Museum Hours
Thu: 1 PM–8 PM
Fri–Mon: 10 AM–5 PM
Tue–Wed: Closed
200 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Artful Storytelling (lesson)


Students gain an appreciation and understanding of art and culture, and build language skills by reading; developing scripts; making choices about gesture, voice, and expression; and performing traditional stories alongside art objects in the Asian Art Museum’s collection galleries.

Duration: One class period over the course of 1 week

Common Core Standards: W 6-12. 4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Content Standards (California): VPA/T 6.2: Participate in improvisational activities, demonstrating an understanding of text, subtext, and context.

Materials: Internet access; pencils and paper; props to enhance storytelling


  1. Have students explore Asian | Education or go to their local libraries to gather traditional stories from the culture you are studying.
  2. Have students read the stories, note the key events, and write a summary of a story in their own words.
    • Divide the story (in English) into 4 or 5 sections.
    • Have students form groups of 4 or 5. Give each student of each group a section of the story.
    • Have the students read their sections and ask each group to organize the sections into their proper sequences.
    • Have students write a summary of the story in their own words.
    • Optional: Students translate the story into Mandarin or another language.
      Then, have the groups choose an art object from Asian | Education that relates to their story.
  3. Next, each student should write one sentence describing the artwork and one sentence explaining how the artwork relates to the story.
  4. The students should then practice telling their stories to their peers. (Before they do so, emphasize the importance of storytellers using descriptive language, relevant gestures, and eye contact to make a connection with their audience.)
  5. Next, each student should gather feedback and revise their stories and performance.
  6. Lastly, have each student perform his or her stories at the Asian Art Museum or another local museum, to a partner class, or to other students in their own class.

Tips for Teaching and Differentiating Instruction:

  • Provide key words and phrases in the target language.
  • Conduct class discussions to break down and identify meanings of key phrases.
  • Share stories many times to make them clear, exciting, and easy to understand when presented.
  • Provide different versions of each story in the target language. Compare and contrast the versions.

This lesson was developed as part of the Mandarin Storytelling Project. The World Languages department of the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and the Asian Art Museum designed and piloted the Mandarin Storytelling Project. Participating students learned traditional stories from China, translated their stories into Mandarin, and performed their stories to other students alongside artwork at the museum. Written by Ching-fen Huang, teacher, Washington High School, SFUSD; and Caren Gutierrez, school programs coordinator, Asian Art Museum, April 2010.