One exercise that is neat to do as a hands on portion to an Far Eastern
art history unit is to have students design characters for emotions and
phrases. In studying oriental art, you learn that the use of writing
is very important and that every character in the script (on a given
drawing or painting) holds very strong poetic or emotional meaning.
Studying the use of linear and formal qualities used in the writing,
students can design characters for a personal alphabet. This can be done
in several drafts. The first to brainstorm and creating a large number of
characters. Second draft, after determining a set number that the students
need to pick, the students would do choose their favorites or most
personal characters and complete a final draft of the characters, with
a list of their meanings. Perhaps they could use the characters to write a
poem, and thus see how the symbols works together as a unit of writing.
Another thing that the students could do is choose a character that they
wish to use as a "personal" symbol, giving it meaning or having it be a
symbol of their name. This can be made into a (chop) stamp by cutting out
the shape in rubber slices (rubber from say - bike tires found at the
local junk yard) that can be glued to a piece of wood. In any other
lessons on oriental art (or for their artwork in general) students,
provided with an ink pad, could use this stamp as a signature for their
I've done this project before and it is really fun. Not only do you get to
make something, it also lets you be creative and think about symbolic
meaning. It gives an opening to talk about cultural use of writing in art,
the suggested meaning in use of certain lines and shapes, etc...
Hope that you might be able to use this.