Ancient China‎ > ‎

Invention Timeline

Name: Megan Wallis and Katy McGillin

Subject/Grade: World History/ 10th grade

Topic/ Title: Ancient Chinese Inventions and European adoption

Essential QuestionWhy did European society fail to credit Chinese inventors for their inventions, instead giving recognition to fellow Europeans? What are some causes for the time difference between invention in China and adoption to European society? 

Sunshine State Standards Addressed:

Ø SS.912.W.1.1: Use timelines to establish cause and effect relationships of historical events.

Ø SS.912.W.1.5: Compare conflicting interpretations or schools of thought about world events and individual contributions to history (historiography).

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

Ø Identify the specific characteristics of one Chinese invention.

Ø Construct a timeline of Chinese inventions and European adoption of those inventions.

Ø Analyze the time difference between Chinese invention and European adoption and hypothesize reasons for this difference.

Ø Identify the influence ancient Chinese inventions have of society today.

Lesson Content

The ancient Chinese invented many inventions that we still use today. Items like paper, silk, fireworks, gunpowder, compasses, animal harnesses, the iron plow, moveable type, ideas about the circulatory system of humans, the wheelbarrow, a ship rudder, and the concept of row planting were invented or discovered by the ancient Chinese as early as the 2000 BC. Yet, many of these inventions took many years, sometimes over a thousand, to be adopted and utilized by Europeans. Many times, Europeans would adopt inventions and technologies that make warfare easier at a much faster pace than those with cultural or intellectual uses only. Sometimes, Europeans would be incorrectly credited with inventing or discovering something the Chinese civilization had known about or utilized for centuries.

Instructional Methods

Ø Think-pair-share: students will use this to reflect on the anticipation guide. This allows students to formulate an idea and express it before presenting it to the entire class.

Ø Jigsaw: students become an expert on one Chinese invention and teach the rest of the class about it. The students will be exposed to more information in a shorter time period using this method.

Ø Modeling: the teacher will explicitly demonstrate how the presentation of an invention should be done. The teacher will also model filling in a timeline worksheet for students.

Student Grouping

Ø   Students will work individually initially to complete the anticipation/ reaction guide. This allows them to reflect on their own views first.

Ø   Students will work in pairs to discuss their responses and reactions to the anticipation guide. This will allow them to make their views more concrete before sharing with the class.

Ø   Students will work in groups of 2-3 students to complete Chinese invention activity. This group size will allow students to become experts on one invention and each there will be enough work for each member of the group to have a task.

Ø   Students will work as a class to discuss the anticipation/reaction guide. Students will also work as a class to discuss the findings of the Chinese invention activity. This will introduce students to a diverse set of ideas and views and allow them to think more critically on the issue.


Ø   Opening Activity: Students will complete an anticipation/reaction guide. Students will utilize think-pair- share to have a brief discussion of their answers. The teacher will do a quick scan of the true/false questions to quickly gauge cultural perceptions. The anticipation/reaction guide will consist of the following questions:

o  Most Chinese inventions were artistic or cultural, having little everyday use. T or F?

o  Where was gunpowder invented?

o  China lagged behind other cultures in development. T or F?

o  Europe has been the birthplace of all invention we use today. T or F?

Ø   Main Activity: Each group of 2-3 students will be assigned a Chinese invention. 

As they work, they will answer the following essential questions:

    • What did your invention look like? Provide a brief written description.
    • When was your this invention discovered or first utilized?
    • When did Europeans adopt this invention?
    • What is the time difference between the date of invention and European adoption?
    • Draw 2 copies of a picture of your invention including.

The students must read their text to identify this information. One at a time, groups will place their invention pictures on the timeline in the front of the classroom, one when the Chinese invented it and the other when Europeans adopted it. Students will fill in their own timelines individually as each invention in presented. After all students have presented the teacher will ask if students expected this result. The teacher will ask such questions as: Which invention took the least time for Europe to adopt? Which took the longest? Why do you think some inventions took longer?

Ø   Closing Activity: Students will reevaluate the anticipation/reaction guide. The class will discuss the change in answers that occurred. Students will complete an exit card on the way out that asks them to identify one fact they learned that surprise them and one question they might have for the teacher.


Ø   descriptions of each Chinese invention

Ø   student timeline worksheet

Ø   paper

Ø   colored pencils, crayons, and markers

Ø   large timeline to display in front of class

Ø   anticipation/reaction guide displayed somewhere in classroom


Ø Quick Scan- this method allows the teacher to quickly assess student opinion. It also provides students with a level of anonymity and privacy, as they do not need to produce a verbal response or physically identify themselves by raising their hand.

Ø Exit Cards- this method will ask students to rewrite what they have just learned. The teacher can read through the exit cards to see if any content needs to be re-taught and which students are struggling with the content.

Ø Completion- Student timelines will be collected at the end of class and graded for completion. This ensures that they have all the information presented and were on task.

Dec 6, 2009, 6:36 PM
Dec 6, 2009, 6:34 PM