My third grade class and I are excitedly learning how to tesselate. This activity all began with independent study time and girl who didn’t know what to write.
Two weeks ago, after she had finished her Healthy Choices Book, K was moping around the room. “What should I write, Ms. M?” she asked. I didn’t want to tell K what I thought she should write; this is an important part of learning to be a writer. Instead I showed K an accordion book that I made in my BookArts class last year (an afternoon activity I will repeat next semester). “You have to decide what you want to write,” I told K. “But when you are ready to publish something, I will teach you how to make this book, where you can put your finished writing.” Eyes big, K immediately knew what she wanted to write. “A poem!” she declared. Within three days K had created a rough draft, revised her work, conferenced with me, edited her work AND took it home where she typed it up on the computer.
Last Friday I fulfilled my promise to K and dedicated a class period to making accordion books. It was more of a “choice” time, where the Magical Minds had time to complete unfinished work and study independently. At first only four of the kids were interested in my accordion book, but by the end of the class period, everyone had made one.
The children chose fancy origami paper to decorate the covers of their books, but I made mine with plain white paper. How to decorate this, I thought to myself. I recalled that as a part of our upcoming math unit on patterns and shapes, we would learn about tessellations. Aha! Even if no one notices, I could use my book design as an example for a later lesson on tessellation. I googled “how to make a tessellation,” and in minutes I was cutting, taping and tracing my design.
“Whoa, Ms. M what are you doing?” I look over my shoulder and see A gaping at my design. His words get the attention of others, and four or five of the Magical Minds come to look at my design. “How did you make that?” N asks. I quickly teach this small group how to make their own tessellations. It didn’t take long for the rest of the class to become interested, and by the end of the day every single third grader had started one. We went on Google and looked up examples of tessellations, discovering Escher and other artists. We printed the images we found and created a poster. Now we are officially learning about tessellations, all because K didn’t know what to write.