Japanese Art Lesson Plan

Instructor: Bret Sikkink

Bret has a Master's degree in Education and taught Economics for college credit in Mexico for six years.

In this lesson, students will learn about some key historical types of Japanese art. They will express their learning by creating their own artwork using the themes and forms discussed in the lesson.

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify factors that influenced Japanese art over time
  • Explain three major forms of Japanese art, including ceramics, painting, and woodblock prints
  • Identify themes and subjects common in Japanese art


30-60 minutes

For a shorter lesson, give less time for students to create their artwork.

Curriculum Standards


Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.


Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.


Introduce Japanese Art

Begin the lesson by providing students with a note-taking template or asking them to create one on their own sheet of paper. The template should create three columns on a notebook-sized piece of paper held in landscape (horizontal) orientation. At the top of the three columns, write the phrases 'What I Noticed', 'Key Details', and 'Questions'.

What I Noticed

Tell students that they will be using the first column, 'What I Noticed'. You will be presenting students with a series of examples of Japanese art with no additional context or preface. You can search online for a slideshow of Japanese art, create your own, or simply show the five images present in the lesson Japanese Art: Types & Styles.

Instruct students to make 2-3 notes in their column about what they notice from looking at examples of Japanese art while they are viewing the slideshow. You may give them a moment after the slideshow to finish their thoughts. If students are having trouble with this, ask them to write down examples of subjects that they see, such as people, animals, plants, objects, etc.

Before moving on to the next column, ask the class to share some examples of what they saw. Try to elicit certain themes illustrated in the lesson, such as the influence of Chinese art, themes of nature, daily life, palaces, and a variety of human figures.

If you have extra time, follow up with some open-ended questions about what they notice in Japanese art. You could use some of the following prompts to guide students to think about art.

  • What do you notice about the forms the art takes? (Screens, woodcuts, different sculptural media, etc.)
  • Why do you think there are different forms of Japanese art?
  • Why do you think Japanese art uses some of these specific forms?
  • What might have influenced Japanese artists in their choice of subjects and forms? (Look for answers like religion, political life, social norms and customs, technology in daily life)

Key Details and Questions

Next, we will use the provided lesson Japanese Art: Types & Styles to fill out the Key Details column.

Instruct students to read the lesson, either individually or out loud with a partner depending on your students' reading levels. As they read, students should fill most of their Key Detail column with information about the three forms of Japanese art discussed in the lesson. If your students need more scaffolding, provide defined spaces for each of the forms of art: Ceramics and Sculpture, Painting, and Woodblock Prints. Remind them that bolded terms are typically key details to be assessed later.

If possible, allow students to look up additional sources of information online at this time. Ask them to find additional examples on their computer or device of each type of art, and use the additional examples to fill in more notes in the What I Noticed and Key Details columns.

As they read through the lesson, have students make a note of any questions they have about Japanese art. Walk around the room while they are working on the lesson. If students need help generating questions, model some simple examples that they can use, such as 'Why do Japanese artists feature so many birds?' or 'Why did the Japanese carve wooden blocks for art?'

Partner Up and Discuss

After your class has had enough time to generate information and key details using the lesson, have them partner up (or make groups of four if they were reading with partners).

Ask students to stay on task with their partner as they discuss their notes in the Key Details column. They will not need much time to discuss their details, but give them time so they may add details noticed by their partner if they have enough space left. Ask them to make sure that their partners have all the bold terms from the reading; you should also be walking throughout the classroom ensuring that they are identifying the correct terminology and details. The Vocabulary section below lists the bolded terms from the lesson and a basic definition. These are the terms you should be looking for on your students' papers.

If you have enough time, ask several partnerships to share one key detail that they wrote down from the lesson.

As they finish sharing details, have students see if they can answer each other's questions about Japanese art, or if they too share their partner's question. Have each partnership decide on their 'favorite question', and they can decide what that means, and ask one person from each group to write their favorite question on a whiteboard or projector where everyone can see it.

Depending on time and your comfort in leading a discussion, you or the students can use the list of generated questions to discuss key details observed by the class about Japanese art. This is a great opportunity to talk about similarities and differences in what the class had questions about as well as answering the particular questions.

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