Accordion Books · Making books with elementary students

Accordion Spines aka Concertinas

Books in Process, Accordion Spines
Books in Process, Accordion Spines

If you know something bookmaking you know how useful it can be for the spine of a book be  narrow accordion folds, as pages can be tipped (glued) on to or sewn into the accordion.  The big thing that I didn’t know about this structure was if I could do it with 75 3rd graders in one day.  The motivation behind doing this was to make a book  that could expand, as accordions do, to reveal pages of fractions which could help students understand the relationship between different sets of fractions.

Accordion Book With Tipped on Fraction Pages
Accordion Book With Tipped on Fraction Pages

The photo above shows the finished product, but that’s getting ahead of myself. What I want to show is how we made the folds. In the interest of full disclosure, the following photos are taken of a class of 7 fourth graders making the same book. Working with seven students in class allows me the leisure of taking pictures. When I was working with the third graders (3 classes of 25 students) I had to stay on the move.

I started out by sitting down and talking to the classes about what we would be doing. I wanted to emphasize that even though there were no “hard” to understand steps, all of the folding was just different from what they were used to doing, and it was this difference that would make it seem hard to do. So I asked them to be open to doing something different so that they would be able to be successful.

A 16" x 8" paper folded in half
A 16″ x 8″ paper folded in half

Having the middle fold in exactly the right place is so crucial to the success of the structure that I handed out the papers to the students with this fold already in place. Therefore the first thing that each  student needed to do was to unfold their 16″ x 8″ paper.

Folding the edges into the middle
Folding to the Middle

Next, one side at a time, the edges are folded to meet up with the middle fold, which henceforth will be called the master fold.

Folding the edge of the Paper to meet the further away crease
Folding the edge of the Paper to meet the further away creases

This may not be readily seen and understood, but think slowly. Open the paper flat, then fold one edge over to meet the furthest away crease, flatten. Repeat, starting from the other edge.

Foldin half again
Folded in half, like the first step

Next, open the paper flat again,Noticing that there are four “columns, in defined by folds, in the paper.  Refold in half, as in the first step so that the master fold is at the edge of the paper.

Make a new crease by bringing crease to master crease

Still with me? Now, look at the crease that is closest to the master crease, then curl the paper so that this crease meets the master crease. Press to make a crease (which is unseen, as it is between two layers of paper). Repeat with the next crease below the master crease, then flip the paper over and repeat.

Okay, you’ll end up with something like this. Actually, with my classes, we did one more fold, to make just one more accordion pleat, but I will describe that in my next post.

It’s important to have long edges to glue covers on to.

And, for now, we’re done. The  next step will be to add the fractions pages.

Accordion Books · Books Made from one sheet of folded paper · How-to · Making Books with children · Making books with elementary students

Four Page Accordion and SMART Boards

Make an accordion and a French Fold Accordion By Paula Beardell Krieg

Last Wednesday, and each Wednesday during this month of March, I will be working on a project with third graders. This is an ambitious project that links the student’s research about various countries with lots of bookmaking. We first make a large folder with pockets, which we refer to as a suitcase, then students make small handmade books in these pockets. These small books will be filled with writing and pictures relevant to the country that each student is studying.

There are SMART Boards in each of these classrooms. This means that when I draw out the instructions for making the books the teachers can click on a “Save” button and save what I have drawn. I often try to erase the drawings before the save because I start off drawing big and end up squeezing in the last steps, which makes for a silly looking set of instructions. But erasing the steps before the students can complete them is silly too.

This past week a light went on in my head: if I draw out what I want the students to know and save it on-line then I can link the SMART Board to my image….not only that, but I can email the links of the appropriate images to teachers before I meet with them. This can facilitate easy retrieval of my tutorial pages, and it can also be stored as a reference, thereby empowering the teachers to re enforce the bookmaking techniques after my residency is over.

Oh, last week we made a simple accordion, like in the drawings above.  I then taught a couple of pop-ups to put in the valley folds. That will be what the next handout will be about.

snow in our backyard

In the meantime, the snow is showing some signs of melting here. Notice that the hand pump is emerging from the snow. We can see our picnic table now. But last week after a thaw, followed by rain, then freezing rain, I had to call and postpone working at a school because my car tires were completely frozen into a 6 inch puddle of ice.

Accordion Books · Binding Loose Papers · Making Books with children

Tipping Pages onto an Accordion


Single Pages Tipped on to an Accordion, top view

Saratoga ABC Book , Post #1:  Model of the finished Book

My first in-school project of 2010 is to faciltiate the making of an alphabet book by 27 early elementary students.  The tricky part of this project is that we are including an interactive element (like a pocket with which contains a miniature book) on each page, and there are to be four copies of this book.  Each page then, needs to be designed by the student then copied four times before the interactive elements get added on to each individual page. 


  Tipping the single pages on to an accordion seems like the best way to go with this project.  I like the look of the big, wide, colorful pleats of the structure pictured here.  I like the  look of the spine and the way the book can be set up for display. ABC Book, closed 

The pages of the book are 8 1/2″ x 11″.  The spine is made up of five separate pieces of  8 1/2″ x  17″, hinged together using  4″ x 8 1/2″ strips.  The grain of all papers run parallel to the spine…which means I had to cut the paper to size from parent sheets.     

The students have begun this project by making decorative borders, based on alphabet letters.  It will take a few weeks for us to get from the beginning to the end of this project.  I will post periodic updates on the progress of this book.  So far, the students are doing great work, and are engaged and enthusiastic.  I showed this model, as well as a sample page, to them so that they would have an idea of how the finished project will look. 

Maybe I have included too many photos in this post?  I can’t choose between them: this structure is so photogenic.