Arts of Asia in Reach
Gyotaku Lesson Plan
1. Lesson Overview

A Lesson for Eastwood Open Room, Students Ages 5 to 8, Grades 1 & 2
Designed by Loren Fawcett, Education Assistant, Allen Memorial Art Museum


Gyotaku (guh-yo-tah-koo) is the Japanese art of fish painting. It was developed more than a century ago as a fisherman's method of recording the size and species of his catch. Freshly caught fish were painted with a non-toxic ink, and covered with a piece of rice paper. The paper was then carefully smoothed down, and removed to make an exact size copy of the fish. Once the print was completed, the fish could be washed and prepared for a meal. By using this technique, Japanese fishermen were able to both record and eat their catch.

Since its functional beginning, Gyotaku has become an art form. Prints are no longer just plain black ink outlines, but colorful reproductions of the original species. Gyotaku art has been displayed at museums around the world.

Haiku is a form of poetry that developed in Japan from about 400 years ago. The style reached a peak in the first half of the Edo period (1603-1868), when a poet named Matsuo Basho wrote verses during his journeys around the country describing the seasons and the scenery of the places he visited.

In the Meiji period (1868-1912) haiku developed as a uniquely Japanese form of poetry under the influence of another poet, Masaoka Shiki. Shiki promoted a new form of haiku that emphasized realistic portrayals of nature and human life.

A haiku is a short verse of 17 syllables, divided into units of five, seven, and five syllables. Haiku use simple expressions to convey deeply felt emotions and a sense of discovery to the reader. As a rule, a haiku must have a word that is identified with a particular season.

  1. Students will learn to look long and carefully as they create exact replicas of fish. Students will familiarize themselves with the printing process of Gyotaku.
  2. Students will learn about the history and culture of the Japanese fisherman at the end of the Edo period.
  3. Students will learn how to use printing materials properly.
  4. Students will practice writing haiku and understand syllables and pattern in poetry.
  5. Students will select one final print on which to write their haiku and display.

Academic Content Standards

  1. National Council for Social Studies
    • Culture People Places and Environment
    • Individual Development and Identity

  2. National Arts Standards
    • NA-VA.K-4.1 Standard #1: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes
    • NA-VA.K-4.3 Standard #3: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas
    • NA-VA.K-4.4 Standard #4: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures

  3. National Science Education Standards
    • Characteristics of organisms
    • Organisms and environments

Ohio State Standards
  1. Visual Arts
    • Benchmark 1A: Recognize and describe visual art forms and artworks from various times and places.
    • Benchmark 1C: Identify and describe the different purposes people have for creating works of art
    • Benchmark 2A:Demonstrate knowledge of visual art materials, tools, techniques and processes by using them expressively and skillfully.
    • Benchmark 3B: Apply comprehension strategies (e.g., personal experience, art knowledge, emotion, and perceptual and reasoning skills) to respond to a range of visual artworks.
    • Benchmark 4A: Apply basic reasoning skills to understand why works of art are made and valued.
    • Benchmark 5A: Demonstrate the relationship the visual arts share with other arts disciplines as meaningful forms of nonverbal communication. (Use visual art materials to express an idea from a song, poem, play, or story.)
    • Benchmark 5B: Use the visual arts as a means to understand concepts and topics studied in disciplines outside the arts.

  2. Language Arts
    • Distinguish between stories, poems, plays, fairy tales and fables.
    • Develop a main idea for writing.
    • Rewrite and illustrate writing samples for display and for sharing with others.
    • Produce informal writings (e.g., messages, journals, notes and poems) for various purposes.
    • Print legibly, and space letters, words and sentences appropriately.
    • Use active listening strategies, such as making eye contact and asking for clarification and explanation.

  3. Social Studies
    • Use historical artifacts, photographs, biographies, maps, diaries and folklore to answer questions about daily life in the past.
    • Identify and describe examples of how science and technology have changed the daily lives of people and compare (prints were used by fishermen before photography was invented)
    • Describe the cultural practices and products of people on different continents.
    • Describe ways in which language, stories, folk tales, music and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence the behavior of people living in a particular culture.
    • Demonstrate skills and explain the benefits of cooperation when working in group settings
    • Demonstrate self-direction in tasks within the school community
    • Obtain information from oral, visual and print sources.

  4. Science
    • Identify that there are many distinct environments that support different kinds of organisms.
    • Investigate the different structures of plants and animals that help them live in different environments (e.g. gills).

  5. Math
    • Extend simple number patterns (both repeating and growing patterns), and create similar patterns using different objects, such as using physical materials or shapes to represent numerical patterns. (haiku syllables/lines)

  6. Music
    • Benchmark B: Identify and respond to music of historical and cultural origins.
    • Benchmark A:Explain ways that music interrelates with other arts disciplines and with various disciplines outside the arts.


The Japanese art of printing fish.

Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry; often centered around nature and natural things in the universe. The pattern for Haiku is the following:
Line 1: 5 syllables;
Line 2: 7 syllables;
Line 3: 5 syllables

Continue to: 2. Lesson Materials