Western Expansion, Bookmaking project for Second Graders

Western Expansion, Bookmaking project for Second Graders

Yes, it seems late in the school year to be writing about new classroom projects with students, but some schools actually do go full tilt right up until the very last moment. Currently, I am in the middle of a project with one such school. Our subject is their Western Expansion unit.  I will put up photos of student work as their books develop, but for now, my here’s sample to supplement my ramblings about what I thought about when designing this book.

Because it’s Western Expansion, I knew that I would want to incorporate maps and a compass rose.

Because it’s second graders, I wanted them to have a book that is dynamic in unexpected ways.

Because it’s me, I wanted to figure out ways to address their math curriculum, which, right now (lucky for me) is all about geometric shapes.

The image above shows the cover on the book, featuring a compass rose, which students color. They label the four main axes themselves.

(unrelated note: from Merle Tenney, Language Technology Consultant, “axes is the only word in English that can be the plural of three different singular noun forms–ax, axe, and axis.”)

aerial view of the book

Aerial view of the book

The aerial view of the book shows that it’s a variation of an open gate fold. There are many folds that need to be done accurately, but with just one small mark on the paper that’s one-third away from the edge of this paper -which is 23″ long (and 8″ high),- students were able to reference their last fold to make their next fold. I have to brag, every one of these students grasped the concept of letting the previous fold guide the position of the next fold. I tried to emphasize that paper-folding is all about seeing relationships.

First unfolding

First unfolding

The first unfolding reveals a page for writing on the left, a place for a rubber-band bound journal on the right, and a little accordion that holds four maps. As the structure expands you can see an interesting graphic peeking  through.

Western Expansion book, expanded

Western Expansion book, expanded

Finally. two more writing sections are revealed and the pages of the accordion lengthen out. The inner pages will have a list of some essential items that need to be packed by the travelers who are going West in a covered wagon  (such as containers for water). On the right there a page to list the intangible values that should come along on the trip, such as cooperation, communication and compassion.

Expanding West

Expanding West

Here’s a close up of the maps. Students colored in  four images of the US, starting with the thirteen original colonies, then the addition of lands by 1783, followed by lands that were acquired in the early 1800’s, then the mid 1800’s.

Quilting Square

Quilting Square

Of course families moving West will be using their fabric bits to make quilts. I’ve been scheming on how facilitate making quilting pieces using paper templates. I will be devoting a whole post ( an a whole classroom session) to the “quilting squares” that the students make.

My plan to print plenty of copies of the guide-pieces above, and talk to the students about the shapes and ways that they can go together.

Here’s a PDF of pages I created to use for this book:Western Expansion full set for web

Now, back to prepping for tomorrow.

I don’t understand  why certain of my projects with kids get more attention than others. My original post about Sight Word Pockets Book for Kindergarteners  from 2011 still gets viewed every day. My teaching season doesn’t go by without requests for this project. By now I have taught literally thousands of young students how to make origami pockets, but it’s never easy. I’m always looking for a better way to explain this folding method.

A titled square is still a square

A tilted square is still a square

I’ve come into this teaching season thinking differently about folding paper.

For so many years I have been telling students what to do. This year I have prioritized trying to draw their attention towards what to see.

They all recognize a square, but when I tilt it, students say its a diamond, a rhombus, or a kite. Last week I suggested to students that this shape was still a square, then I was relieved when a  classroom teacher chimed in and emphasized that tilt or no tilt, the shape was still a square. The main thing, though, is that this simple rotation and the conversation riveted students’ attention to the shape.

Folding a square point to point, from the top down

Folding a square point to point, from the top down

I’ve been asking students what happens to the square if I fold it corner to corner. They all seem to be able to predict that folding a square point-to-point can make a triangle. This makes them happy. They seem to like triangles. Then I tell them that with just one fold more I can make many more triangles. What magic can this be? I have their full attention. They are watching to see if this can possibly be true.

Folding just one layer of paper, I fold the tip of the triangle down to the base. The children are delighted. We count the triangles. Are there four triangles? Are there five?

The next step is the tricky step but now students are attached to the shapes that the folds make and have a heightened awareness of triangles. When I talk about tucking the edge of one of the triangles under the flap, they see what I mean. Here, look at this video. It absolutely blows me aware that this five-year-old just learned this folding sequence about a half-hour before I filmed her doing it. Notice how sure her hands are as they move through the steps.

This change in my teaching, prioritizing seeing & predicting over telling & doing feels really good.  It’s happening because I’ve begun to be able to answer a question I’ve been carrying around in my mind for years: I’ve really looked hard at origami , trying to figure out what about it compels some people say that origami is somehow like math.

Now I’m coming to understand that it isn’t origami that I needed to see differently, it’s been my understanding of math that I needed to adjust before I could make the connection. Now that I am seeing math less as addition and subtraction, and more as relationships and transformations, the boundary between origami and math vaporizes.

More and more I am trying  to be  attuned to childrens’ seemingly intuitive connection to ideas that are aligned to a broader understanding math, and I am able to tap into this with great results. I help them see what is already familiar to them, and what happens next is that they better understanding what’s going on, and can figure out what to do next. Yes, even five-year-olds can do this.


Model for a Kaleidocycle Project for Fifth Graders

Just realized I spelled “Kaleidocycle” wrong on this model for a project I’m putting together for Fifth Graders! Well, good, we’ll talk about mistakes.

Now, in case you missed my post about kaleidocycles, they are this fun paper structure whose sides rotate to reveal a surprising number of new surfaces. This style of kaleidocycle here has four completely different faces, each of which has 3 distinct areas to fill with text or designs. Sort of like a fortune teller, but more 3D.

I’m not a person who is skilled in doing hand lettering to create fancy looking phrases. Nor do I think that I can teach 5th graders to be hand lettering artists in a few class periods. But I love this art form, and am happy to be able to talk to kids about hand lettering.

We’ll be doing a project that references the first 10 amendments to the American Constitution. darn. Spelled Amendments wrong too. Ok, will make a new model with corrections. But will show both to students.

Anyone who does calligraphy or hand lettering will tell you that making spelling mistakes happens frequently when so much effort is being put into forming the letters. People with dyslexia will agree.

Here’s the project. I will talk to students about creating something like a movie title which references each of the  first ten amendments, aka The Bill of Rights (know them or lose them!!).  Students will then be given some alphabets and will trace out the letters.

It can take a few tries, but I’m anticipating that they will not have much trouble coming up with a version that I can then trace in Adobe Illustrator to create a master document.


They can also add flourishes around their words.

My version for the model that I will be showing off, featuring later amendments, looked like this when the computer work was done:I will print the student images on 28 lb, 8 1/2″ x 11″ copy paper. My plan is that each student will design just one of the 12 surfaces on this kaleidocycle (there happen to be just 12 students in this class). I will print up enough copies for everyone and we’ll spend the last of the three sessions I have with them doing cutting, gluing and decorating.

When this project is done I will take photos and post on my blog, recommending either that you try this out with your students or telling you that have to be crazy to think that this can be done as three-meeting classroom project for fifth grade students.

All will be told be the end of the first week in April. Yikes. Starting this project tomorrow, early.

Addendum: See the results https://bookzoompa.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/5th-graders-kaleidocycles-of-the-bill-of-rights/

Women’s Work

January 26, 2017

Just when I needed a to be uplifted, Judy Kinzel wrote this blog post. Judy and I don’t know each other, but the fact that she had felt encouraged and empowered to make such awesome work after going through my posts, well, it means so much to me. Be sure to visit her site and look through her Chinese Thread Book gallery. I’ve been thoroughly inspired by her work!

Purple Tree Studio

Throughout the history of art, decoration and domestic handicrafts have been regarded as women’s work, and as such, not considered “high” or fine art. Quilting, embroidery, needlework, china painting, and sewing—none of these have been deemed worthy artistic equivalents to the grand mediums of painting and sculpture. The age-old aesthetic hierarchy that privileges certain forms of art over others based on gender associations has historically devalued “women’s work” specifically because it was associated with the domestic and the “feminine.”  (Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art)

In the 1970’s I had the good fortune to see Judy Chicago’s installation The Dinner Party when it was in Boston. The thirty-nine place settings celebrated a variety of incredible women – writers, scientists, activists, artists – and reflected the history and geography of each woman with media associated with women’s crafts. (Click her for more on The Dinner Party)  It…

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