30 Things to Do with a Piece of Paper

This workshop is aimed at teachers of young learners, but there’s plenty for everyone, and some ideas – especially those involving post-its that can be used in any classroom.

Books seem to be the most obvious thing to make out of paper, and a book is a good way of consolidating learning and producing a written trace of work at the end of a module for example. Books are the ideal solution for students to show what they have been doing in class, either in classroom displays or by taking them home to show their family. The secret, as with so many things in the classroom, is to vary the way you make books to avoid boredom and repetition, so here are a few different ways of making books.

  1. Simple fold book

Take a piece of A4  and fold in half along the length. Then fold in half along the width and again along the width so your piece of paper is basically made up of eight equal rectangles.

Then cut along the fold of the middle two rectangles, like this:

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This gives you an 8 page book (including front and back page), or if you add a paperclip and a bit of thread – a mobile to hang in class.

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2. An overlapping book

Place three sheets of paper so each one overlaps slightly like this:

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then fold as I have above and you have a book where each page overlaps. You can use each overlap to write the title or include an image that will follow over from one page to the next…

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3. A concertina book

Really cool for lists, people description, etc.

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I like using them when we present our families too,

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4. A Triarama

This book is simply made by folding a square in four along the diagonals and cutting one diagonal up to the centre:

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I think it works really well when describing rooms,

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5. A fan book

Another versatile way of producing information, you can make your fan book any shape, we often use a heart on Valentine’s day, or a Christmas tree at Christmas etc.

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You can include as many pages as you want.

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6. Hexagon book

I’ve seen hexagon books all over the place, and use them in all kinds of situations;

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Here’s the template I shamelessly “borrowed” from Ideas education.

7. Flap Books

These range from the ridiculously simple (see below) to the very complicated (check out the web!). Good for parts of the body or opposites.

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8. A Diorama

Not exactly a book, but we often use these “magic boxes” to present books we’ve read in class, on the outside it looks like a simple shoe box,

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but inside the are a treasure chest of fantastic-ness!

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9. Symmetrical Shapes Mobile

These can be made in any form as long as (as the name suggests!) they are symmetrical. Just cut them out and colour/write on them before sticking,

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You can use them for many themes, round ones are good for balls & sports, you can use apples for fruit and hang them with the “stalk”, adding a leaf or two when they are assembled. They make cheap and easy Xmas tree decorations too as you can see.

10. Flextangles

I’m not quite sure of the pedagogic value of flextangles in the ELT classroom but they are just too great to miss out on. Use this template and follow the video below:

The secret is to let the glue dry well and don’t hesitate to use a bit of sticky tape – especially when sticking the ends together.

They are completely mesmerising and kids love them!

11. Dice

Dice have as many uses as you can think of, write question words on them for reading comprehensions and question formation practice, write numbers, colours or any new vocab you want to practice, write “orders” such as “stand up, sit down, point to, touch…”

12. “Cocotte”

This is the French word, I’m not sure what we call them in English but I remember making them as a kid and I’m sure you do,

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In case you’ve forgotten you get a square of paper and fold all the corners into the centre, then you turn over the paper and do the same thing again,

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Simple to make, you then colour the top four squares and number the inside like above. As kids we would write “fortunes” in them, like “you will kiss Luke Smith” but now we’re more educationally minded you can write anything – they’re great for colour and number practice and I even use them with older kids for text comprehension like this:

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13. Question Balls

I blatantly stole this idea from a workshop with the amazing Mary Schnueriger. It’s simple and great fun. Students write questions on a piece of paper, screw it up and then throw it at the teacher/other students. This works well as an ice-breaker activity but also at the end of a unit for asking the teacher for explanations while avoiding students feeling awkward in admitting they didn’t understand.

14. Consequences

Again, this is a game I remember playing as a kid. It works great with drawing bodies but also with telling stories. Everyone has a piece of paper and starts their story/picture, they then fold it and hand it on so the next person can carry it on without seeing what was previously done.

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When drawing remember to leave a line or two sticking out so the next artists have something to go on, and if telling a story it works best if the teacher gives prompts to start each phrase, to give the story some kind of cohesion.

15. Luminaries

Although the ones in this video are made with paper bags  and sand you can do something similar using empty jam jars wrapped in white paper with images cut out. They’re great for  Halloween of course but you can also make great “stained-glass windows” using black paper and coloured tissue paper.

16. Paperchains

Not just to decorate the classroom at party-time but also this is a great way to make a very long, hungry caterpillar with green paper.

With older students I give them all strips of paper and they write various words on them. Then I put them in groups, if they can find a link between the two words (both food, same colour, etc) then they can link the strips to together. The team with the longest chain wins!

17. Zoo time

This idea is so great it should count as a dozen things! Simply fold you paper in half and cut out the body of the animal in question keeping the fold as the “backbone. Then glue the top half together and spread out the legs so it can stand up Next cut out the head/ears from another piece and cut a slot in the top of the body and bottom of the ears/heads and here you have it…

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Here you can see Nelly the elephant, but lions and other animals work great this way, for giraffes cut out the body, neck and head together then add the pairs of legs separately with slots underneath.

18. Hexagon Spinner

Find a hexagon template, cut out & stick on cardboard if necessary, stick a pencil through the centre and you have a new kind of dice. Draw a number/activity/Question on each of the six segments, spin your pencil and let your partner answer the question that the spinner falls on.

Now for a series of ideas using that fantastic paper invention – the post it!

19. Who am I?

Cheaper than the headbands game, write the name of a famous person/common object on a post it and stick it on your students’ heads, they have to ask questions to their classmates to discover their new identity.

20. Tweet it

Use these cool post its to give opinions, talk about what we’ve learnt, holidays, anything. Remember to check the tweets are 140 characters long before “posting them”

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21. Word trees

Give each groups a topic and a pile of leaf post its, they have to write as many words for each topic as they can on the post its and then add the leaves to the tree.

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This is just a tiny example, the one in our class covers the door. When each group has finished they can look at the “branches” of the other groups and add any words they’ve forgotten.

22. Idea Soup

A great way of compiling brainstorming is by noting the ideas on post its and sticking them on the board. Students can then decide which ideas go together and discuss the links between them.

23. Collective writing

Write the framework for a story on the board and ask students to complete each part, example a) describe the main character b) where does he live? c) where does he go? d) what does he see there? on a post it which they then place on the correct place on the board. They can then  read each others’ suggestions and choose which version they prefer, hey presto – group story written!

24. Print your own post its

This is a great idea and dead simple. This blog explains how to do it, basically you print a template, take a copy and write what you want on it. Put post its onto the other template and then put them in your printer and copy the first version. Luckily the blog explains it better than I do!

25. Word Order Post its

A fab way to practice questions and especially frequency adverbs, as you can guess, you put the words on post its (or simply bits of paper) and ask students to put them in the correct order.

26. Opinions & Comments

I encourage students to write their (positive!) opinions about others’ work on post its and stick them on the wall displays, a good way to get them interested in each others’ work and to encourage collaborative feedback.

27.Sight words

Although you could use post its for this idea I used pieces of coloured paper. We wrote the 100 most common words, not only was it good practice and vocab revision but also means students have the most useful words available when they need to check them. It also makes a pretty cool wall display.

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28. Letters

This is a really radical idea that came to me when a student asked me where a stamp went on a letter because he had NEVER SENT ONE. Get the class to write a letter or a group of letters collaboratively. Then, wait for the exciting bit….put them in an envelope and… SEND THEM to someone. Another school if possible ( if you’d like to start a penfried scheme then let me know) or your granny/friend in uk/ anyone you’ve bribed to write AND SEND a letter back to the class.

29. Memory Jar

We’ve had a memory jar at home for ages, during the year the kids add tickets or notes about special events and we open it and look through everything on New Year’s day. Last year I started something similar with a class. Every so often, after holidays for example, I get them to each add a note about an achievement or something great that happened and we read them all together on the last day. I was quite surprised by their reactions actually, I was worried it would be a bit of a let down but they loved it, and it was the first thing they asked to do when they started school again in September this year.

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and last, but not least a completely radical idea…

30. RECYCLE IT!!

So many lessons involve writing the odd phrase or practicing spelling on a piece of paper. Get a tray in the corner of class and get kids to use up every inch of a sheet of paper before putting it into the recycling bin. These scraps of paper actually work as idea compost – something written in a previous class can light the spark for a new idea this time.

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