Fa Mulan Theme

My final theme in Year 4 was based on exploring the Far East, under the title of the fantastic Chinese story, Fa Mulan. The bulk of the theme was based on the book by Robert San Souci and the folding poem, The Legend of Mulan. These books are fantastic for questioning the role of women and examining other cultures. They are presented with fantastic illustrations and the folding poem in particular is simply a fantastic book to hold and look at. Other elements of the theme were also related to the Far East but the books were the core of the theme.

The children new very early that their main outcome from the book would be to create their own digital versions of Fa Mulan. We started by using talk for writing strategies before using digital cameras to capture their group in a series of still images depicting the story. They then manipulated these in Photoshop Elements to reflect the emotion of Mulan as her story progressed. Finally the imported the finished images into Windows Movie Maker, added a narration of the story from their own head rather than with a pre-prepared script and matched up the images with the narration. Here is an example of the Audio and a couple of still images:

(to come)

Whilst creating their digital books, we examined the role of women in the story, the traditional and contemporary role of women. The children then discussed as a class what they aspire to.

Guided by the children’s interests, we then focused on Japan rather than further exploring China. They decided on a specialism and developed human and physical geography skills. Their specialisms ranged from Sumo and Samurai to pop culture to volcanoes. They created Prezi and paper based presentations and shared them with each other.

One of the highlights of the theme for the children was to create their own papier mache exploding Mount Fuji’s. We researched the volcano and the children put mini flags with facts about Mount Fuji (made from cocktail sticks and paper) in the sides of their volcanoes. After painting them (with varying degrees of accuracy!) the children erupted their creations when parents were invited in to share what the children had been learning about during the theme.

Click here to see one of the volcano erupt

The highlight of the theme for me was a combination of Art and DT units. We dabbled with some child friendly Manga style cartoon drawings but then focused for a whole week on designing and creating Japanese style fighting kites. The children looked at Japanese clothing, culture and Mulan to find the style of design they were after. After creating a final design they turned their attention to the style of kite, how they would attach the string to fly it, how they would fix the dowling rods. The kites took a lot of fiddly sowing but almost all the children loved the repetitive process, almost like a less messy version of papier mache (?!). You can see some of the kites on display below. I was particularly impressed that the final kites clearly reflected the final designs and the stages of development. Even more impressive was that most of them actually kind of flew (well, when the children ran with their kite on three meters of string anyway!).

Originally published at primarypete.net on August 30, 2010.