Ms Frizzle's Adventures in Imperial China

First Time Notebooking – Ancient China

Ancient china notebooking for homeschool

I’m excited that our study of ancient world history has brought us to China, which I know next to nothing about.  I love learning alongside the children!


This is an area you could easily dive into very deeply; there is a wealth of resources out there (for example, Jimmie’s Squidoo lens).  But we’re passing through Ancient China fairly quickly this time so we kept things simple. (I want to make sure we make it to Ancient Rome before our Rome vacation in July!)

I like knowing that, because we are following  classical four year history cycles, we’ll revisit this time period again before too long, and we can spend more time on Ancient China next time around if we want to.

The Story of the World

We read aloud chapters 10 and 32 of SOTW.

Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures – Imperial China

Ms Frizzle's Adventures in Imperial ChinaWe love the Magic School Bus series and these spin-off “Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures” history/geography books are great too.  Imperial China is a fun story with lots of sidebars about Chinese inventions and customs.

Find Out About Early China

I picked up Find Out About Early China on our public library shelves.  It’s a textbook (rather than a living book) so I haven’t read it aloud from cover to cover, but it’s nicely illustrated and has information about the key areas. We referred to it when we wanted to find out more about the clay soldiers (“terracotta army”) that were buried with China’s first emperor, for example.


This was our first time notebooking!  Before we started, C and I watched Debra Reed’s video instructions on her Notebooking Pages  website (“Our Notebooking Story”, front page).  This fired up C with enthusiasm and helped her understand the purpose and process of notebooking much better than if I had tried to explain it to her!

These are the steps we followed to make our notebooking pages:

1.  Read aloud, narrate

Chapter 32 of SOTW covers several topics relating to Ancient China.  We discussed each topic (narration style, as usual)  after I read the relevant section aloud.

Ancient China notebooking at navigatingbyjoy

2. Elicit keywords

Ancient China notebooking at navigatingbyjoy homeschool blogAfter C and J had narrated each section, I elicited from them a few  keywords, using  “Who?” “What” “How?” type prompts, and wrote the words on our whiteboards. We don’t normally do this step; it was a great way of highlighting names and key facts.

2.  Choose a notebook topic

After we’d read the whole chapter, I asked C and J what aspect of Ancient China they wanted their respective notebook pages to be about. C chose to write about the Great Wall, and J wanted his page to be about the First Emperor’s tomb (I think it was the automatic crossbows that did it).

3.  Choose and create a notebook page

C and J each selected a notebook page from .  I printed off the template and C enthusiastically hurried off to a quiet room to write her page.  Meanwhile  J dictated a couple of sentences for me to write, then added a drawing (an automatic crossbow, of course). C illustrated her page with a photocopied a map of the Great Wall from Find Out About Ancient China and some hand-drawn graphics in Ancient Chinese colours.

Notebooking page on Ancient China
C’s Notebook Page on The Great Wall of China
Notebook page: First Emperor's Grave, Ancient China
J’s Notebook Page about the First Emperor’s Tomb

Verdict on notebooking

Our first time notebooking was a great success!  The biggest surprise for me was how notebooking gave the children real ownership of their learning.  I hadn’t anticipated how much C and J would enjoy selecting topics for their pages, and C (being older) also really liked being able to select the template and how to illustrate it.

I’m always looking for the children’s input as to what they want to learn and how they want to learn it, but often they don’t know what they want to learn. Notebooking gives them choices that are sufficiently structured so as not to be overwhelming. As they mature, I think notebooking will be a useful tool in helping them on their paths to becoming independent learners.

C’s verdict: “I love notebooking! Can we do it again tomorrow?” 🙂

Extra Goodies

For much more about notebooking, have a look at Jimmie’s excellent Notebooking Exhibit lens and her website The Notebooking Fairy, which has stacks of free notebooking pages.

More Posts About China

Chinese New Year Homeschool ProjectChinese New Year Mini-Project





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7 thoughts on “First Time Notebooking – Ancient China

    1. Go for it! It’s something I’d been thinking about for so long, and when we got around to trying it, it was much simpler than I’d thought 🙂

  1. Those notebooking pages look great! I have always wanted to study Eastern Civilization with my kids- you have just given me inspiration!

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