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Pretend Porcelain

What kinds of designs have you seen on dinner plates, teapots, and vases? Porcelain is just one of many Chinese inventions.

  • Grade 4
    Grade 5
    Grade 6
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Many items we use everyday were invented in China centuries ago. During a unit of study focused on China, invite students to find out how porcelain has been made for more than 2000 years. Students will find that it traditionally is decorated with blue and white designs of bridges, tea houses, boats, and willow trees. Organize a variety of text and electronic resources for students to students to use during this investigation.
    2. Once research is complete, challenge students to create a porcelain piece. Students use Crayola® Air-Dry Clay to make decorative replicas of Chinese dinnerware to show what they have learned about Chinese history, inventions, and traditional designs. Working on a clean dry surface, students roll a ball of clay. Students decide what they want to sculpt—perhaps a plate, bowl, or teapot. If they change their minds, adding a little water and start again!
    3. For the plate: Students flatten the ball. Use a craft stick to cut out a plate. Pinch the outside edge with fingers to create a rim.
    4. Bowl, vase, teapot, or cups: Students push your thumb into the middle of a clay ball. Keep pointer fingers on the outside. Students pinch and shape until they have a pleasing form. Make handles or a spout by rolling small snake-like shapes. Scratch the pot surface with a craft stick. Slightly dampen the area with fingers to attach a handle or spout. Roll out and cut a lid to fit.
    5. Students smooth the surfaces of their clay with damp fingers. Air-dry porcelain replicas for 2 to 5 days.
    6. Once clay is completely dry, students cover their work areas with recycled paper. Challenge them to decorate sculptures in traditional Chinese blue designs with Crayola Tempera Paints. Air-dry the paint before preparing a display showing these Chinese replicas.
  • Standards

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    SS: Describe how we depend workers with specialized jobs and the ways in which they contribute to the productions and exchange of goods and services.

    SS: Explore ways that language, art, music, belief systems, and other cultural elements may facilitate global understanding or lead to misunderstanding.

    VA: Select media, techniques, an processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of choices.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Integrate visual, spatial, and temporal concepts with content to communicate intended meaning in their artworks.

    VA: Analyze contemporary and historic meanings in specific artworks through cultural and aesthetic inquiry.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Fantastic Inventions and Inventors: True Stories from Ancient China by Kang Zhu; Made in China: Ideas and Inventions from Ancient China by Suzanne Williams; The Chinese (Technology of the Ancients) by Kim Dramer

    Invite a local potter to visit with the class. The expert should focus on how pottery is sculpted, fired, and decorated. Students compose questions for the expert prior to the visit. Afterwards, students post learning to a class blog.

    Students investigate Chinese imports to the United States from the 17th to 19th centuries. What types of items were imported? Why did U.S. citizens not purchase these same items made in America? Students discuss the items and analyze why these were the choices for purchase.

    For a holiday, such as Mother's Day, students use their knowledge of porcelain and pottery to create an original vase as a gift for their mothers. Incorporate a symbol that represents motherhood, love, etc. on the pottery piece. Prepare it for giving by wrapping it in homemade wrapping paper.


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