Chinese Lanterns


Hallway 2Inspired by the wonderful blog , What’s Happening in the Art Room?, I decided to try Chinese Lanterns this year with my 5th grade art students. These lanterns involve developing a drawing that will work on four vertical panels as well as on a three-dimensional rectangle. I gave students the option of coming up with four separate ideas, one for each panel, or having one idea wrap around the rectangle. In addition, students focused on successfully using soft colored pencil technique in their composition.

Lanterns are used in a myriad of celebrations in China, the most famous being The Lantern Festival, which is the customary end to the Chinese New Year celebration.

Chinese New Year begins February 8th in 2016. This is the Year of the Monkey. DSC09232What 5th grader wouldn’t love that?

An ancient Chinese folk custom is to attach a riddle, poem or phrase to the lanterns, so I added this to our project (additional writing component). I think my students were as excited about their riddles as they were their lanterns.


Riddles 2

Here’s how we did it.


  • 12 x 18 white drawing paper
  • rulers
  • scissors
  • pencils, erasers and colored pencils
  • poster board for lantern stencil
  • black construction paper – 7 inch squares (2 per lantern)
  • yarn or string
  • hot glue gun (under adult supervision only)


I began this project in January, right as we came back from the Winter Holiday. I asked the students how they celebrated the New Year. I had them write a resolution in their sketchbook; which I defined as ” A plan to do something positive to make your life better .”  We talked about resolving only things we had control over and what a positive resolution was. We even broke down the word, discovering that “solution” is part of resolution. What child does not need to practice planning positive ways to make their life better?

This exercise became a springboard for talking about New Year’s celebrations around the world, which in turn brought us to the Chinese New Year and creating our lantern.

I discussed coloring technique with my students, which in this project is coloring solidly, but LIGHTLY! The idea was to mimic the soft watercolor work of Chinese art. They drew their compositions in pencil first, which they outlined in colored pencil, then softly filled in the interior. As always, some are more successful than others.


After they created their colored pencil drawing, they laid a template I made from poster board over the top. The template was a little smaller than the drawing and has the four panels separated by notches (see picture below). Students used a ruler to draw light pencil lines to separate the panels.


Students handed the drawing over to me for folding and assembly because this really requires a hot glue gun.


The top and bottom of the lantern is a seven inch square of black construction paper. I used a pointed tool to poke a hole in the center of each square and pushed the yarn through the hole and hot glued it on the underside. The folded rectangle is hot glued to the squares to complete the lantern.

DSC09233 DSC09234

While I was assembling and gluing and burning myself about fifty times, the students were coming up with their riddle, which is attached to the bottom of the lantern.

Acres of Lanterns in Production

We displayed these at open house and they were a big hit. Congratulations to my creative 5th grade artists.








2 thoughts on “Chinese Lanterns

  1. Thank you for following my blog and hope you enjoy the ride!! I love what you share with your students and have learned a couple things myself from the two posts I’ve read!!! Keep up the good work and I’ll be following and watching for your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

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