versions are absolutely ideal if you're looking for a quieter activity for your class. There are loads of free online Mahjong games out there. This website has HUNDREDS of different, themed Mahjong games so you or your pupils can find one that ties in with one of your current topics, or simply one they like the design of (beware that adverts are shown before the games load).
6. Immerse your class in the history, art and culture of China (with PlanBee resources!)
Naturally, we think that the best way to celebrate Chinese New Year with your class is to truly immerse them in learning all about China. That's why we've made a number of lesson plan packs for primary teachers all about China. Whether you're looking for a quick, free printable Chinese New year resource, a complete scheme of work or even a big cross-curricular topic planning pack for a whole half-term's teaching, we've got you covered! We love to help teachers save time all year round, and the Chinese lunar festival is no exception. To make things easier, we've put together a collection of all our free Chinese New Year resources which we'll send directly to your inbox when you sign up for our newsletter via the link below. It includes puzzles, writing frames, colouring sheets, poetry planners and printable group name labels – handy resources and last-minute time-fillers for busy teachers in KS1 or KS2! Not only that, when you sign up, you'll also receive an exclusive discount code for 25% off either of our Chinese New Year lesson planning packs for Key Stage 1 or Key Stage 2! Normally £7 each, your promo code will allow you to buy either one for only £5.25!
So that's it – our six easy-to-teach Chinese New Year activities for children! With many Chinese children and families forming an important part of communities in the UK, and because Chinese New Year is a fantastic time of year to celebrate the many ways in which Chinese culture has influenced British culture, to welcome and include Chinese children in our schools and to learn a little about life in the most populous nation on earth.
恭贺新禧 (gōng hè xīn xǐ)
(May you have a Happy New Year!)