Chinese Zodiac & Phases of the Moon: A Chinese New Year Lesson Plan for Grades 3-5

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Teacher should find a model or photo of the phases of the Moon. Woodlandlands Junior School from Tonbridge, Tennessee has a nice page. Teacher should have models of the Earth, Sun and Moon to demonstrate the rotations.

Find a reliable website students can use to determine their Chinese Zodiac sign.


One class period (50 minutes)


·Begin class with a review of the Chinese New Year and what was learned about it.

·Talk with your class about zodiac signs and what they know about them: Talk about what sign they are, what sign you are, common beliefs some people have about the zodiac, etc.

·Next, talk to the class about the fact that the Chinese have their own zodiac system.

Ask students what they know about this.

Tell them the 12 zodiac signs:Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.

Explain that this year is the year of the Ox.

Discuss with the class how the Chinese zodiac differs from our zodiac signs because of the difference in our calendar and the Chinese calendar.

·The Chinese use a lunar calendar and we use a Gregorian calendar.

A lunar calendar is based on the time it takes the moon to travel around the earth.

The Gregorian calendar is based on the time it takes the earth to make one complete circle around the sun.

Discuss with the class the phases of the moon:

1**.** Last quarter

2**.** Waning gibbous

3. Full moon (middle of the month)

4. Waxing gibbous

5. First quarter

6. Waxing crescent

7. New moon (beginning of month)

8. Waning crescent

·Show the class illustrations of each phase of the moon.

Discuss how each phase relates to the calendar and days of the month.

Ask the class to theorize what phase the moon is in now.

·Have the class draw a sketch of the moon that night, deciding then what phase it’s in.

·Show them how the year in the Chinese Zodiac is different and not January to December

·Next have the class discover on a pre-selected website what their Chinese Zodiac sign is.

Students should record their sign, character traits, compatible signs and any other interesting facts associated with their Chinese zodiac sign.

After the students find their zodiac, ask them to list a few character traits that are supposedly associated with their sign.

·Are they accurate?

·Share with a friend: Does their friend seem to match the descriptions?

Question Follow-Up

Discuss with the class what they discovered about their signs and their friends. Were predicted characteristics accurate? Ask the students if they were surprised about the lunar calendar being used instead of the Gregorian calendar.


Students can use origami, paper cut or another art form to create a representation of their Chinese zodiac sign.