As part of a study about Japanese culture and the Children's Day Festival students use a Styrofoam board and washable paint to make 3 prints of a Japanese inspired carp, and then use the prints to create a balanced hanging of 3 koinobori windsocks.


Required Time

80 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 1 to Grade 6


Language Arts
Social Studies
Visual Arts


koinobori line pattern symbolism symmetry


Crayola Washable Paint Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") - 3 pieces per student Crayola Washable No-Run Glue Crayola Scissors Tissue Paper - variety of colours Ball Point Pen - 1 per student Soft Paint Roller Plastic Tray Hole Punch Light Weight String Bamboo Skewers - 30.5 cm (12") long - 1 per student Old Magazines Newsprint or Newspaper Scratch-Foam Boards or Styrofoam Trays - 15.2 cm x 22.9 cm (6" x 9") - 1 per student

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KOINOBORI – JAPANESE WINDSOCKS – Printmaking, Pattern - Step One

Step One

  1. Cut out the koinobori template. (Downloads - KoinoboriTemplate.pdf)
  2. Place the template on the Styrofoam.
  3. Use a ball point pen to trace around the template.
  4. Remove the template.
  5. Cut out the Styrofoam shape.
KOINOBORI – JAPANESE WINDSOCKS – Printmaking, Pattern - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Fold the template in half long end to long end.
  2. View the folded paper with the crease at the bottom.
  3. Compare it to the image of the Japanese Windsock.
  4. Imagine the shape of the fish,
    - fin at the top;
    - tail at one end;
    - big open mouth at the other end.
  5. Open the paper.
  6. Divide the space into head, body and tail.
  7. Practice drawing eyes, scales and different patterns to decorate the fish.
KOINOBORI – JAPANESE WINDSOCKS – Printmaking, Pattern - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Use your practice drawing as a guide.
  2. Draw into the Styrofoam shape using a ball point pen.
  3. Add scales, details and lines to create patterns.
  4. This is your printing plate.
KOINOBORI – JAPANESE WINDSOCKS – Printmaking, Pattern - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Place the Styrofoam plate on a page of an open magazine.
  2. Pour some paint into a plastic tray. 
  3. Gently roll the soft roller into the paint to cover the roller with paint. 
  4. Roll the paint over the Styrofoam plate – this is called inking the plate.
KOINOBORI – JAPANESE WINDSOCKS – Printmaking, Pattern - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Place a piece of printing paper on a stack of newsprint.
  2. Gently lift the inked plate off the magazine page. 
  3. Place the inked Styrofoam plate face down on the printing paper.
  4. Place a piece of newsprint on top of the inked plate.
  5. Rub your hands, or a printmaking brayer, over the newsprint that is covering the Styrofoam plate.
  6. Press hard as you rub your hands over the entire plate.
  7. This will transfer the paint to the paper. 
KOINOBORI – JAPANESE WINDSOCKS – Printmaking, Pattern - Step Six

Step Six

  1. Remove the newsprint.
  2. Gently lift the Styrofoam plate off the printing paper to see your print.
  3. Place it in a safe place to dry. 
KOINOBORI – JAPANESE WINDSOCKS – Printmaking, Pattern - Step Seven

Step Seven

  1. Cut out the print.
  2. Fold the fish in half long end to long end.
  3. Place the paper with the print side facing down.
  4. Glue strips of tissue paper to the end of the tail.
  5. Apply glue to the outer edge of half the fish.
  6. Do NOT put glue along the mouth end.
KOINOBORI – JAPANESE WINDSOCKS – Printmaking, Pattern - Step Eight

Step Eight

  1. Press the sides together to glue them in place.
  2. Press the paper together at the head.
  3. Use a hole punch to punch a hole through both sides of the paper. 
KOINOBORI – JAPANESE WINDSOCKS – Printmaking, Pattern - Step Nine

Step Nine

  1. Cut a 12 cm piece of string for each fish.
  2. Thread the string through the holes on both sides of the fish.
  3. Tie the string together.
  4. Loop the string over the bamboo skewer.
  5. Space the fish out so they are balanced.
  6. Add a small drop of glue where the string and bamboo skewer meet to hold the string in place.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • create a koinobori design using line and pattern;
  • create 3 koinobori relief prints;
  • use their prints to make koinobori windsocks;
  • create a balanced hanging of 3 koinobori windsocks;
  • explain the symbolism of black, red and blue koinobori;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.


Have students:

  • work with others to research the difference between carp and koi fish using the following headings: colouration; body shape; size; fins; scales;
  • create a graphic story, puppet show or animated film inspired by their findings;
  • present their work to the class.


  1. Prior to this lesson you may want to have students use the Exploring Line lesson plan available on this website to experiment with relief printmaking using found objects. 
  2. Download and display the Repetition and Line posters  available on this website.
  3. Prior to this lesson teach about Japanese culture and the Children's Day Festival.
    - koinobori are carp-shaped windsocks or streamers usually flown high so they look as if they are swimming in the sky
    - Japanese believe the carp is a symbol of courage and determination because they are high energy, strong creatures that swim up stream against strong currents

    - koinobori are seasonal decorations used to wish good health and strength for children as part of the Children's Day Festival on May 5th
    - sets of large koinobori used to be flown above rooftops but nowadays smaller versions are set up inside the homes
    - black represents the father, red the mother and blue the child - additional children are shown in green and purple or orange
    - used to be displayed vertically on a long pole, nowadays they are hung horizontally
    - the horizontal displays can be seen all over Japan leading up the May 5th 
  4. Download an image of Japanese Windsock from the Internet.
  5. Gather and make available books about Japanese culture, for example, A Carp for Kimiko, by Virginia Kroll, and Katherine Roundtree; Japanese Children's Favorite Stories: Anniversary Edition, by Florence Sakade, and Yoshisuke Kurosaki; All About Japan: Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for Kids, by Willamarie Moore, and Kazumi Wilds; and I Live in Tokyo, by Mari Takabayashi.
  6. Have students find answers to their own questions about Japanese culture through and inquiry-based learning project. 
  7. Download and print the koinobori template - 1 per student. (Downloads - KoinoboriTemplate.pdf)
  8. Purchase Scratch-Foam soft suface printing boards or gather new Styrofoam trays - 15.2 cm x 22.9 cm (6" x 9") - 1 per student. 
  9. Create a sample.


  1. Conduct a read-aloud with a book such as A Carp for Kimiko, by Virginia Kroll, and Katherine Roundtree focussing on how traditions evolve over time.
  2. View and discuss the image of the Japanese Windsock.
    - shape
    - fins
    - tail at one end
    - big open mouth
    - colours
    - patterns and overall design
  3. View and discuss the folded template.
    - imagine the shape of the fish
    - fin at the top
    - tail at one end
    - big open mouth at the other end
  4. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create a koinobori design using line and pattern.
  2. Create 3 koinobori relief prints.
  3. Use your prints to make koinobori windsocks.
  4. Create a balanced hanging of 3 koinobori windsocks.
  5. Explain the symbolism of black, red and blue koinobori.
  6. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students. For example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - created a koinobori design using line and pattern
    - created 3 relief koinobori prints
    - used my prints to make koinobori windsocks
    - created a balanced hanging of 3 windsocks
    - explained the meaning of black, red and blue koinobori
    - kept the artwork in good condition
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work.
  5. Encourage them to share and expand on each others' ideas as they explore the materials.  
  6. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Hang the koinobori around the classroom.
  2. Ask students to walk among the hangings and to reflect on how they feel about what they see.
    Ask them to:
    Look closely at the koinobori.
    - Share thoughts about the work.
    - Talk about how line and pattern are used.
    - Discuss how being among so many hanging koinobori makes them feel.

    - Talk about what was difficult about doing this project and why.
    - Tell what was satisfying about making the hanging koinobori and why.
  3. Ask some students to share ideas about what they would do differently if they did this project again with the whole class and to explain why.
  4. Keep the work on display so students can view them throughout the next few weeks.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their artworks – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, points to areas in the artwork, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads - Koinobori_tracking.sheet.pdf)
  5. Have primary students use the self-assessment form to reflect on their work. (Downloads - Koinobori-PrimarySelf-assessment.pdf)
  6. Have students reflect on their own artworks in their sketchbooks. Ask students to write: 
    What do you like best about your koinobori? Why?
    - What would you change or do differently next time? Why?
    - What is the symbolic meaning of black, red and blue koinobori?