Activity Overview

Starting a unit or lesson with the key vocabulary that students will see in their readings or presentations aids in overall comprehension and retention. Being familiar with the vocabulary also increases students' understanding of Chinese culture, history, and geography as they learn more about it in the unit of study. In this activity, students will create a storyboard that defines and illustrates key vocabulary related to the study of Ancient China.

Students will preview the terms and definitions and use whole class or small group discussion to demonstrate their understanding of each meaning. Then, they will create a spider map of 3-5 terms at the teacher's discretion. Each cell will contain a term, its definition, and an illustration that depicts the meaning. When students define and illustrate each term, they master the application of it and retain it as part of their lexicon. As an extension to this activity, teachers can have students create their own Ancient China word search, crossword puzzle, or even Ancient China interactive games! Teachers can create Ancient China vocabulary worksheets by copying one of our several worksheet templates.

Vocabulary for Ancient China

bamboo: tall hollow stemmed grass that the Chinese used to make paper, buildings, furniture and musical instruments

silt: fine particles of rock

tributary: a stream that feeds into a larger river

maize: a type of corn

mutton: meat from sheep

millet: a type of grain

cocoon protective covering made by silkworms before they transform into moths the fibers of which are used to make silk

ancestor worship: honoring ancestors through rituals, such as offering food and wine to the dead

logograph: a written character that represents a word

economy: system of managing the wealth of a country or region

Mandate of Heaven: a power or law believed to be granted by a god

feudalism: a system of government based on landowners and tenants

Confucianism: based on the teachings of Kongfuxi (Confucius) a philosophy whose goal was to create a more just and peaceful society. Confucianism deeply influenced Chinese government and culture.

civil servant: a person who works for a government

yin: one half of the Taoist concept of opposing forces of nature; the opposite of yang

yang: one half of the Taoist concept of opposing forces of nature; the opposite of yin

Taoism or Daoism: philosophy founded by Laozi (Lao-tzu). The word Tao meaning "the Way", Taoism taught that people gained happiness and peace by living in harmony with nature

Legalism: founded by Hanfeizi (Han-fei-tzu), legalism was a philosophy that taught that people are naturally selfish and therefore need strict laws, rewards for good behavior and punishments for bad behavior to create a peaceful society

Buddhism: One of the three major religions in China, Buddhism originated in India, founded by Siddartha Gautama (Buddha) in northeastern India in the 5th century BC.

dynasty: When the rule of a country is passed down to family members over a long period of time

standardize: make the same

immortal: able to live forever

bureaucracy: a form of government that is structured like a pyramid, with a few people at the top and many at the bottom

calligraphy: the art of fine handwriting

anesthetic: something that takes away the feeling of pain

seismograph: an instrument for detecting earthquakes

compass: an instrument for determining direction

lodestone: a type of iron ore that tends to align itself in a north-south direction because of Earth's magnetism


Forbidden City: giant palace built in the center of Beijing city by the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty

The Great Wall: 5,500 mile long wall built along the northern border of China to keep out invaders like the Mongols to the north

Gunpowder: an invention by the Ancient Chinese that was used in fireworks and weapons.

Silk Road: a trade route that ran from China to Europe and named after the Chinese export of silk.

The Three Perfections: the three most important art forms of Ancient China: painting, poetry and calligraphy

filial piety: a cornerstone of the Ancient Chinese philosophies and religions of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, filial piety means the virtue of respect for one's parents, elders, and ancestors.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Due Date:

Objective: To learn the meanings of words relating to our lesson you will preview the vocabulary and create a storyboard that demonstrates your understanding of different words.

Student Instructions:

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. In the title boxes, identify the key terms you have chosen.
  3. In the description boxes, write the definition of the term.
  4. Create an illustration for each term using appropriate scenes, characters, and items. To find images that relate to Ancient China, type “China” into the search bar.
  5. Save and exit when you're done.

Requirements: Must have 3 terms, correct definitions and appropriate illustrations for each that demonstrate your understanding of the words.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/7/4] Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 7 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/7/6] Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Define and illustrate each of the key terms.
7 Points
4 Points
1 Points
The vocabulary words are correctly defined.
The meaning of the vocabulary words can be understood but it is somewhat unclear.
The vocabulary word is not clearly defined
The storyboard illustrations clearly depict the meaning of the vocabulary words.
The illustrations relate to the meaning of the vocabulary words but it they are difficult to understand.
The illustrations do not clearly relate to the meaning of the vocabulary words.
Evidence of Effort
Work is well written and carefully thought out.
Work shows some evidence of effort.
Work shows little evidence of any effort.

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