Producing, Executing and Performing
Connecting to History and Culture
The Chinese Lion Dance is an important part of the celebration of the Chinese New Year, and it is believed to bring good luck and happiness. In this lesson, students will learn about the history of this dance, the costumes that are worn, and the music that accompanies the dance performance. They will create lion head puppets and will dance in a parade carrying their Chinese Lion Dance puppets.
Locate China on a world map
Listen to a story of the Chinese Lion Dance
Explore information on a website featuring the Chinese Lion Dance
Answer questions concerning the history and culture of the dance
View a video featuring the Chinese Lion Dance
Create puppets based on the Chinese Lion Dance
Dance in a Chinese Lion Dance parade
Comprehensive Arts Education
What You'll Need
1 Computer per Classroom
Teachers might like to practice the accordion folding used in the construction of the Lion Dance puppets so they can easily demonstrate it for students.
Teachers with background knowledge of the Lion Dance and Chinese culture will be better able to answer questions, though the lesson resources provide basic information.
Prior Student Knowledge
Students need experience with scissors, glue, rulers, and folding.
Students need prior experience in following directions.
Outdoor Recreation Space
Large Group Instruction
Cue up videos, gather art supplies.
Resources in Reach
Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.
1. Find China on a world map. You can use an atlas, a globe, or the National Geographic website. The website features a world map. Type in “China” in the “Find a Place” prompt.
2. As a class, read the story of the Chinese Lion Dance in Note that Ernie’s family lives in New York City, not in China. Point out that many cities in the United States and elsewhere have communities of people of Chinese heritage, and celebrate with Chinese traditions. Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan's Chinese New Year by Kate Waters and Martha Cooper.
1. As a class, read the information on the website aloud. Kingdom of Lions
2. Use these questions to spark discussion:
When is the Chinese Lion Dance usually performed?
At Chinese New Year and on special occasions such as a wedding. What is the Lion Dance supposed to do for people?
It is supposed to bring good luck. How did lions come to China?
Lions were sent as a gift to the Emperor. When did the Lion Dance begin?
Perhaps as long ago as 200 B.C.E. How many dancers are in the Lion Dance?
Two dance each Lion part, and there is also usually a Laughing Buddha dancer. What instrument follows the lion?
A drum. What instruments follow the drummer?
Cymbals and gong.
3. When a student suggests an answer, go back to the website and ask the students to locate the place where the answer may be found. This gives students an opportunity to develop listening comprehension skills and reading comprehension skills. It also allows the class to check the correctness of the answer. Allow students to extend the discussion with questions and observations, as time allows.
4. Show students images from the Chinese Lion Dance Gallery located within the Resource Carousel.
5. Introduce the performance of the Chinese Lion Dance at the Kennedy Center’s DC Folkdance Festival and show the students a video of the performance. There are two videos located in the Resource Carousel above. Each video is one half of the performance. Feel free to watch either half or the whole performance. After the students have finished viewing the video, ask them to add words that describe the movements in the Chinese Lion Dance to their brainstormed list.
6. Students can also watch an "on the street" performance of a Chinese Lion Dance from a street festival. This footage is also available in the Resource Carousel above.
1. Describe Chinese Lion Dance puppets. Look at the brainstormed list of words describing the lion. Ask students to recall the shapes of the lions’ faces and tails, too. Discuss the shapes of the eyes and mouths of the Lion Dance masks. Notice that the wide open mouth and bulging eyes make the lion look scary.
2. Provide your students with the following supplies to create the Chinese Lion Dance puppet:
12” x 19” colored construction paper
Crayons or markers
2 wooden craft sticks (or 2 straws or disposable chopsticks)
Optional: glitter, feathers, beads, etc.
3. Create Chinese Lion Dance puppets. Have students draw faces and tails for their lions on one sheet of colored paper, and cut them out. From the remaining paper, students should cut strips of paper about 2”x 19” wide. Each student needs 2 strips of paper to form the body of the lion. Students can trade around to end up with a mixture of colors. Lay one strip on top of the other at right angles to form an L shape. Fold the first strip back over the second. Fold the second strip over the first again. Continue alternating in this way till the paper is used up. Students will have a square with many layers of paper. Gently pull on the ends. It will stretch out like an accordion.
4. Assemble Chinese Lion Dance puppets. Glue the head to one craft stick and the tail to the other. Glue one end of the body to the back of the head with the stick in between the two. Glue the other end of the body to the back of the tail in the same way.
5. Decorate Chinese Lion Dance puppets. Once the glue is dry on the puppets, students can add the finishing touches to their dancing lions.
6. Plan your Lion Dance parade. After students have finished creating their Chinese Lion Dance puppets, tell them that they will dance in a parade with their Chinese Lion Dance puppets. Decide where the parade should be (around the classroom, up and down the hall, etc.). Have students think about the movements they observed in the Chinese Lion Dance video. Have them refer back to the brainstormed list for ideas of how the lions should dance.
7. Have your Lion Dance parade. As a musical accompaniment, play the Kennedy Center video soundtrack during the parade. If possible, invite others in the school and community to view the parade.
1. Discuss with students the different ways they learned about the Lion Dance: by listening to a story, by reading information, by looking at pictures and watching videos, and by making a puppet and holding a parade. Some students learn best in one way and some in another way. Most students learn best by trying more than one way of getting the information.
2. Discuss the importance of trying different ways of comprehending information. Ask students how they feel when they have trouble understanding something (for example, frustrated, worried, bored). Suggest that students plan to try different ways of getting information.
1. Assess the students work using the two rubrics located within the Resource Carousel. One rubric is for the puppet while the other is for the parade.
The National Standards For Arts Education:
Grade K-4 Dance Standard 1
Identifying and demonstrating movement elements and skills in performing dance
Grade K-4 Dance Standard 3
Understanding dance as a way to create and communicate meaning
Grade K-4 Dance Standard 7
Making connections between dance and other disciplines
Common Core/State Standards
Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.