CHINESE NEW YEAR DRUM – Symbol, Pattern, Form

Students use paper plates and tempera paint to create a small drum for Chinese New Year celebrations.

Required Time

80 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 1 to Grade 3


Language Arts
Social Studies
Visual Arts


contrast cultural symbol form pattern


Tempera Paint Paint Brushes Paper Plates - 17.7 cm (7") Diameter Scissors Paint Stir Sticks String White Glue Glitter Glue Clothes Pins Water Containers Paper Towels Hole Punch Large and Small Beads

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CHINESE NEW YEAR DRUM – Symbol, Pattern, Form - Step One

Step One

  1. Apply glue to the outer edge of one paper plate.
  2. Place one end of the stir stick along the diameter of the plate.
  3. Make sure the end of the stir stick sits on the outer edge of the plate.
  4. Apply more glue to the top of the stir stick where it touches the plate.
CHINESE NEW YEAR DRUM – Symbol, Pattern, Form - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Place the 2nd plate on top of the first one.
  2. Make sure it is lined up with the edges of the first plate.
  3. Clamp the plates together with clothes pins.
  4. Allow the glue to dry for about 1 hour.
CHINESE NEW YEAR DRUM – Symbol, Pattern, Form - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Use paint and glitter glue to decorate the drum.
    - add patterns
    - add a symbol to represent Chinese New Year, for example, 2019 is the Year of the Pig
  2. Use a hole punch to make a hole on the outer edge of each side of the drum.
CHINESE NEW YEAR DRUM – Symbol, Pattern, Form - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Cut 2 strings about 12 cm (5") long.
  2. Tie a large bead to the end of the string and add a few smaller beads to make a pattern.
  3. Tie the last bead in place.
  4. Repeat with the other string.
  5. Tie the beaded strings through the holes on each side of the drum.
  6. Twirl the handle from side to side so the beads beat the drum. 

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • follow instructions to create a small drum;
  • paint a variety of patterns on the drum;
  • paint a symbol to represent Chinese New Year;
  • explain the significance of the new year symbol in Chinese culture;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity;
  • share their ideas with others. 


Have students:

  • work in small groups and use their drums to create musical rhythms;
  • create non-traditional music scores for their compositions;
  • create movements to go with their compositions;
  • perform their compositions for their peers.


  1. Review and practice making patterns with a variety of materials.
  2. Download and display the Repetition and Form posters available on this website.
  3. Review or teach the principle of repetition – placement of shapes, and the element of form – 3-dimensional object
  4. Gather and make available books about Chinese New Year, for example, Chinese New Year, by Lola M. Schaefer; Dragon Dance: A Chinese New Year Lift-the-Flap Book, by Joan Holub, and Benrei Huang; Bringing In the New Year, by Grace Lin; Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year: With Fireworks, Dragons, and Lanterns, by Carolyn Otto; and Celebrating the Chinese New Year, by Sanmu Tang, and Wu Ying. 
  5. Teach students about Chinese New Year traditions.
  6. Make a sample, undecorated drum.


  1. Conduct a read-aloud using a book such as, Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year: With Fireworks, Dragons, and Lanterns, by Carolyn Otto.
  2. Discuss how the illustrator chose images to represent ideas.
    - pig images represent year of the pig - pig represents wealth and prosperity
    - red represents good luck and good fortune
  3. Explain that these are cultural symbols. Cultural symbols are found in countries all around the world. They represent something that people in that country feel is important about the country, or part of the country.
  4. Show students your sample drum and talk about how it could be used to celebrate Chinese New Year.
  5. Discuss what kind of symbol would best represent the current Chinese lunar new year.
  6. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Follow instructions to create a small drum.
  2. Paint a variety of patterns on the drum.
  3. Paint a symbol to represent the Chinese New Year.
  4. Explain the significance of the New Year symbol in Chinese culture.
  5. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  6. Share your ideas with others. 

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - created a small drum
    - painted several patterns on the drum
    - used symbolic colour
    - painted a symbol to represent the Chinese lunar new year
    - explained what the symbols mean
    - used my own ideas to create a sturdy drum
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Encourage students to think of how they can use repetition to create different patterns.
  5. Observe students as they work. 
  6. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Once all the drums are complete ask students to share them in partners or small groups. 
    Ask them to:
    Look closely at the designs and how they are made.
    - Share thoughts about the work.
    - Talk about how the designs represent the Chinese New Year.

    - Explain why the symbol they chose can be called a cultural symbol, and why they chose it.
    - Tell what was satisfying about making the drum and explain why.
  2. Have the whole class use their drums to create an explosion of sound while they call out "Happiness and Prosperity" (a popular new year's greeting) 恭喜发财 / 恭喜發財,
    - in Mandarin: gong-sshee faa-tseye/ 
    - in Cantonese: gong-hey faa-chwhy/ 
  3. Talk about how the sound makes them feel.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss the drums – active listening, insightful contributions, supporting ideas with evidence found in the artwork and from personal experience.
  3. Use a checklist to track progress. (Download - Drum_tracking.pdf)
  4. Have students use the self-assessment form to reflect on their work. (Download - Drum_self-assessment.pdf)