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China: Then and Now

By: Priscilla Geoghegan

Grade: 7

Content area: Social Studies

Topic: China- Understanding the culture and history

Essential Question:

As a time traveler, your course is set for China. After exploring the culture and history of China from the dynasties to contemporary China, you have to decide if you would rather live during the dynasties of China or in modern day China.

Project overview:

  • In this project students will visit various Web sites as well as use other resources to answer the above question.
  • Students will explore information about the following topic areas:
    • government,
    • religion
    • arts
    • human rights
    • education
    • people
    • daily life
  • Students will work in pairs or groups of three to come to a consensus about when they would rather live.
  • To defend their choice, students will have to produce various products (timelines, posters, charts, and written summaries) and present information orally comparing and contrasting ancient and contemporary China.
  • Each group will combine their daily written assignments in a Time Traveler's Journey Log. They will use this as evidence to defend their choice during their oral presentations.
  • A final assessment for this project will include individual persuasive essays by students stating and defending their choice.

Student outcomes: Students will:
  • Compare and contrast ancient and modern China
  • Learn cooperatively and come to a consensus in a group
  • Research information to analyze and evaluate historical and cultural situations
  • Present and defend a decision orally
  • Write persuasively
Materials used:
  • World Cultures textbook
  • Videos on China
  • Interact Simulation: China
  • Classroom and library resources on China
  • Art materials
  • Computers in class and computer room

Time Frame:

This project could be part of a larger four to six week unit on the study of China. While the assigned project suggested a five-day project, this will take longer.This project will take approximately 10 day in class periods of 45 minutes.

Daily activities:(by day)

  1. Objective: Gain information about the various dynasties and some facts about contemporary China.
    • Go to Mrs. Donn's Daily Life Site Index and click on Ancient China.
    • Read and highlight information found at this site about the ancient dynasties of China. Be prepared to create a timeline about the dynasties including important dates, inventions, important people, and highlights of the dynasties.
    • Go the CIA World Factbook Web site to find specific facts about the following areas:
      • Government- type, leaders, structure, other facts
      • People- religions, languages, literacy
      • Economy- labor force facts, currency
      • Trade- With whom does China trade? Trade relations with USA?
    • Explore other topics of your choice for other information you may need.
    • Visit the following site for additional information about the dynasties:
    Homework: Read notes and prepare to make dynasty timelines.

  2. Objective: Create timeline to represent information gleaned at previous Internet sites.
    • Work in groups to make timelines of dynasties.
    • (May take more than one day).

  3. Objective: View sights and images to gain a better understanding of China.

  4. Objective: To understand the basic concepts of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, and Legalism.

  5. Objective: Become familiar with Chinese arts and crafts.
    • Go to your list of China on the Net sources.
    • Browse some of the arts and crafts collections under the Visual Arts category.
    • Choose one painting or object to describe in written detail or reproduce in a drawing.

  6. Objective: To investigate contemporary news articles on China
    • Go to the China on the Net sources.
    • Under News Updates, read some news articles on China.
    • Choose one to summarize and prepare to orally share with the class.

  7. Objective: To understand and analyze some contemporary human rights issues in China.
    • Return to your list of China on the Net sources.
    • Under Human Rights, read the article,"Rights of a Child."
    • What did this article make you think about or feel? How does this compare to your life? Record your responses to add to your log.
    • Under Human Rights go to the Dalai Lama's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech on December 10, 1989.
      Editor's Note: The link from "China on the Net" may be broken.The link provided here is correct.
    • Write a response in your log that answers the following questions: Who is the Dalai Lama? Why do you think he won the Nobel Prize? What do you think he is saying about peace? Did you agree with his ideas? What did you learn about China from his speech?

  8. Objective: Review, analyze, evaluate all information to come to consensus on choice on the essential question.
    • Review all of your notes and materials.
    • Discuss when you would like to live in China and why.
    • Make a brief outline or bubble map that lists the reasons for your choice.
    • Use thinking maps for comparing and contrasting the different topic areas past and present.
    • Come to a decision by the end of the period.

  9. Objective: Create final product of Travel Log and prepare for presentation.
    • Following your Process and Product Standards rubrics, work on creating your final copy Time Traveler's log with all daily assignments and timeline.
    • Include a colorful, neat cover with title and names of team members.
    • Prepare your presentation.

  10. Objective: Present and defend choice in essential question.
    • Groups will present logs, timelines, and information to defend their choices

Management Plan:

Project will be carried out in both the classroom and the computer class. Students will work in pairs or groups of three. Teacher will assist students with their research and observe the process they follow. Some students will be able to access the on line sites at home to continue the assignments for homework. Others can have access to computers during study hall, or do other parts of the project.


  • During the project, students will use a group-planning sheet to plan the use of their time daily.
  • Other products for assessment include the
    • Time Traveler's Journey Log,
    • a timeline on the dynasties of China,
    • an oral presentation,
    • and a persuasive essay.
  • Students will have a RUBRIC of the process and product standards as a guide. The ratings on the rubric will translate into a grade (1=D, 2=C, 3=B, 4=A).
  • The essay grade will be based on our Language Arts writing checklist and the outline I provide for the essay.
  • The process standards will be generated with the students. Students will also complete project and self-evaluations.

Other Possible activities:

  • Having a speaker and slide show about China
  • writing poetry
  • calligraphy
  • reading the novel Dragonwings
  • kites
  • Chinese games
  • proverb writing
  • Other student ideas for extending the project may evolve as they go through the project.

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