In October I went to Jayden’s school and did a lesson on some Canadian art – the Haida Totem Pole. I’m not an expert to begin with, and I definitely don’t know that particular vocabulary set in Chinese so I relied a lot on visuals.

First I showed them our collection of totem poles. Jayden was thrilled to be my little helper.

Totem Pole Collection

I also presented a picture I printed from the internet that clearly showed that totem poles were much larger than the “toys” I had brought in. They were quite impressed with the height of the poles.

To introduce the specific style of art being presented, we played a little guessing game. I showed an example animal and they guessed what it was. It didn’t matter if the guesses were correct or not. Then we examined the pictures more carefully and discovered what kinds of shapes were mainly used… oval and “U” shapes. The children were very proud to be able to identify the English U. Each one had a chance to come up to the white board and try to draw the featured shapes.


After the white board fun, we had a group discussion about what the different animals represented and that each pole told a different story. We learnt a few distinguishing features of different animals, such as the beaver has big teeth and the bear always sticks out his tongue. Finally we used a handout from the Family Education Network entitled “Make Your Own Totem Pole” for a quick craft. The kids colored it in and cut out the shapes and glued them to a paper tube.


I have a few rubber stamps that I left at the school for a while and they used them later on to create placemats. We also gave them a tiny totem pole as a gift for their international center. Hopefully they’ll be inspired to create their own version of Haida style artwork.