Japanese Notan Lesson Plan

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

As you teach your class about Japanese art, consider using this lesson to introduce the notan style of art. In this lesson, students will compare notan to other styles of art and create a notan painting and notan-inspired kirigami snowflake.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • define notan
  • describe the characteristics and history of notan
  • create a piece of art using the concepts of notan


1-1.5 hours


  • Copies of text lesson and quiz
  • Picture of a yin and yang
  • Examples of artwork not using the notan style of art (i.e. The Mona Lisa, Water Lillies, etc.)
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Plain paper (for watercolor, ink, or paint)
  • Construction paper
  • Paint (watercolor and or acrylic)
  • Silk fabric (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Curriculum Standards

Please note that each state has different standards for art. Please consult your state's standards to ensure proper alignment.


  • Hold up a picture of a yin and yang. Ask the class to identify what it is.
  • Tell students that the yin and yang is an example of the style of Japanese art they will be studying today.
  • Provide students with copies of the text lesson Japanese Notan: Artists, History, and Designs. Read through the first two sections of the lesson, 'What is Notan?' and 'History and Examples of Notan,' as a class.
  • Discuss the following questions with the class:
    • What elements of art does notan focus on?
    • Why is the yin and yang an example of notan?
    • How do the paintings pictured in the lesson show elements of the notan style of art?
  • Have students compare and contrast notan art with other famous paintings.
    • Divide the class into small groups. Provide each group with chart paper and markers.
    • Give each group a picture of a painting that does not use the notan style of art.
    • Have students compare and contrast this painting with the other notan art examples shown in the lesson by creating a Venn diagram on the chart paper.
    • When finished, have each group present their charts to the class.
  • Have students reading the final sections of the text lesson. Discuss the following questions with the students.
    • What historic event led to notan becoming popular in the Western world?
    • How is kirigami related to and/or an example of notan?
    • How did Arthur Wesley Dow contribute to spreading the idea of notan in America and the academic world?
  • Have students complete the lesson quiz either online or using paper copies.


Have students choose one or both of the following activities to create a piece of art related to Japanese notan.

Notan Paintings

  • Provide each student with plain paper and access to construction paper, paint, scissors, and glue.
  • Have students create notan-inspired art using the materials.
  • Encourage students to think about how they can use paint and cut paper to explore the concept of dark and light in the composition of their art.
  • When students are finished, have them share their artwork with the class and discuss how it reflects the notan art style.
  • Optional: If possible, provide students with pieces of silk to create their notan art on. This will provide a different texture and mimic how notan art was often created on silk screens.

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