Books Made from one sheet of folded paper · How-to · origami pamphlet · simple book binding

Four Books Students Can Figure Out How to Make on Their Own

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For years, until she retired, I worked with an enthusiastic classroom teacher named Anna who loved seeing her students make books. Instead of teaching bookmaking skills she created a bookmaking corner in her classroom that included a little display of books that I had taught her how to make. These books were accompanied by written directions and a stack of paper. Anna’s third grade students had a great time making books independently.

Last week I received a note from Lana, a teacher in Canada who I follow and who always has insights that I value. Here’s what she wrote:

I started a personal history project with my kids today, with  the big idea that our histories are different but we learn about each other because we are a community. Students start with creating a personal history of 5-10 important events in their lives. What if I open it a bit and let kids work with paper in 3 dimensions? Someone wants a line, someone else a book, a spiral, a tree, a flexagon?

I was wondering if there are some formats that you could recommend that don’t require too much pre-teaching. Ideally kids can follow template/video.

Origami books made from a multiple folded papers, to create a Star Book and a Cascading Book, aka Origami Caterpillar Book
Origami books made from a multiple folded papers, to create a Star Book and a Cascading Book, aka Origami Caterpillar Book

Thinking about Anna’s bookmaking corner, I want to suggest a few books to Lana.

I decided to take this opportunity to finally get around to creating the StarBook/Cascading Book tutorial (at the top of this post) with video accompaniment:

This modular origami book can be tricky, but it is totally doable, The folding needs to be done precisely, folds need to be sharp, and it’s important to pay attention to the orientation of the modules as they get glued together.

Fact is though, that it looks tricker than it is. It’s a structure I highly recommend because it’s so dynamic.

Bookmaking by Paula Beardell Krieg

The next book I want to highlight is the Origami Pamphlet. This is the #1 book that I would like every person in the world to know how to make. Here’s the link to my post 

Mike Lawler made a 24 second video -Voila!- showing a piece of paper transform into the origami pamphlet 

Books made from one or two pieces of paper

The biggest problem with the origami pamphlet is that if you’re using regular copy paper, the book will be rather small,  If this bothersome there are two good variations that result in a larger book (other than just finding a larger sheet of paper):

You can link two of the structures together with a rubber band. That’s what’s going on with the lilac/blue booklet above. Well, I guess it’s not actually a larger book, it’s just longer.

Making a larger origami pamphlet by linking two halves together
Two Book Bases linked together to make an origami pamphlet

A way make a larger origami pamphlet is to use two sheets of paper to make two halves, then attach them together (use glue, tape, paper clips, staples? whatever ) like in the photo above.  I call this half-or-an-origami pamphlet a book base.

An advantage of making a book this way is that, if composition paper is used, the lines will be going in the correct direction for writing on.

There are so many fabulous inventive book structures students can make, but sometimes it’s great to just fold a bunch of papers in half, secure them together, and be done with it. The problem here is that it is not obvious how to secure the pages together. A doable no-needle way to sew pages together in a classroom setting is to use a bit of string or yarn to do a modified pamphlet stitch.

Modified Pamphlet Stitch
Modified Pamphlet Stitch

There you have it, four books:

  • the Star Book,
  • the Cascading Book,
  • the Origami Pamphlet (with two variations) and
  • the Modified Pamphlet Stitch book

Lana’s note mentions a spiral. I’ve been playing with some spiraling pages lately, and I have something wonderful that I want to share, but the spiral deserves its own post: which will hopefully show up here in the near future.

Book Art · Books Made from one sheet of folded paper · origami pamphlet

The Autobiography of a Second Grader -back to school!

Pocketed Selves
An Autobiography Book by Gail DePace’s 2nd graders, 2010

I had planned that this post be about the Paul Johnson show, but I won’t be able to get in to photograph it just yet. Instead I’ve decided to seize the moment and write about this great back-to-school project that Gail DePace did with her 2nd graders a few years ago. Gail and I worked together many times, and I see my influence in these books, but Gail (now retired) was an inspired teacher in her own right, and just took off with any of the skills that she picked up from me. What she did here was make a  template of a young person, which each student personalized in their own likeness. With some simple folding the students created a pocket, which was glued on to the front of the book and which held the little self.


Origami Pamphlet, modified
Based on Origami Pamphlet folds

For the body of the book I’m fairly sure that Gail started out with a somewhat large sheet of paper, probably 11 inch x 17 inch (A3). The folds are based on the Origami Pamphlet folds. That cut away window in the middle makes a place for a secret picture, which is only revealed with when the book is set up in a certain way. Like this…

Looking through the window
Looking through the window

Here the book is set up so you can peek into the lives of the author.

View from above
View from above

Here’s the bird’s eye view of the book. Have you noticed the bit of framing that is done around some of the little drawings? This is accomplished by providing each student with just one square post-it, which they mount, temporarily, in their book, then color around it, thus masking off what’s beneath.


As lovely as this structure is, it’s the content that makes them so fabulous. Student wrote about their family, about their favorite place to be (which was illustrated inside the window) and what they like and dislike.

It turns out that no one likes picking up their brother's dirty socks
It turns out that no one likes picking up their brother’s dirty socks

Then they ended the book with hopes for the future.


Hmm. I love student work.



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

Revisiting the Biography Project with Second Graders

The Biography Project Book project
The Biography Project Book project

Last year I teamed up with second grade teachers to design a book project that supported their curriculum objective of researching a famous person. The project created a good bit of excitement, so we decided to repeat it this year. Repeating a project gives us all the opportunity to make the project even better.

Biography Book, the first spread of pages
Biography Book, the first spread of pages

The concept is this: on the first spread of pages there is a mystery figure, and a book of clues so the viewer can guess the identity of the famous person, and learn something about this person when reading the clues.

Mary Musgrove in her environment
Mary Musgrove in her environment

The second page places the person in their environment,. Here, Mary Musgrove is hunting a deer. The figure from the first page stands on her own, and can be exhibited in front of her illustrated home territory. There is an origami pocket on the left side that holds a small rubber band pamphlet, which contains a report on the person. As it turned out, having the pocketed book on the left (verso) page was a mistake: each time the page opens the little pamphlet book falls out of the pocket. Next time we will put the book on the right (recto) page.

Marco Polo Biography book, expanded
Marco Polo Biography book, expanded

The book structure itself is based on a fold which I call the Book Base, a simply folded but  adaptable structure. Here the book about Marco Polo is opened up to show that the finished book is still just one piece of folded paper.

Marco in his own century
Marco in his own century

Here’s Marco Polo book set up for show.

Both the teachers and I did some things this year that felt better all around. Last year the teachers tried to get all the research done before and during the time that I was working with the students. I saw the students for three one-hour sessions over the course of two weeks.  Trying to get all the research and writing done before my last day with the students turned out to be stressful and unnecessary. This year I asked only that the students know what their person looked like before I arrived.  This was so that, after creating the basic book structure during the first class, that the students could start creating their person with paper, popsicle sticks, and material bits. A real stick figure! My other class time with the students was spent just creating the architecture of the book: we made a graduated page book for the clues; a rubber band book for most of the other written information;  origami pockets to hold the stick figure on one page and the little book on the other: we made an origami base to for the “who am ?” piece;  a pop-up on the second spread of pages and we explored decorative options.  With all of this in place, then the research began in earnest, after my time with the students was over. I think we were all happy with this sequence.

Stick figures, dressed
Stick figures, dressed

These dressed stick figures were the last thing we did during the first class. The students loved doing this part of the project.  The teachers told me that many students opted to continue working on them during recess.


There were so many really fine pieces of work done by these students that it was really hard to pick out which ones to show here.

I happened to walk into one of the classes about 10 days after my time with the students was officially over.  The students were gathered around a student who was presenting his book about Neil Armstrong. After his presentation the second graders around him were writing.


Each student was writing what they liked about their fellow student’s book . What a lovely way to honor each other’s work! Next, there will be a presentation for the parents, where the students dress up as the person they researched! This should go well, as it will be the second dressing.

Related posts:

Biography project proposal

Biography Project decorative details

Book Art · Books Made from one sheet of folded paper · Making books with elementary students

Collaborating with Teachers

Anticipating Spring In First Grade
Anticipating Spring In First Grade

One of the best parts of being a guest teaching artist in schools is the relationships that I have with the teachers that I work with. Most of the work that I do is with teachers that I have worked with before.  This means that year after year, as we get to know each other better, we can develop bookmaking projects that can dynamically align to the mandates of the curriculum.  Each year  the projects that I present generally are either repeat projects that are continually refined to serve the classroom needs better, or they are projects that are designed anew, to fit shifting interests of the teachers.

Proposal Sketches for a Healthy Snack Book
Proposal Sketches for a Healthy Snack Book

This past week I started a completely new project with Margo’ s second grade class. I have worked with Margo for years, but this is the first time that she is the primary teacher in the second grade. She said that she wanted to do some research with her students and that she wanted there to be a “global” feel to the project. After brainstorming a bit, we decided that we would reach for the global connection through the children’s snack bags.  Each day for a week the class logged their snacks and noted where they came from. Pineapple from Thailand, bananas from South America, celery from California, Mandarin oranges from Florida, via Chinese origins. We had the concept, then I had to come up with a design that would work in her classroom. What I came up with is illustrated in the drawing above: it includes a pop-up (the snack popping out of the lunch bag), a window to peek through at the habitat of the snack, and two pages for writing. We started the bookmaking yesterday. I look forward to posting images when the books are done!


Last year I worked with Mrs. Kavney’s first grade class, making a  Dinosaur  Diorama. I loved this project and was looking forward to repeating it. This year, however, Mrs. Kavney wanted the book to be more of this world. She worked up a spectacular unit on following the Iditarod in Alaska, incorporating geography, math, and science. She wanted to have our bookmaking project put another spin on this unit, and she had her eye on studying animals and habitat in Alaska.  She liked the Diorama book that we did last year, so I so I reworked the basic design. The animal is now central, a pocket is included that can  hold standard size paper, which will contain the sentences that the first graders will write about their animals, and there is an area to showcase a haiku that students will write. Of course I couldn’t resist the opportunity to somehow incorporate the Northern Lights…which, when I mentioned this to the students, they responded by telling me that these lights are also known as the aurora borealis. I am learning not to talk down to these students…This project was also started this week.  My next post will likely be on the aurora borealis part of the project, and I look forward to seeing how the rest of it goes.

Now, back to prepping.