folding · How-to

The Paper Spring in the Classroom

Teaching kids how to make a paper spring is always thrilling. Children ooh and ahh, and practically jump out of their seats when I show them what we’ll be making.

The only problem has been is that it takes up a big chunk of my teaching time, as only about 55% of the students (who are usually 6-8 years old) in the classes I teach are able to make paper springs without extra help.

I’ve been teaching kids how to make paper springs for probably 20 years. Have shown it to thousands of students. We usually glue something to the top of it it, like a cut-out of their hand, to give the books we are making another dimensional element.

About a year ago, driving to another of my itinerant teaching-artist jobs, I was stressing over the fact that, due to time constraints I needed to cut something from my agenda . Realized the paper spring was going to have to be eliminated…unless…unless I could figure out how to get all of the kids to do make it without any extra help.

A caterpillar of paper springs
A caterpillar of paper springs

The way I’ve been teaching it is to glue two paper strips together to form a right angle, then alternate folding the strips on top on each until the papers fold down into a square. It’s easy to teach this method to adults, but kids keep folding in front then wrapping behind, which sabotages their springs.



Notice the corner is like a square, Draw a happy face on the square.

What if I ask students to fold the other way, to fold it below the glued corner, rather than above it? And to keep them from folding forward, draw a happy face which they are told should not be covered up?

Really, no one wants to cover up a happy face.

So I tried it out. Asked the students to alternate colors folding behind the happy face, said what we wanted to end up with is a little square.

Almost done

Couldn’t believe how well this went when I first tried it out. There is still a bit a confusion that happens when they see these flaps at the end.  I probably should say to cut off these pieces, but…

Last step

…these flaps can be  folded back too, then secured with a bit of glue.

This method of teaching has worked out for me unbelievably well. Unbelievable, even to me. Students have been nearly 100% successful in class after class.  So exciting to have discovered this way of teaching the paper spring.

Here’s a video:


3 thoughts on “The Paper Spring in the Classroom

  1. This was how we made our Christmas garlands when I was a kid. I don’t recall any of us having difficulty.Perhaps, in those “olden days” so much of our fun was made of paper we were used to various folds?


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