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2007 Unit E

Grade level: Elementary
Discipline: Visual Arts

Teacher name
Email address
School or District
Kortney Coombs
Green Ridge Elementary School
Catherine Fedak
Forest City Regional
Sally Frehn
Standing Stone
Dolores Luis Gmitter
Samuel Powel Elementary School

Title of unit: Simplicity in Japanese Art
Overview: To introduce the unit, we will immerse students in Japanese culture, from dance to literature to home life emphasizing the aesthetics of Iki, or simplicity. Lessons will focus on various Japanese art forms with the students participating in critical discussions and cultural explorations. Students will maintain a journal in response to each session. The culminating task will be the creation of a personal Japanese Zen Rock Garden including an original text that expresses the student’s understanding of simplicity in Japanese art. A possible option would be the creation of a larger scale Japanese Zen Rock Garden on school grounds or in the community in the spring.
Time needed to complete the unit: Six 40-minute sessions

Essential learning(s):
Summative task: Throughout the unit, the teacher will be conferencing with students on a group and individual basis, observing student progress in the classroom as well as reviewing student journals. As a summative assessment the students will create a Japanese Zen Rock Garden and original text reflecting their understanding of simplicity in Japanese art as embodied in their gardens. These will be assessed using a rubric.

PA Academic Standards
Content Indicators
(What students will know)
Process Indicators
(What students will do to demonstrate knowledge of the content)
(1) 9.1.5.E Know and demonstrate how arts can communicate experiences, stories, or emotions through the production of works in the arts.

(2) 9.2.5.E Analyze how historical events and culture impact forms, techniques, and purposes of works in the arts (e.g., Gilbert and Sullivan operettas)

(3) 9.2.5.G Relate works in the arts to geographic regions.

(4) 9.3.5.B Describe works in the arts comparing similar and contrasting characteristics (e.g., staccato in Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King and in tap dance).

(5) 9.4.3.D Explain choices made regarding media, technique, form, subject matter, and themes that communicate the artist’s philosophy within a work in the arts and humanities (e.g., selection of stage lighting in Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story to communicate mood).

(6) R5.A.2.3.1 Make inferences, draw conclusions and make generalizations based on information from text.

(7) M5.B.2.2.1 Find the perimeter of a figure drawn and labeled.
(1) The students will understand that Japanese artwork can communicate a sense of simplicity.

(2A) Students will understand that Japanese culture is reflected in Japanese artwork with a focus on the element of simplicity found in both.

(2B) Students will understand that the Japanese cultural ideal of iki/simplicity is reflected in the Japanese Zen Rock Gardens they create.

(3A) Students will know where to find Japan on a map or globe.

(3B) Through viewing Japanese artwork and studying Japan's geography, students will understand that the geographic location of Japan impacts Japanese art.

(4) Students will understand the similarities and differences between the works of American artist Andy Goldsworthy and Japanese Zen Rock Gardens.

(5) Students will understand the choices of media, form, and subject matter that communicate the Zen philosophy within a Japanese Zen Rock Garden.

(6) By reading material in a variety of genres, the students will develop an understanding of Japanese culture and Japanese Zen Rock Gardens.

(7) Students will know the math required to calculate the perimeter of a rectangular Japanese Zen Rock Garden.
(1a) Students will view Japanese art and will journal their thoughts and ideas on how Japanese art conveys simplicity.

(1b) Students will view two pieces of Japanese artwork and will compare and contrast using a Venn Diagram.

(2Aa) Students wil identify and discuss connections between Japanese culture and Japanese artwork in response to content presented using a variety of digital and print resources.

(2Ab) Students will recognize and discuss the Japanese cultural ideal iki/simplicity present in Japanese works of art including Japanese Zen Rock Gardens.

(2B) Students will compose a description of their Japanese Zen Rock Garden and identify each item used. Text will include and explanation of the way in which iki/simplicity is conveyed in their Japanese Zen Rock Garden.

(3A) Given a blank map of the world, the students will be able to locate Japan and define the surrounding areas. i.e. oceans, continents.

(3B) Students will view and analyze works of Japanese art and recognize the effect of geography on how/why Japanese art is made the way it is (for example, since Japan is an island, much of the artwork produced there reflects the influence of water or sea life).

(4) Students will design school grounds based on the work of Andy Goldsworthy or Japanese Zen Rock Gardens. They will choose one style to defend, which will lead to a discussion of their similarities and differences between the two styles.

(5a) Students will learn about the Japanese Zen philosophy via printed text or multimedia.

Teacher materials needed:
iPod Technology (to play multimedia)
• slippers
• traditional Japanese music, “Tanifuji”, downloaded from
• globe
• world map
• approximately 12 Chinese characters, laminated, 3” x 3”
• masking tape
• teacher-made Power Point presentation which includes images on world map highlighting continent of Asia and Japan, capital, Mt. Fuji, flag, weather/climate, population as compared to U.S., the yen
• television
• video on Japanese landscape artist, Utagawa Hiroshige from
• images by Katsushika Hokusai including The Great Wave and Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji
• student unit journals with first page containing a blank map of Asia and Japan

Large paper for KWL charts
rocks, gravel, or sand
cake pan
Miniature rakes
Japanese art-sculptures, pictures, paintings,
Pictures of Japanese Zen gardens uploaded into an ipod to present.
Pictures of Japanese and Western art uploaded into the ipod.

Various cultural objects/depictions of Japanese culture
Japanese music

General Teacher Resources: -info on Andy Goldsworthy and earth art movement –information on Japan –quick video introduction to Japan -Japan National Tourist Organization article on the concept of Zen
various images of the art work of Andy Goldsworthy and a variety of Japanese Zen Rock Gardens

Student materials needed:
colored pencils
Japanese culture checklist graphic erganizer
Student journal
Pencil and eraser
Rocks, gravel, or sand
Small cake size pans, containers or boxes
Miniature rakes
perimeter handout

Unit vocabulary: Asia, Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Tsukiyama, Karesansui, Chaniwa, Zen, natural, culture, simplicity, Iki, Japan, Eastern, Western, Andy Goldsworthy, Japanese Zen Rock Garden, Zen, Wisdom, Philosophy, enlightenment, fukinsei, kanso, meditation, movement sequence
Unit warm-up: Japanese music playing when students enter the classroom
Assessing Prior Knowledge: N/A

Lesson 1

Instruction (Lesson plan)
Formative assessment
Introduction and Background/ Geography and Its Influences on Japanese Art
•Teacher will use an iPod to download traditional Japanese music downloaded from and converted into an i-tune to play softly in the background as students enter the classroom.
•The teacher will enter the classroom, remove shoes, put on slippers and greet students with a bow and appropriate phrase.
Good Morning = Ohayou
Good afternoon = Konnichiwa
Students will rise, bow, and repeat greeting.
•Students will guess what those greetings mean and where they originate and finally arriving at Japan.
•Ask for student volunteers to locate Japan on a globe or world map. Students can place their guesses on a map by using a Chinese written character with a bit of masking tape on the back.
•Teacher will pose question, “By looking at the map, what could you say about Japan?” Teacher will write these on the board.
Possible answers: it’s in the ocean, it’s an island, it has water all around it
•The teacher to instruct class about Japan’s geography and facts about Japan using a teacher made PowerPoint presentation with images. These would include a world map highlighting continent of Asia and Japan, capital, Mt. Fuji, flag, weather/climate, population as compared to U.S., type of currency.
•The teacher poses a question, “After seeing that Japan is an island and surrounded by water, what could you guess about the type of landscapes their artists created?” Teachers will write these on the board.
Possible answers: landscapes might include water, ocean, mountains, etc.
•The teacher will introduce Japanese artwork by showing a short video downloaded on the teacher’s i-pod ( on the Japanese landscape painter Utagawa Hiroshige. The i-pod will be connected to the classroom television and shown to the class. The students will also view images on the artwork of Katsushika Hokusai focusing on his series, Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji and The Great Wave. The teacher will focus on the use of mountains, waves and ocean, fishing, and rice fields in the artists’ work.
•The teacher will review the main ideas of the class:
--Location in Asia, Japan, Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Pacific Ocean
--Japan is an island surrounded by water
--Main subject matter of Japanese landscapes are oceans/waves, mountains, fishing.
•The teacher will explain that students will be using a journal throughout the unit to write in following each lesson. They will be given prompts and are to record their ideas in the journals. Journals are to be completed in the classroom and not for homework. Teacher will pass out journals to students and give the students the formative assessment portion of the class (see below).
•The teacher will end class by having all students rise and repeating after the teacher, “Yo ichinichi o!” which means “Have a nice day!”.
Students will be given a journal. The first page will include a blank map of Japan and surrounding area. Students will fill the following important features on their map: Asia, Japan, Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Pacific Ocean. The students will then be given the following prompt to complete, “Looking at the Japanese landscapes, list at least three different subjects used in the Japanese artwork.” (Teacher will project video and images from Japanese landscapes and play traditional Japanese music softly during this portion.)
Accommodations for special learners
Accommodations for ESL students
Enrichment for gifted learners
ADHD – Seat students near where teacher will be working video equipment and away from distractions within the room (e,g,, heater, windows, etc). Teacher will return often to student during journaling to provide focus and to keep student on task.
equipment and away from distractions within the room (e,g,, heater, windows, etc). Teacher will return often to student during journaling to provide focus and to keep student on task. The teacher will provide a word bank within the cover of the student’s journal with high frequency words for each section of the unit along with a picture to identify each word. This section may include words such as Japan Asia continent ocean water waves island mountain Mt. Fuji Tokyo boat fishing fisherman
Research the symbolism of the cherry blossom within the Japanese life and create a collage to demonstrate your learning.

Lesson 2

Instruction (Lesson plan)
Formative assessment
Japanese Culture
•Set the scene for this class by playing traditional Japanese music from an ipod hooked up to speakers, having the students remove their shoes upon entering the room, bowing and greet the teacher in Japanese at the beginning of class.
•Using an activation strategy (see formative assessment), draw on prior knowledge of where Japan is situated geographically in the world, and how/why it affects the artwork the Japanese make.
•Tell the students that they will be learning more about Japanese culture today, and have them guess at how we are going to do that. Lead this into a short discussion on how objects or observing parts of Japanese civilization, especially artworks, can tell you a lot about its culture. Give students the definition of culture (the beliefs, social practices, and characteristics of a racial, religious, or social group; the characteristic features of everyday life shared by people in a particular place or time- as taken from and emphasize that they are looking at these pieces of Japanese civilization for clues as to what is important to them as a culture.
•Break students into six groups that will rotate among six stations. Each station should have some sort of object or media depiction of an aspect of Japanese culture (for example, a kimono, a picture of typical Japanese home, a clip of kabuki performance, a Japanese print, a picture -or live example- of ikebana, a clip of Japanese students working in their school). While rotating through each group, students will be cataloging, using a checklist graphic organizer on Japanese culture, characteristics of Japanese society that they can deduce from looking at and experiencing each station.
•When all students have rotated through each station, have them return to their seats, and as a whole class, discuss what qualities came up often on their handout (maybe incorporate a graph that summarizes their answers). Lead this into the concept of the main element of Japanese culture they are to focus on in this unit which is the simplicity in Japanese culture, touching upon the aesthetic of Iki.
•Towards the end of the class time, have students work on a writing prompt in their journals- the prompt should have students reflecting upon their experience of Japanese culture that day, for example, what was the most important idea you learned today or what themes are most important in Japanese culture.
Activating Prior Knowledge Strategy- At the front of the room, have the sentence “Last class we studied the country of _1 which is a part of the continent of _2_. This country is an _3 which affects the how and why they make their 4 the way they do.” Also, ask the students to add a fact of their own about Japan. Have students work independently on filling in the blanks for 2 minutes, then review the answers as a class.

Japanese culture checklist graphic organizer handout

Journal entry- Students will reflect on what they have discovered/learned about Japanese culture in class. This can be facilitated by a supplying the students with a prompt.
Accommodations for special learners
Accommodations for ESL students
Enrichment for gifted learners
-Use of multi-media to teach the concept
-Instruction broken down into smaller chunks
-Checklist worksheet can be highlighted and made into sections for each station- makes for easier concentration on evaluating what is at that station.
-Stress to the class the importance of keeping a quiet atmosphere, so all students can concentrate
-Monitor students progress.
-Modify Japanese culture graphic organizer checklist (provide little icons beside each phrase to depict what it means)
-Allow students extra time at each station
-Journaling can be done with visuals as well as words; also, a word back with corresponding pictures of common vocabulary and words can be given to students.
Talk with students about the word "simple." What do they think of when they hear the word "simple?" If an artwork is simple, what would it look like? Take one object from the station rotation and have the students discuss what makes this artwork simple. Pose to them the question, “After looking at this Japanese object, could you say if simplicity important to Japanese culture?” and have the students justify why it is.

Give students a traditional folk tale from Japan and have them find examples of how simplicity is used in the story by the author.

Lesson 3

Instruction (Lesson plan)
Formative assessment
Earth Art: East Meets West Meets Child
Students will gain an awareness and appreciation of nature in art using earth art by Andy Goldsworthy representing a Western perspective and Japanese Zen Rock Gardens representing an Eastern perspective.
-As students enter the room, continue the Japanese tradition of removing shoes, bowing, and exchanging greetings in Japanese. Japanese music is playing. Work from the Western artist Andy Goldsworthy and images of Japanese Zen Rock Gardens are visible. Students do a quick write in response to an open-ended prompt about wisdom such as “What is wisdom?” or “Tell about a wise person you know”. Share briefly leading into a discussion on the value of wisdom in Japanese culture. Explain that the Japanese philosophy named Zen, comes from among other things, the way in which wisdom was valued in ancient Japanese culture. Draw connections between concepts already familiar to children such as focus, concentration or the practice of meditation to Zen philosophy and practice. Lead into a discussion of the Zen principles of asymmetry (fukinsei) and simplicity (kanso).
-Students will look at the art work of Andy Goldsworthy and the images of Zen Rock Gardens. Identify examples of fukinsei, then kanso. Notice what stands out, discuss, clarify, compare. Introduce more images and identify common elements across both bodies of work. (Could use a graphic organizer for this).
-Briefly contrast the similarities noted within both groups of art work with their Western and Eastern origins.

-Further children’s awareness of Zen concepts presented through movement. Clear a space in the classroom if possible and have students stand and focus on an Andy Goldsworthy image and make a shape reflecting an aspect of that artwork with their body. Hold the pose. Repeat with the Japanese Zen Rock Garden images.
Dance phrase/movement sequence: Divide students into groups of three. Their task is to teach each other one of the shapes/poses they created. Once they have learned each other's shapes, the group task will then be to connect the three shapes by creating a Zen-like transition movement. Please note: students will need to identify their own sound or other symbol to cue each other as to when to begin, move in Zen flow, pose in given shapes and when to end. Can be performed with or without Japanese music. They will perform their movement sequences in class.

In their journals, students will be asked to provide a title for their movement phrase and write in response to the work they created.
Accommodations for special learners
Accommodations for ESL students
Enrichment for gifted learners
ADHD-Teacher would be in close proximity during the movement portion and assign a more restricted space (eg, toward corner or wall area of classroom)
During journal portion, teacher would provide student with a visual word bank for use in their writing.
Include a solo within the group piece.

Lesson 4

Instruction (Lesson plan)
Formative assessment
Karesansui-Japanese Zen Rock Garden
Introduction: Teacher will review the ideal iki/simplicity of Japan by using the ipod to show art from different cultures and 10 items from Japan. The students will determine which items are from Japan. The teacher will review the items with the students.

The class will complete a KWL chart about Zen gardens. At the end of each day, the students will add information to the chart.

Discuss different types of gardens: flowers, vegetable, sculpture, and rock.

Show pictures of elaborate and simple gardens. Students will work with a peer and compare and contrast the gardens using a Venn diagram.

Students will reflect in their journals about gardens.

Review Zen’s philosophy of simplicity in art and its application to their gardens.

Discuss the three types of Zen gardens-Tsukiyama-hill garden, Karesansui-dry garden, Chaniwa-tea garden. Use an ipod to show the following gardens to the class: Ryogen-in, Nanzen-ji, Daisen-in, Tenju-in, Kaju-ji, Katsura, Chishaku-in, and Gosho. The students will classify the following Japanese Zen gardens into the three types.

Day 2

Students will explain in their journal about the way they would feel if they received a rock for their birthday.

Explain the value of rocks in Japanese gardens-some are passed down through generations. How do they look at them differently? Discuss American items which are passed down through generations. Write a reflection of items valued in our society and compare this to those valued by the Japanese.

Model the placement of rocks and the effect on a Zen garden. What happens when the rocks are moved? How does it change the view? Turn down the lights in the room. What is the effect on the view of the garden? The students will practice moving the rocks to different locations in the garden.

Discuss how location, time, season, or space changes the view of the garden.

Model a variety of patterns in the sand or gravel. Ask students to identify what the pattern represents. Discuss the impact of the environment plays a role in the design of the sand. Students can practice making patterns in the sand. Review patterns in the sand and what it represents to the student.

Pass out the rubric for grading a Zen garden.
Assign the students to bring in items to include in the Zen garden. Remind the student the garden needs to reflect the Zen’s philosophy of simplicity and include items that would be used in a Zen garden. The students will complete a handout of various Japanese Zen Rock Gardens from Sanzen-in in which they have to calculate the perimeter of the gardens. They will also calculate the perimeter of their own original garden. The students will sketch a plan for the design of their Zen garden.

The students will complete additional information on the KWL chart.

Day 3
Pass out the materials on Zen gardens.

The students will measure the sand or gravel and place it in their container.

Reflecting on the Zen philosophy, the students will creatively place their selected objects in their garden focusing on simplicity and symmetry.

Using the rake, the students will create designs in the gravel. Discuss how the Zen garden is a constantly changing work of art.

Pass out the reflection handout. The students will evaluate their gardens by answering the questions and use the handout as a springboard to a written Zen garden summary. The handout will include the following guided questions:

List the items you selected to include in your Japanese Zen garden.
Explain the significance of each item you selected to include in Japanese Zen garden.
What is the arrangement of the items in your Japanese Zen garden?
What does the pattern(s) in your Japanese Zen rock garden mean to you?

Review the rubric for Zen Garden.

Assign the students compose a written summary which includes the questions from the handout. Remind students to reflect on their rubrics as they write their summary.

Design a Japanese Zen rock garden focusing on simplicity and environment, to be created in a community setting.
Teacher will collect and review the perimeter worksheets from each student. The journal will be checked daily to determine understanding of concepts.
Accommodations for special learners
Accommodations for ESL students
Enrichment for gifted learners
Student seated close to teacher with limited extraneous stimuli such as sound reverb from walls, hallway, window, and heater.
Clear and specific directions/patterns written down for the student.
Extra time for written summary.
Word bank will be provided.
Extra space between lines for written assignment.
Multi-ability grouping for project.
Directions repeated and written down for student to review.
Student repeat directions.
Sight word dictionary.
Provide labeled object for items used in class.
Handouts provided with pictures used for main symbols and ideas.
Word bank with pictures.
Directions repeated slowly.
Student repeat directions or words to teacher.
Students will complete a scale drawing of their Zen garden.
Students will design the Zen garden to be used in a specific environmental space.
Students will defend their design and explain the interrelationship of the influence of Zen garden, environment, and the role it played in the design of the garden.


Below Basic
Descriptive Written Text
The descriptive text about the Japanese Zen garden profoundly connects to the idea of simplicity in Zen philosophy.
The descriptive text about the Japanese Zen garden relates to the idea of simplicity in Zen philosophy.
The descriptive text about their Japanese Zen garden includes limited reference to the simplicity of Zen philosophy.
The descriptive text about the Japanese Zen garden makes no reference to the simplicity of Zen philosophy.
Student Japanese Zen Garden
•Simplistic pattern in the sand that continues through garden and is representative of the waters surrounding Japan.
•Rocks are arranged asymmetrically according to Zen principles.
•Simplistic pattern in the sand that continues through garden.
•Odd number of rocks grouped in an asymmetrical design
•Minimal attempt made to create a pattern in the sand that does not continue through garden.
•Rocks grouped in a random design.
•No attempt made to create a pattern in the sand.
•Rocks are placed without thought.
Student Journal
The Japanese culture unit journal contains in-depth reflections and illustrations on the topics assigned in class.
The Japanese culture unit journal contains accurate reflections and illustrations on the topics assigned in class.
The Japanese culture unit journal contains some of the reflections and illustrations on the topics assigned in class.
The Japanese culture unit journal contains little or no reflections on the topics assigned in class.

Unit accommodations for students not proficient on summative task: (Remediation) Work with a buddy who has successfully completed a Japanese Zen Rock Garden to improve their design and reconstruct their garden.

Clear and specific directions.
Seat student close to teacher and away from distracting stimuli.
Maintain a quiet learning environment
Chunking instruction
Unit enrichments: The students will be given a Western art form and reconstruct it to reflect Japanese culture (American Gothic, etc.).
Create a Venn diagram to compare and contrast two student gardens.
Read a traditional Japanese folktale and try to find examples of the author's use of simplicity, Iki or Zen philosophy.
Compare an American vegetable garden to a Japanese Zen Rock Garden.