Cock-A-Doodle-Doo, Year of the Rooster!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Social Studies – Countries Around The World (China, Portugal, Poland), Geography, City/Country (Animals)

Science – Animals (Birds), Language Arts – Legends (Oral History), Literature

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Pablo Picasso , Joan Miro, Katharina Fritsch, Joana Vasconcelos

Chinese Brush Painting, Cubism, Wycinanki, Galo de Barcelos, Color (Red, Blue), Sculpture, Art Medium


By Ren Yi

The Chinese New Year will be celebrated from January 27 to February 2 this year. I was thrilled to see it is the “Year of the Rooster” because I’ve been wanting to do a post on roosters for a while now. Chinese artists have immortalized roosters in Chinese brush paintings and Chinese paper cutting.   However, China is not the only place/person who think roosters are special. Check out this video to see just how popular they are/have been. I think the only roosters the video left out are two humongous contemporary rooster sculptures. Katharina Fritsch’s “Hahn Cock” is a 15 foot blue rooster currently on display on the roof garden of the newly renovated National Gallery’s East Wing. Then there is the amazing Pop Galo by Joana Vasconcelos. At first glance, it appears to be just a pop art version of  the Galo de Barcelos or Roosters of Barcelos, Portugal. Read more about these ceramic birds and their history here.  However, upon closer scrutiny, you see that it is made up of traditional ceramic tiles, called Azulejo. That’s not all. The dot embellishments are actually LED lights programmed to sync with music, so at night, the sculpture performs a light show. The sculpture is traditional during the day and innovative at night. AMAZING!  View the sculpture at night here.

Look here to find a like minded teacher who created a lesson combining roosters, Picasso and for literature, Eric Carle’s “Rooster’s Off to See the World”.  This teacher brings in a live rooster to observe. One can accomplish this by looking at rooster photos and artworks. Discuss with students a rooster’s body parts. As seen in the first video mentioned above, the class could create their roosters in many different medium ( drawingcollagesculpture,  painting, etc.) I would suggest these flat roosters because they remind me of Flat Stanley. If you’ve read Eric Carle’s rooster book , you know the bird never leaves town. How about a nice Geography lesson where the Flat Rooster actually travels to visit his art cousins in different parts of the world? The teacher can print out small reproductions of each rooster cousin and tape them to a world map. The students can begin by traveling to China to celebrate the New Year with brush painted roosters and a  paper cutting rooster. Next he could travel off to Egypt to visit with a  stone sculpture rooster. Then off you go to Greece to visit with a rooster embellished   urn. It’s just a hop, skip and jump to Italy to see a  rooster Roman mosaic.  Now for a journey to Portugal to see  Pop Galo. Travel next door to Spain to see Miro’s Le Coq. Next let’s travel up to Paris, France and visit with several of Picasso’s roosters. Now, it’s off to Poland to visit with some more paper cutting called Wycinanki. It’s time to travel “over the Pond” to London, England to see the big blue rooster named “Hahn/Cock”, only to discover he has flown the coup to Washington, D.C. Not to be deterred, it’s off across the Atlantic to the National Gallery’s East Wing’s roof garden. After such a long journey, what better thing to do than to retire to Key West, the southern most point in the U.S.A., to hang out with all the roosters who wander the streets there.  Happy traveling!

How about throwing a little Math into the mix. The teacher could create a chart of different art mediums (drawing, painting, mosaics, paper cutting, sculptures, pottery, printmaking). Together view the first video found above with all the ways roosters have been portrayed. As a class, figure out the medium of each artwork and place a tally mark next to the appropriate medium on the chart.  Afterward, the students can create a bar graph using their collected data. You could also practice a little measurement conversion by comparing the 15 foot tall Hahn/Cock and the 10 meter tall Pop Galo. Which sculpture is taller?

I certainly enjoyed my trek through Rooster Land and learned a lot. It always amazes me. I start out these posts thinking it will be one thing and they turn out to be so much more. I hope you gleaned something from it also.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this. Simply click on the title of this post, scroll down to the bottom and leave a message in the comment box.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Hope you’ll stop by again real soon!

Dragons And Unicorns And Trolls, Oh My!

Possible Classroom Concepts: Language Arts – Folktales And Fairy Tales (Mythical Creatures), Literature

Social Studies – Countries Around The World (Mythical Creatures), Geography

Mathematics – Geometry, Numbers (Nine)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Raphael’s “Saint George And The Dragon“,  “The Unicorn in Captivity” (From The Unicorn Tapestries), “The Nine Dragons Scroll

Paintings, Tapestries, Scrolls, Illustrations

Mythical creatures seem to be popping up all around. There are the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the Trolls and A Monster Calls movies. Soon there will be dragons dancing through the streets celebrating the Chinese New Year. I even saw a beasties scavenger hunt for kids at a recent visit to the Samurai Exhibit, at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville TN. (Samurai helmets and swords are embellished with fantastic creatures to inspire the warrior and invoke fear in the enemy.) Incorporating these mythical creatures into your lessons could just spark the interest of some otherwise ambivalent students. Different mythical creatures have been a part of folklore worldwide since ancient times. You can find lists of different mythical creatures here and here. For a Social Studies Map unit, students could use a mythical creatures interactive map found  here. Find more examples of mythical creatures on my Pinterest page.

 Raphael’s “Saint George and the Dragon”           Unicorn in Captivity” (from the  Unicorn                                                                                                Tapestries)                                                                                                             

In my teaching days, I often incorporated mythical creatures from the above two artworks and the “Nine Dragons”scroll found here. I always kept visuals of Saint George and the unicorn around while helping my third graders illustrate their original fairy tales. Raphael’s dragon was in the fourth graders Language Arts textbook and they studied Japan in Social Studies. So, for a few years I’d introduce Western and Eastern dragons. The two cultures view the creatures in very different ways. The Western culture sees dragons as evil, but the Eastern culture reveres the dragon. The two kinds of dragons also look very different.  Read more about them here. I would then have students invent their own dragons. I also included the study of mythical creature gargoyle sculptures when talking about an  “Extreme”  city wildlife theme. Check out more about this lesson here.

In my investigations for this post, I found some excellent lessons correlating with Language Arts and Mathematics. Eastern dragons are made up of many different animal parts. Look here and here to find lessons where mythical creatures can be made from an amalgamation of different animals. I read in the popup book, LEONARDO DA VINCI, by A.& M. Provensen that da Vinci actually built a creature out of the parts of lizards, toads, bats and other animals. He then used the creature as a model for a painted shield. Talk about an amalgamation creature! The excellent website, EDSITEment, has a comprehensive mythical beast lesson found here.  This teacher actually combines a mythology lesson with a math lesson. Love it!

Whether studying different cultures around the world or not, mythical creatures can also be shared at Literature time. Jan Brett, one of my all time favorite author/illustrators,  writes books set in different countries. The Trouble With Trolls was written after a trip to Norway. You can learn more about trolls and Norwegian architecture in Brett’s letter to her readers here. Even Eric Carl has written a book entitled Dragons, Dragons and Other Creatures That Never Were. The illustrations are perfect for primary students, but the text is more suitable for intermediate students. The EDSITEment lesson mentioned above also includes a nice list of mystical creature Literature books to share with your students.

So, whether in a Social Studies, Language Arts and/or Mathematics unit, I hope you will include these wonderful creatures somewhere in your teaching. A good time will be had by all!

Have you taught lessons including mystical/ mythical creatures? If so, I’d love to hear how. Simply click on the title of this post, scroll down to the bottom and leave a message.

Hope to see you all again soon!