Teaching Tip – Elementary Origami (Guest Post)

You’ve probably heard of making paper cranes as an elementary art project, which might seem mundane and even pointless at first. But origami has many more possibilities for encouraging creativity, learning, and developing fine motor skills. As an added bonus, kids are more than happy to sit still for a few minutes while you teach them a fun new way to interact with paper and create their own art with such a simple element. To learn more about origami in the elementary classroom, check out the benefits and teaching tips compiled here.

Educational and Health Benefits of Origami

Origami is fun for kids to learn, but there so many more educational and health benefits that you might seriously consider it for your next art or geometry project.

As research has shown, doing origami can develop the muscles in the hands and improve control over hand movements, making it a good choice for physical therapy in patients with hand injuries. Of course, your kids probably haven’t had hand surgery, but developing the muscles in their hands can help improve coordination and control. These benefits could lead to increased typing proficiency or aptitude with musical instruments, and any other activity that requires fine motor skills could be better accomplished with stronger and more adroit hands. Origami can also help with conditions like ADHD, low self esteem, anxiety, depression, autism, and other psychological conditions.

Benefits that can translate to better performance in school include development of visual sequential memory, ability to follow directions (visual and auditory), spatial perception, fine motor skills, associative thinking skills, improved patience, increased concentration, and more thorough attention to detail. Because origami is both enjoyable and educational, your students will develop these skills while having a great time. They’ll be better prepared for academic success and might even find a therapeutic lifelong hobby in origami.

Teaching Tips

1.     Decide how many students you can teach at once, depending on grade level. You can teach 2-3 kindergarteners at once, 4-5 first graders, and the entire class from second grade on up. If you need to teach small groups, you’ll need to figure out an activity for the rest of the class to do while you teach origami.
2.     Get familiar with origami terms so you can use and explain them correctly.
3.     Learn the skill levels required to complete beginner, intermediate, and advanced models.
4.     Practice folding the models several times yourself before you teach them. Try to identify folds that might be difficult for your students and plan to explain in more detail or prepare more diagrams accordingly.
5.     If possible, “borrow” a friend’s child who’s in the same general age group as your students and practice teaching him or her how to fold the model.
6.     If you’re still concerned about your students’ ability to follow along, prepare a model of each step and pass it around as you teach it.
7.     For your demonstration paper, choose a large square with two distinct sides – one very light and the other very dark. Make sure it’s not too large to manipulate comfortably, but be sure that students sitting in the back row will be able to see well.
8.     When you teach, make sure that your sample model is oriented the same way as your students’ models. You may need to be prepared to fold your model upside down.
9.     Encourage your students to observe your demonstration of each step before attempting to replicate it.
10.  Don’t proceed to the next step until you’ve confirmed that each student has correctly performed the step you’ve just taught.
11.  Give individual attention to students who are struggling and encourage students to help one another by comparing models. Once you’ve all succeeded in folding your new models, celebrate by putting them on display (if you can get space in a hallway case, that’s great – otherwise, find a central location in the classroom).

Finding Diagrams

Try some of these websites to find beginner models to teach in your classroom:

Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching various online programs and blogging about student life issues. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

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4 responses to “Teaching Tip – Elementary Origami (Guest Post)”

  1. Hi Chase and Maria .. what a fun post – I love this blog … because there's always something that's different and new to learn .. a great resource – Chase, thank you.

    Love the concept here .. and the links (useful) .. and Maria that you're out and about visiting blogs to obtain new ideas .. but …

    what on earth is square foot gardening .. unless that means appartment balcony square foot?

    Another future post for you Chase ..

    Thanks .. have good days .. Hilary

  2. Hi Maria,

    Thanks for providing us with such an excellent guest post!

    Hi 3D,

    Thanks for the comment. It is pretty cool, isn't it?

    Hi Hilary,

    Hopefully Maria will answer your question because I don't know either. But thanks for the praise and the comment. Always good to see you around here 🙂

  3. Hi, Hilary –

    Square foot gardening is just a more efficient way to get what you want to grow! It takes very little space (a few square-foot plots arranged in a larger square) and relies on compost and placement to save space, time, money, water, etc. It's great if you have a very small yard like I do, but still want fresh veggies.

    Thanks for the great comment!