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Chinese number 1.

It’s in the bag!

Focus concepts:

  • Traditions
  • Culture
  • Cultural images

Effective teaching:

  • Making connections to prior learning and experience
  • Enhancing the relevance of new learning

Years 0–6

Students will:

  • share their prior knowledge about China
  • pose questions for further inquiry about China
  • identify items that represent the collective culture of New Zealand.

Activity 1 – Grab bag of items

Before you start, print out Appendix 3. Paste the images onto card and then cut out each image and put into a bag.

Tell the students that we are starting a new focus of learning, but don’t give away any clues yet about what it is. Ask the question: "Can you guess what we are going to be learning about?" Pull the items out of the grab bag one at a time.

Allow students a chance to contribute as much of their prior knowledge as possible at this stage. Look for students who are ‘experts’ and who will help explain aspects of Chinese culture to the rest of the class. After the students have discussed the items in the grab bag and guessed what the context of learning may be, use the table below to describe why each of these items are important to many people in China.


Explanations for each item


Chopsticks were invented in China at least three thousand years ago. Chopsticks in China are generally about 25cm long and as thick as a pencil. They can be made from a variety of materials – including wood, plastic, jade (greenstone), gold and silver.

Chinese character/writing

The Chinese language uses characters instead of letters of an alphabet to represent words. Chinese today also has a system called pinyin, which shows how you say the word. This character is read as “shou”, meaning long life. This character usually appears at a birthday party or on a birthday cake for people over fifty.

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is the longest manmade feature in the world. It is over 6,700 km long. In 221 BC, the emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered the walls of the Qi, Zhao, and Yan kingdoms in the north to be linked up and reinforced, after he united China. Today the Great Wall is protected as a world heritage site.

Chinese ceramics

The Chinese developed the art of making ceramics about 11,000 years ago. Their ancient and current artwork in ceramics is very famous.

Red lantern

Red lanterns made from paper are used for the Chinese New Year festivals. They are put out on the 15th day of celebrations. They are bright and colourful and can be many shapes and sizes.

Martial arts

Martial arts use a system of practices and traditions of training for combat, self-defence, or hunting and have a long tradition in China. There are many different styles of Chinese martial arts – the most well known is Kung Fu.

Giant panda

The giant panda, native to China, is very rare. Giant pandas live in the high mountains of China and eat mostly bamboo shoots and leaves. They live mostly on the ground but can climb trees.

Dumplings (jiaozi)

Chinese dumplings, or jiaozi, normally contain ground meat/and or vegetable filling wrapped in a thin piece of dough and sealed by crimping the edges together.

Activity 2 – Make a wall display

Set up a wall display like the one outlined below, and use the images from the grab bag to form a display in the centre. Keep adding to this set of images as you work through the unit. Use the display to note questions that students may have so far and return to these throughout the learning.

Rectangle diagram with circle in centre. Left half of rectangle is red with text: What we already know about Chinese traditions/culture. Right half of rectangle is white with text: What we want to find out. Circle in centre is white with text: Images of China (from Grab Bag).

Activity 3 – A grab bag to represent New Zealand

Tell your class that they have been asked to send a grab bag over to a school in China. Look at the images from the China grab bag. As a class, design a grab bag together to represent New Zealand (that is, New Zealand's collective culture). For example, what would be a symbol for New Zealand, like a dragon is for China?

Key questions

  • What symbols/objects unify people in China?
  • What symbols/objects unify us as New Zealanders?
  • What other items could we put into our class grab bag to reflect our own cultural identities and interests?
  • In what ways would our grab bag be different from a grab bag made by older or younger students?
  • In what ways would our grab bag be different from a grab bag made by students living in a different New Zealand region, eg rural, urban, coastal, inland, northern, southern, remote?

A grab bag for me

Students could design their own unique grab bag to share with a ‘student in China’. This could be given as homework to present to the class towards the end of unit. The personal grab bag could be quite different from the class one on ‘collective’ culture, and represent a far more unique experience of life as a New Zealander for individual students in New Zealand.

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