This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable
Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Creating Scrolls Based on the illustrated TALE OF GENJI
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for teachers is divided into three sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extensions -- Additional Activities


Media Components

Preview and bookmark the following websites:

Computer Resources:
  • Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above
  • Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MB of RAM
  • PC computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MB of RAM, running
  • Windows3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 95
  • Scanner (optional)
Specific Software Needed:

Adobe PhotoShop, Dreamweaver or BBedit (for Mac), or Homesite or Front Page (for PC), or other word processing program to code Web pages in html.

Students would need the following supplies:
  • Good quality paper for final hanging scrolls (We suggest Somerset, Rives - something thick enough that students can re-work it) cut down to the printing size of your available ink-jet printer(s), (11X17, 8 1/2 x11)
  • Pastels, charcoal, gesso, paint
  • Adobe PhotoShop
  • Color Inkjet Printer(s)
  • Scanner
  • Mixed media collage materials such as newspaper and magazine clippings



Asian Art Sites


Introductory Activity:
(Half a class period)

  • Ask students to bring in their favorite comic books. Circulate the comic books around the classroom and then ask students:

    • What are all the different elements that the artists use to tell their stories?
    • What do these stories and images tell us about the cultures that the comic books came from?

  • Inform students that although the tradition of storytelling through pictures spans time and location, each example conveys something about the culture that it came from. For the next few days, the class will look at how Japanese artists used images and words to tell stories about their own culture by recording them in scroll paintings. After looking at an example of a painting, students will be asked to create their own scroll paintings, similar to the Japanese scroll. The project will culminate with an online exhibition.

    Learning Activities:

    Day 1
  • Tell students that they will begin looking at a famous Japanese story: the TALE OF GENJI written by Lady Murasaki in the beginning of the 11th century. Although the tale has been conveyed in a variety of media over the centuries, the class will focus on a particularly exceptional example of the story as conveyed in a hand painted scroll dating from the Japanese Edo period.

    The first step will be to have students learn about this literary work and its importance in Japanese culture and art. Begin by dividing students into groups of two or three. Give the groups 20 minutes to answer the following questions using the bookmared Web sites about the TALE OF GENJI.

    • Who is the author of the TALE OF GENJI?
    • When was it written?
    • Who was Genji?
    • Why is the TALE OF GENJI important in Japanese art and culture?
    • What are some of the themes addressed in the TALE OF GENJI?
    • Name four characters from the TALE OF GENJI.

    Bring the class together to discuss what they found.

  • Next, prepare students to view images from illustrated scrolls of the TALE OF GENJI by asking them to speculate on the types of things they expect to see in the scrolls. Then ask students to go Dartmouth's THE TALE OF GENJI Web site and enlarge the first image by clicking on it. While viewing the image ask the class:
    • What do you think is happening in this scene?
    • What is the mood?
    • What are the formal elements you observe? For example, comment on the artist's use of lines, perspective, and color.
    • What is the relation of objects/people to one another?

    After discussing the first screen with the class as a whole, have students continue through the remaining screens in groups of two or three. Allow for 15 minutes to review and answer questions about the remaining scrolls.

  • When the groups finish their viewing, bring the entire class back together to discuss their findings. Direct the conversation to address these questions:
    • What class(es) of people do you think are being represented?
    • What clues are you given about the social status of the people? (Remind them that Genji is a prince, if necessary.)

    After discussing the content, direct students' attention towards formal elements of the scrolls. Tell students that they should pay close attention to these qualities because they will be asked to replicate these techniques in their own scrolls. It may help to list students' observations on the artist's use of lines, perspective, color and other formal elements directly onto photocopies of the scroll. These style guides can then be posted in the classroom and referred to when students begin their scroll project.

    Day 2
  • As a review, have students read the supplement to the scrolls that they viewed in the previous class. To focus their reading, give them these questions to answer:

    • How is the style of the hand scrolls described here?
    • What is a "monoscenic narrative"?

    When students have completed this task, bring the class back together to discuss their responses. As you discuss the definition of a monoscenic narrative, tell students that the scroll they create as a final project will also be a monoscenic narrative. Add the definition to the style guide.

  • Re-introduce the idea of aristocracy as represented in the TALE OF GENJI scroll. Brainstorm with all students to develop a strong definition of "aristocracy." Then discuss who might be considered aristocratic in contemporary society. Students' answers might include:

    • Politicians
    • Celebrities
    • Professional athletes
    • Wealthy people (ex. Bill Gates)

    Culminating Activity/Assessment:
    (Several class periods - depending on skill level of students)

  • Ask students groups to begin work on the culminating activity: creating an updated version of the TALE OF GENJI scrolls featuring monscenic narratives of modern-day aristocrats.

    One way to achieve this is the following:
    • Have each group write down the name of their chosen aristocrat on a piece of paper.

    • Collect the pieces of paper and redistribute them at random. The name each group receives will be their second aristocrat.

    • Each group's scene will feature (at least) their chosen aristocrat in the principal role and their second aristocrat in a supporting role or cameo.

    • At the very end of the project, the scenes will be arranged so that the second aristocrat in one scene plays the principal role in the ensuing scene.

    Each group writes a brief story featuring their aristocratic characters. Then each student should choose one scene from their story to develop into their own scroll.

  • Ask each student to create a thumbnail sketch of the scene and share with their group members for feedback.

  • Once individual students finalize their preliminary design they should begin work on their scrolls. Begin by distributing and reviewing the Guidelines for Art Project. Once students are clear about the parameters of the project, they may begin work.

  • Once the scrolls are completed, have students mount their work on the walls for a group critique. Begin by reviewing the TALE OF GENJI scrolls and its success in conveying a meaningful idea. Then lay the ground rules for critiquing by distributing and reviewing the Rules for Critiquing organizer. If you have a large class you may wish to do a few critiques with the entire class to demonstrate how critiquing should be handled, then break into groups for the rest of the critiques.

  • Allow for some revision time after critiques, and then once projects are final, have students scan their work into Photoshop and post onto a class Web site. You may wish to design digital exhibition inivitations that direct people to the Web pages. Send the email out to all friends, colleagues, students, and community members.


    • If the resources are available, the class could animate their scrolls after they're posted, using a program such as Macromedia Dreamweaver or Flash.

    Cross-Curricular Extensions:

    • Drama - Have students put on a play version of the TALE OF GENJI.
    • Social Studies - Have students compare and contrast Japanese culture of the Edo period to Western countries during the Modern Age.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students