Books Made from one sheet of folded paper · Decoration · Making Books with children · Making books with elementary students · origami pamphlet

Individualizing with Color

Making Books with First Graders

Origami Pamphlet Books, fully opened

This past week I worked with three classes of first graders. My goal was to help the students create books which honor their writing. I want the books to be good-looking, dynamic and individualized. I have three 75 minute sessions to accomplish this.

Origami Pamphlet Made by Chase, First Grade
Origami Pamphlet Book by Chase

All students begin by making an Origami Pamphlet using the same color paper. No choice there. But I am able to give them choice in the decorative details.

One of my favorite decorative techniques is to ask the students to create designs with geometric shapes. Just the mention of color rivets students’ attention. I try to find a place to lay out their color choices attractively. I’ve figured out that making colors available to students in a carte blanche kind of way results in designs that descend into chaos. Now I am more orderly in the distribution of color. Perhaps I am delusional, but I try to convey the concept that there are advantages in practicing restraint.

For decorative accents, students choose four colors from my palette of Brite cover weight papers . These strips of paper are 5 inches x 1.25  inches (if I were in metric-land I would cut these stips to be 3cm x 12cm). Then everyone cuts SQUARES ONLY. They do this by creating an “L” with the strips, then cutting on the line that defines where the strips overlap.

Books by First graders

Students can use their squares as squares, turn them to become diamonds, cut them in half to create triangles, or cut them into lines. I do not allow them to explore any other options. This makes me feel mean, but I explain to these budding artists they can try out all sorts of decorative options on all their works for the rest of their lives, but, for right now I want them to do it my way so that they will learn a new technique. I promise them that although they are all getting the same instructions, that their books will each have their own look.

 Book page by First Grader

They work a bit on each page, then go back and add more after each page has been treated.

We use glue sticks to adhere the shapes to the paper. I bring in the 1.41oz (40g) size of UHU Glue sticks. Then I threaten students that the shapes will fall off the page unless they apply enough glue and pressure to the papers.

The result: Same But Different.

There are other decorative technques that the students use. But that’s another post.
To be continued.

2 thoughts on “Individualizing with Color

  1. Hi Paula,

    Hello Paula,

    I am a follower of your blog from across the Pond.

    Your posts are really inspiring and thanks for sharing news of your projects and students’ work with us 🙂

    All the best,



    1. Mary,
      You made my day. Thanks for this note. I see my stats rising every day, but I don’t know if people arrive here by mistake, or if there are people who are really stopping by and reading. It gives me great pleasure to share this work with people…and it’s especially exciting to know that these words are reaching the other side of the Pond.


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