DESIGNING A POSTAGE STAMP – Chinese New Year, Symbolism

Students design a postage stamp to commemorate the Chinese New Year.

Required Time

80 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 4 to Grade 8


Language Arts
Social Studies
Visual Arts



Crayola Crayons Crayola Fine Line Markers Crayola Glitter Markers Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Crayola Sketchbooks - 1 per student Rulers - 1 per student Pencils Erasers Small Bottle Lids

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DESIGNING A POSTAGE STAMP – Chinese New Year, Symbolism - Step One

Step One

  1. Make several thumbnail sketches of your different ideas.
  2. Remember to include:
    - Canada
    - 2019
    - cultural symbols for this Chinese New Year
  3. Test colour combinations that reflect cultural symbolism.
DESIGNING A POSTAGE STAMP – Chinese New Year, Symbolism - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Use crayons to colour your design.
  2. Lightly draw a border on all 4 sides of your paper.
DESIGNING A POSTAGE STAMP – Chinese New Year, Symbolism - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Use a bottle lid to draw semi-circles around the edge of your design.
  2. Line the lid up with the border lines.
DESIGNING A POSTAGE STAMP – Chinese New Year, Symbolism - Step Four

Step Four

  1. View the stamp from a distance to see it with fresh eyes.
  2. Ask yourself:
    - Is the colour application solid and strong?
    - Are all the words and numbers included?
    - Are there cultural symbols appropriate for this Chinese New Year?
    - Is the paper in good condition?

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • design and draw a postage stamp to commemorate the Chinese New Year;
  • use appropriate cultural symbols for the current Chinese New Year;
  • demonstrate their understanding of cultural symbolism;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the works. 


Have students:

  • research the origin of Chinese New Year;
  • rewrite the legend of Nián and create a dramatization to tell their story using people, puppets or animation;
  • present their dramatization to the class.


  1. Download images of Chinese New Year stamps from the Internet, for example,
    Canada Post 
    China Daily
    New Zealand
  2. Gather, or download from the Internet, pictures of actual pigs and pigs as symbols.
  3. Gather and make available books about Chinese New Year, for example, Bringing In the New Year, by Grace Lin; Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year: With Fireworks, Dragons, and Lanterns, by Carolyn Otto; This Next New Year: (English language edition), by Janet S. Wong, and Yangsook Choi; and the Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac, by Emily Hiles.
  4. Review or teach about Chinese New Year.
  5. Teach about postage stamps and how they are used.


  1. View images of postage stamps commemorating Chinese New Year.
  2. Discuss how different designers chose to represent the Chinese celebration. 
  3. Identify symbols in various stamps.
  4. 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
  5. Discuss why specific symbols are used to represent Chinese New Year and what they mean.
    - symbols represent ancient traditions
    - bright red symbolizes happiness and good fortune
    - the pig is one of the animals in the Chinese zodiac
    - pig is the symbol for wealth and good fortune
  6. Show students images of actual pigs and compare them with the way artists have changed them into symbols. Discuss how they are different and how they are the same, for example, images of symbols:
    - are often flat, simple shapes
    - are easy to recognize
    - often use symmetry in the design
  7. Identify key words and numbers in the Canadian postage stamps.
    - Canada
    - 2019
    - Year of the Pig
  8. Introduce the challenge


The Challenge

  1. Design and draw a postage stamp to commemorate the Chinese New Year.
  2. Use appropriate cultural symbols for the current Chinese New Year.
  3. Explain cultural symbolism.
  4. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  5. Support your ideas with evidence found in the works. 

The Process

  1. Ensure that everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    created a design made up of flat, simple shapes
    - created a cultural symbol that is appropriate for this Chinese New Year
    - used symbolic colours 
    - pressed hard with the crayons
    - kept the paper in good condition
    - accurately explained the cultural symbols in my work
    - included key words and numbers in my design
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work.
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Have students share their stamps 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 simple shapes and strong colours contribute to the effectiveness of the designs.

    - Explain why the symbols they chose can be called cultural symbols.
    - Tell what was satisfying about making the postage stamp and explain why.
  2. Ask some students to share their ideas with the whole class.
  3. Display the drawings as a body of work.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss the artworks – active listening, insightful contributions, supporting ideas with evidence found in the artwork and from personal experience.
  3. Use a checklist to track progress. (Download - Stamp_tracking.pdf)
  4. Have students reflect on their own artworks in their sketchbooks. Ask students:                                                                                                            
    - What worked well in your design? Why?                                                                                                                                                             
    - What would you change or do differently next time?                                                                                                                                                    
    - Why is the main symbol in your design a 'cultural symbol'?
  5. Have students write a brief description of their design process explaining their choices and decisions.