Keywords: gyotaku, fish printing, tempera paint, acrylic paint, permanent markers, dorsal fin, caudal fin, anal fin, lateral line, pectoral fin, pelvic fin, gill, eye, cheek, nostril, mandible; Lesson Plan Grade Level: third grade; Total Time Required for the Lesson: two one-hour class periods on different days; Setting: classroom

Goals for the Lesson

  • The student will learn about gyotaku (fish printing).
  • The student will learn about the history of gyotaku and where Japan is located.
  • The student will know the external anatomy of a fish.
  • The student will do fish printing on a T-shirt.
  • The student will write an informational paragraph about the fish printed on the T-shirt.

Materials Needed

  • fish prints kit (available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission or from the Nasco Co. Use keyword "gyotaku" for the search.)
  • newspapers
  • large flat work surface
  • paint brushes
  • pie pans for the paint
  • markers (permanent and fabric)
  • tempera paint and acrylic paint
  • white or light colored T-shirt (one for each student that they brought from home)
  • world map
  • hangers (one for each T-shirt)
  • experience writing paper
  • pencil

State Standards Addressed: E & E: Identify Living Things (fish) Found in a Water Environment (4.1); Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources (4.2); Ecosystems and Their Interactions (4.6); Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening: Reading Critically in All Content Areas (1.2); Informational Writing (1.3); Science and Technology: Biological Sciences (3.3)

Teaching Model: Group and Individual Activity

Subjects Covered: science, art, social studies

Topics Covered: gyotaku, external anatomy of a fish


  1. Explain what gyotaku is.
  2. Give history about the art of fish printing.
  3. Using a world map show students where Japan is located and ask why fish would be important to the country.
  4. Show students pictures and T-shirts done using gyotaku.
  5. Explain fish in kit and give basic information about each one.
  6. Review basic external anatomy.
  7. Demonstrate how to do fish printing for a T-shirt.
  8. Cover entire work area with newspapers.
  9. Choose fish replica from kit and place on newspaper.
  10. Choose color of acrylic paint and pour small amount in a pie pan
  11. Using a paint brush, cover replica with paint.
  12. Gently press the fish replica on the fabric surface, placing one palm over the replica's belly, then using the fingers and palm of the other hand gently press down on the fabric covering the rest of the fish. (Note: Don't press same area twice because it will smudge the print.)
  13. After entire fish replica is pressed, carefully peel off the fabric.
  14. Hang the T-shirt to dry (or an adult can put the T-shirt in a dryer for a short while to set the paint).
  15. When the T-shirt is dry, use fabric or permanent markers to label the external anatomy and print the name of the kind of fish.
  16. Have students write an informational paragraph about the fish that they printed on their T-shirt.
  17. Display the writings and T-shirts.


Check to be certain the students identified the external anatomy parts correctly and that the information in the paragraph is accurate.


Pennsylvania Fishes by Linda Steiner (available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission )

Gyotaku Instructions from the Fish Prints Kit


Norma Saylor, third grade teacher, Williamsburg Community School District