Lesson plan

My Chinese Zodiac Animal

Are you similar to your Chinese zodiac animal? In this lesson, your students will learn about their zodiac animal and write about an example from their life that captures a time when they displayed traits similar to their zodiac animal.
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Students will be able to use invented spelling to write about a time when they demonstrated characteristics represented by their Chinese zodiac animal.

(5 minutes)
  • Say to your students, "Happy Chinese New Year!"
  • Explain that Chinese New Year celebrates the beginning of a new year and includes tons of celebrations and traditional activities, such as dancing dragons, exchanging red envelopes, and setting off fireworks.
  • Tell students that each new year is associated with one of twelve animals, called Chinese zodiac animals. The twelve zodiac animals are the dragon, tiger, horse, rat, cow, rabbit, snake, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.
  • Explain to students that in the Chinese tradition, you are said to have the same personality traits as the zodiac animal from the year you were born.
(10 minutes)
  • Read aloud the Chinese Zodiac Animals book.
  • Point out the different information on each page, such as the name of the zodiac animal, the years that it is associated with, and the characteristics that describe people born that year (e.g. quiet and hard working).
(10 minutes)
  • Model for your students how you will find your zodiac animal using the year you were born.
  • Read aloud the characteristics of your zodiac animal, and tell students you are going to think of a time when you demonstrated one of these characteristics.
  • Write on the board: I was patient like a cow when I helped my brother build his lego castle.
  • Model for students how you sounded out your words and used your invented spelling to write the sounds you heard.
  • Help students determine their zodiac animal. (Tip: Determine students' zodiac animals before class).
  • Tell students that because they are all close in age, their class will only have two, possibly three, zodiac animals represented.
  • Call on a volunteer to share their zodiac animal.
  • Turn to the page in the Chinese Zodiac Animals book that has their zodiac animal and read the characteristics aloud.
  • Ask a volunteer to think of a time when they demonstrated one of these characteristics.
  • Call the volunteer to the board to write, using their invented spelling, an example of a time when they demonstrated a characteristic like their zodiac animal (e.g. I was brave like the dragon when I rode my bike without training wheels).
(20 minutes)
  • Distribute a Chinese Zodiac Animal book to each student along with writing paper or writing journals.
  • Ask students to find their zodiac animal, read their characteristics, and think of a time when they demonstrated one of these characteristics.
  • Remind students to use their invented spelling and to draw a picture that matches their writing.


  • Work closely with students needing extra support to help them find and read their zodiac animal characteristics and, if necessary, help them understand what the characteristics mean.
  • Provide students with a sentence frame to help them with the writing process. The sentence frame could read: "I was like a ____ when I ____."
  • Give students the option to draw and label a picture of themselves demonstrating a characteristic like their zodiac animal.


  • Ask students to provide more details in their writing. For example, add information such as where they were, who they were with, and how it made them feel.
  • Ask students to look at the other characteristics describing their zodiac animal and to think of a time when they either demonstrated, or failed to demonstrate, one of those characteristics. For example, "I was not brave like the dragon when I was too scared to go down the waterslide."
(10 minutes)
  • Ask students to bring their writing to the rug and to sit in a circle.
  • Tell students they are each going to read their writing aloud and show their picture.
  • Remind students how to be respectful listeners by looking at the person who is reading, not talking, and paying attention.
  • As students are reading their writing aloud, listen to see that they included one characteristic and one example of a time when they demonstrated that characteristic.
(5 minutes)
  • Tell students that they may keep their Chinese Zodiac Animals books and take them home to share with their families.
  • Encourage students to share what they have learned about Chinese New Year and the Chinese zodiac animals with their families.
  • Ask students to find out the zodiac animal of each of their family members and to see if the characteristics match their personalities.

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