5 Chinese Lunar New Year Activities for Upper Elementary

Lunar New Year Activities for Upper Elementary

Celebrating the Chinese {Lunar} New Year is always on my lesson to-do list! I truly believe that it is a great way to explore other nations, traditions, and holidays. While many of our students do celebrate the Chinese New Year, many do not. By bringing this holiday into your classroom, you are helping students learn about how people worldwide celebrate the New Year!

Not sure how to get started? I can help! These five meaningful activities are the perfect blend for any upper elementary classroom looking to celebrate the Chinese New Year!

From captivating picture book read-alouds to hands-on projects, this list includes fun and educational experiences. Discover the significance of Chinese Lunar New Year traditions, compare celebrations worldwide, and join in community-building activities to help your students feel connected. 

Let's make learning about the Lunar New Year a colorful and memorable experience for your students, fostering understanding and a strong sense of community in the classroom. 

Get ready to celebrate and engage your students in meaningful holiday activities through these enjoyable lesson ideas!

💡Teaching tip: While the Lunar New Year is celebrated in China, which is why it is often referred to as the Chinese New Year, it is also celebrated in many different countries worldwide. When engaging students in activities, be sure to include both terms!

Let's dive into Chinese New Year learning activities for upper elementary students!

1. Chinese New Year Read Alouds

Lunar New Year Activities for Upper Elementary

Nothing says let's celebrate a holiday than reading amazing picture books with your students! There are so many picture books to read with your kids to kick off lessons about the Chinese New Year.

Here are some of my favorites for upper elementary:

✔ This Next New Year written by Janet S. Wong

I love this one! It is filled with all of the traditions and customs of the Lunar New Year...like traditional foods, how to get rid of bad luck, and how to have a fresh new start each New Year!

✔ Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon written by Kat Zhang

This one is part of the Amy Wu series of books. Amy is faced with having to make her own dragon for the upcoming celebrations, and she doesn't know how to create a holiday-worthy dragon until her grandmother helps!

✔ Ruby's Chinese New Year written by Vickie Lee - This is a fun story that follows the main character, Ruby, as she heads through the forest to her grandmother's house. Along the way she encounters all the animals in the Chinese Zodiac. This book includes fun Chinese New Year craft activities and directions on how to make them!

✔ A Sweet New Year for Ren written by Michelle Sterling - I love the note from the author and the pure excitement that the main character Ren has for the upcoming holiday celebration with her family!

2. Learn About the Traditions

Lunar New Year Activities for Upper Elementary

Learning about the different traditions of holidays and celebrations around the world is a great way to engage students and open up their worlds!

One activity that I love to do with students is to create shape poetry about both the Lunar New Year and New Year's Day. For this activity, students must understand a tradition for each holiday and be able to draw a symbol related to it. Once they have drawn the symbol, they create a free verse shape poem to tell or explain about that symbol and tradition for the Chinese New Year! This is a fun Chinese New Year craft and makes a great bulletin board, too!

You will be wowed by the work that your students do with this shape poetry task!

3. Dive into the Zodiac

Chinese New Year Zodiac Activity for Upper elementary

The kids are always fascinated by the Lunar New Year Zodiac! They love seeing which Chinese Zodiac Animal it was for the year they were born and for the upcoming New Lunar Year.

Why not harness all that excitement and energy into reading all about it! This will help them understand the Chinese Zodiac, the traditions accompanying each animal, and why this is an important part of the New Lunar Year. 

These passages are just perfect for our upper elementary students' interests and to help strengthen their nonfiction informational reading comprehension, too! #teacherwin

💡Teaching tip: Check out this page for even more information about Lunar New Year Animals and Zodiac!

4. Compare and Contrast to New Year's Day

Chinese New year Reading Activities 3rd 4th 5th grade

At the beginning of the school year, we spent much time focusing on comparing and contrasting in October. We compared and contrasted Halloween to the Day of the Dead for that study. The kids loved it! They loved reading about different holidays, traditions, and cultures and truly got the ins and outs of comparing and contrasting different paired passages.

That is why when the new year came around, I  knew we had to compare New Year's Day to the Lunar New Year! And it was a hit!

After reading a nonfiction passage about New Year's Day we read a passage about Lunar New Year. The kids actively read, taking notes in the margins and compiling the information that they collected into a Venn diagram. We spent much time comparing the reasons and traditions behind each holiday. The students went one step further and wrote essays that compared and contrasted the two holidays. It was a great way to learn about the holidays AND still meet all the standards!

As you have students learn about the Lunar New Year and New Year's Day, have them collect important information on graphic organizers. Once collected, students can use the information that they gathered to write short paragraphs or essays about the different holidays that they learned about!

Grab the FREE graphic organizers right here!

5. Send Good Fortune and Building Classroom Community

Lunar New Year Activities for Upper Elementary

I love using community-building activities throughout the year! Teaching a lesson that focuses on strengthening our classroom culture and atmosphere is a great change of pace. Community building activities are especially fun when tied into holiday activities like Lunar New Year which falls right in the middle of winter, making it the perfect time to focus on strengthening our classroom family!

This activity is simple yet powerful and you will want to do an activity like this each month!

Here is how we send good fortune to others to celebrate Lunar New Year:

  1. Have students write their names with a pencil on a small piece of paper and fold it into fourths. Now, place all the pieces of paper in a basket.
  2. Have students randomly draw a name from the basket one at a time, ensuring they did not pick themselves. If they pick themselves, have them show you before selecting a new name.
  3. Students then create a fortune cookie with good fortune inside to the student whose name they picked. Their good fortune messages should be positive and upbeat and be focused on having a great new year!
  4. When all students are done creating the fortune cookies for their classmates, they deliver them. They really love both giving letters and receiving them!

💡BONUS IDEA: Get Your Art on!

Chinese New Year coloring pages 34d 4th 5th grade

If you have been following me for a while, you know we have been all about hands-on, coloring, and tech-free activities lately! The kids love creative, art-inspired activities over tech-focused tasks...and I am most definitely here for it! 

To get creative during our Lunar New Year celebrations, we create the shape poems and do a Lunar New Year Doodle Thinkers! Both are a great way to have students focus on traditions, symbols, and tie together creativity, art, and learning!

Incorporating the celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year into your classroom is more than just an item on your to-do list; it's an opportunity to explore new traditions and diverse holidays. 

While some students may already be familiar with the holiday of Chinese New Year, many are not, making it a wonderful opportunity for cultural discovery.  As we compare celebrations from around the globe and engage in community-building activities, we create an inclusive environment where students can learn, celebrate, and build connections. 

Happy Lunar New Year!

You will also love to read:

Grab the No Prep Lunar New Year Pack HERE.

Lunar New Year Activities for Upper Elementary

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Chinese New Year Activities 3rd 4th 5th grade

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