Origami Christmas Trees

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Origami Christmas Trees

Imaginative sixth and seventh graders experienced the joy of origami by creating these festive Christmas trees.  With or without decorations, the trees shine brightly! 

We adapted the directions found on the Origami-Fun website. 

Origami Christmas Tree
Brown Origami Christmas Tree

polka dot origami Christmas tree
lacy origami Christmas tree

Origami Christmas tree with stripes
Colorful Origami Christmas trees

Origami Octagon Pinwheels


By combining origami skills and geometric thinking, sixth and seventh grade students created octagons that transform into pinwheels.  Mathematical vocabulary described the folds and shapes, and geometric thinking enabled students to determine interior angle measures (without using a protractor).  The activity also reinforced plenty of collaboration, cooperation, and color theory.  My source was Illuminations:  Resources for Teaching Math, which is a project designed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics .

I have used this same activity with upper elementary grades, however, the Illuminations’ instructional plan bumped-up the mathematics by including suggestions for determining area, related extensions, and questions for reflection. 

If you use holiday wrapping paper, the octagon/pinwheels will make festive (and educational) decorations for the season. 

origami pinwheel
Gently pull and the pinwheel transforms into. . .
origami octagon
an octagon

Origami pinwheel
Primary Colors

origami pinwheels

black and white pinwheel
Polka dot pinwheel

Curves from Lines

Line Designs

I recently shared a few of Victor Vasarely’s prints with a group of sixth grade students.  He was a Hungarian/French Abstract Painter (1908-1997) and is recognized as the “father” of Op Art.  After viewing his art, the students were inspired to create Op Art of their own.  They practiced making simple parabolic line designs, then continued with more difficult angles and shapes.  By combining two or more angles, a variety of designs can be made that reveal the beauty of illusions.  In addition to geometric concepts, students also learned about perception and how a repeated pattern creates an optical illusion. 

My information source was Line Designs: Designs and Drawings, Geometric Figures by Dale Seymour.  To learn more about how to create the line designs, visit the Little” Artists in Training blog. 

Line Designs
Line Designs

Classic Illusion

My Wife and My Mother-in-Law
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division



Share the classic old woman/young woman illusion with children.  Ask them what they see.  "Why do some of you see a young woman and others see an old woman?"  "How do you know it’s an old woman/young woman?"  Encourage them to understand how we all see things differently.  Discuss how everyone has different perceptions and perspectives.  Our differing backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences shape how we react to situations.


One way to foster the value of different perspectives is through art.  Symmetry painting also helps children understand how we see things differently.


Have You Friended Me?


I recently read a blog post about book characters who would make awesome friends.”  Since good friends are helpful in promoting lifelong learning, I immediately thought of Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web and how her sweet face could jump-start the following reading promotion. 

            The library media specialist (or teacher) would put up a large white board or a large piece of bulletin board paper in the media center or other communal area.  Students use the white board to share book characters they think would make good friends and why.  For example, “I think Deza from The Mighty Miss Malone would make a good friend because she is determined, funny, and loyal to her family and friends.” 

The media specialist could highlight a few entries every week to promote the books.  Students could share a few during the morning announcements too.  This medley of reading friends can be used to promote discussion, social interaction, and, of course, book circulation.  “Who Did You Friend?” cards can assess books read. 


Priddy, Brenda.  “10 Books Characters That Would Be Awesome Friends.” Nerdy Book Club.  30 August, 2014.  Web. 


More Math Task Cards

I'm glad you're enjoying the “problem of the day" math cards!  Here are a few more.  Simply cut them out to share when you have a few "math minutes."  The cards are appropriate for upper elementary aged children, however the entire family may enjoy them. 

More Summer Math Cards.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 48.9 KB

Mind-Blowing Math


Engage mathematical minds with the Guinness World Records Officially Amazing 2014 edition.  This book’s “augmented reality” allows readers to virtually meet record holders.  Download the free app to see 3D animations, videos, and other interactive features.  (In the image below, I’m getting a little too close to the largest carnivorous dinosaur.)


The book creates a spirit of inquiry and is a fun resource for developing math problems, strategies, and wacky ideas.                                                                                                                                                             


World Records
Guinness Records.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 65.2 KB



Can’t go wrong with using the first line of a song as a writing prompt for a short story,  journal entry, poem, or even another song!  The following list will motivate young writers and introduce them to the Great American Songbook.  As we know, art is one of the best ways to promote creativity fluency. 


1.  Somewhere over the rainbow. . .
“Over the Rainbow” Music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg

2.  Summertime and the livin’ is . . .
“Summertime” Music by George Gershwin, Lyrics by Dubose and Dorothy Heyward and Ira Gershwin

3.  The hills are alive, with the sound of . . .
“The Hills are Alive”  Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

4.  Who’s afraid of the big bad . . .
“Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf”  By Frank Churchill and Ann Ronell

5.  Would you like to swing on a . . .
“Swinging on a Star”  Music by Jimmy Van Heusen, Lyrics by Johnny Burke.

6.  A buzzard took a monkey for a ride in the air . . .
“Straighten Up and Fly Right”  By Nat King Cole and Irving Mills

7.  Fly me to the moon, and let me play among the . . .
“Fly Me to the Moon”  Music and Lyrics by Bart Howard

8.  It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that . . .
“It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing)”  Music by Duke Ellington, Lyrics by Irving Mills

9.  I’ve thrown away my toys, even my drum and train.  I wanna make some noise
with real live . . .
“On the Good Ship Lollipop"  Music by Richard A. Whiting, Lyrics by Sidney Clare

10.  Some day, when I’m awfully low, and the world is cold, I will feel a glow just thinking of . . .
“The Way You Look Tonight” Music by Jerome Kern, Lyrics by Dorothy Fields


Also enjoy these song starters for children with a passion for music and words. 



Math Cards


There are many fun ways to reinforce math skills throughout the summer.  The following “problem of the day" cards will get your child’s math (and creativity) juices flowing.  Simply cut them out to share when you have a few "math minutes."
The cards are appropriate for upper elementary aged children, however the entire family may enjoy them!  Next week, I will share more.

Summer Math Cards
Summer Math Cards.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 48.1 KB

Wordplay of the Day

Upon entering my classroom, students would often head straight to the “wordplay of the day” section of the room, where I had warmups to jumpstart our thinking. They loved the challenge of solving word puzzles, codes, palindromes, and especially anagrams.  What is an anagram?  It is a word (or phrase) that is made by rearranging the letters.  For example, face can be rearranged to form the word cafe. 

They see is an anagram of the eyes. 

The following Anagram Concentration Game will introduce your children to anagrams in addition to reinforcing memory, concentration, and spatial reasoning.  Even better, challenge your children to create their own anagram words, phrases, puzzles, and games. 



Anagram Concentration
Anagram Concentration.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 48.9 KB

It's Up to Us!

Make the earth cleaner and greener!  That was our school's "Green Club" mission. The energetic students were dedicated to using action, education, and outreach to help the school community care for the environment.

One successful outreach activity involved creating large environmentally themed posters and turning them into jigsaw puzzles.  On the back of each puzzle piece, we wrote a green activity for families to do at home. 

Families that signed up to participate in the "green pledge activity" received a puzzle piece with an assigned activity.  Families were instructed to return the pieces after one week of going green.  For example, the puzzle pieces below encouraged families to "turn off the lights when not using them."


As you can see from the photograph below, all but two of the "lights out" group returned their puzzle pieces.  That's a great participation rate (and a unique way to evaluate the success of our activity)!  Many families also included family photographs and/or notes about their green efforts. 




The World is a Puzzle
It's Up to Us to Keep the Pieces Together!

Happy Earth Day!


Name That Color


1.  What pattern do you see?

2.  How do you know what color comes next?

3.  How many times does the color yellow appear?

4.  If the pattern continued 7 more times (for a total of 10 times) how many times would yellow appear? 

5.  If the pattern continued 7 more times (for a total of 10 times) how many times would green appear? 

6.  If the pattern continued, what would be the 48th color?  What would be the 55th color? 

7.  How could you answer question 6 without naming each color?  How could the pattern help you?



Everybody Spread the Word. . .

We're Gonna Have a Celebration!

What is the name of your holiday?
What will you do?
With whom will you share the day?


  • Something that describes your holiday
  • Decorations to hang from the ceiling
  • A greeting card
  • Invitations to the holiday celebration
  • A postage stamp honoring the day
  • Games
  • A special meal
  • A short speech for the celebration
  • Something you can wear
  • A song for friends and family to sing
  • A new tradition


If you missed "Make Up Your Own Holiday Day" that's okay. 

Your celebration can be today!


PediMath Warm-up

A warm-up is a short activity at the start of a lesson to jump-start students' thinking.  Warm-ups have many purposes including:

  • to introduce a new topic
  • to reinforce skills
  • to motivate students
  • to prepare students to learn
  • to assess how much students know 


The following warm-up uses data from a pedometer to reinforce math skills, geography, health, and well being.  It also models how to incorporate exercise into a daily routine.  (My students joked about my pedometer habit but were often curious about my total number of steps.)


Use my March 8, 2014 pedometer data to answer the following questions. 


  • I walk 14,000 steps per day.
  • 10,000 steps equals approximately 5 miles.


1.  What 2 hour time period has the most steps? 

2.  What 2 hour time period has the least steps?

3.  How many steps will I walk in 5 days?  15 days?

4.  Assuming I walk the same number of steps each day, how many days would it take me to walk from    Disneyland to Legoland? (California Parks)

5.  How many days would it take me to walk from Disney World to Legoland?  (Florida Parks)


3/8/14 data
pedometer data.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 507.7 KB

What Will You Create?



We wanted to paint our dining room blue. 
There were so many choices, we didn't know what to do. 
We gathered paint swatches and samples to test;
Chose "Cool Jazz Blue" and made crafts with the rest.

52nd birthday card made with blue paint chip samples
52nd birthday card made with blue paint chip samples


Even more fun is to have children rename the color samples.  The children will amaze you with their creativity.  Enrich the activity with a discussion about the connection between color and emotion. Brainstorm phrases that use colors to describe feelings such as:  red as a beet, green with envy, feeling blue, and tickled pink.

                        How would you rename the following samples?  It's hard to beat limolicious. 

The "Art" of Paying Attention


If you have ever experienced "bus duty" as a teacher, you know that paying attention is the primary qualification.  However, as I've learned, many children are paying attention too . . .


For example, I recall one beautiful spring morning when a kindergarten student slowly stepped off the bus, looked around, and exclaimed, "Glorious."  The classmate behind him sighed, "Yes."  Both were caught up in the magic of the morning.  The bus driver (who probably had a tight schedule) suddenly barked at both of them,  "Get in the school!"  The spell was broken.
I sometimes think of that moment when I'm running through life and not looking. . .

Contour drawing helps break this pattern by teaching children to notice details.  Enjoy the following contour drawings by third grade students.  They used black fine tip markers and images from wildlife magazines as subjects. 


If you know someone who likes to draw, share this contour drawing activity courtesy of the Andy Warhol Museum.  Andy Warhol was quite observant and "an excellent draughtsman."

Warm Up with This Mythological Magic Square

A Mythological Magic Square


A warm-up is a short activity at the start of a lesson to jump-start students' thinking.  Warm-ups have many purposes including: 

  • to introduce a new topic
  • to reinforce skills
  • to motivate students
  • to prepare students to learn
  • to assess how much students know


The following warm-up is a magic square for students who have mastered math addition facts and need a challenge.  A magic square is a matrix in which the numbers in every row, column, and diagonal add up to the same number.

In this magic square, all the columns, rows and diagonals sum to 15.  Once students find the value of each image, there is an extra challenge they can work on later - to name the Greek god or goddess that corresponds with each symbol.  

Who Am I?  A Mythological Magic Square

Mythology is a great way to motivate students.  Not only is mythology engaging, it also broadens knowledge in literature, history and art.  The magic square above includes the symbols associated with six of the Greek gods and goddesses and encourages students to learn more about the Olympian gods. 

There are numerous books and websites about Greek mythology to use as resources. Some of my students even visited museums to continue to learn about symbols depicted on Greek art statues, coins, and vases.  (My third graders enjoyed drawing the symbols too.)  Learning about Greek mythology also ties into the ancient Olympic Games and the importance of athletics in ancient Greece. 


Related Post:  "A man, a plan, a canal, Panama"


Greek Mythology Magic Square
magic square.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 496.3 KB

"A man, a plan, a canal, Panama"

Friday, January 31st, is Backward Day!  The perfect day to eat dinner in the morning (with dessert first).  Add palindromes to the mix to celebrate this fun, silly "holiday."

A palindrome is a word, phrase, number or sequence that reads the same backward as forward such as, kayak, solos, A Toyota, 535, and 76067.  3456 is NOT a palindrome because backward it is 6543.


Palindromes are amazingly creative and enjoyed by children of all ages


Palindromes are amazingly creative and are enjoyed by children of all ages.  My students especially

liked Jon Agee's hilarious palindrome books:  Sit on a Potato Pan, Otis!, Go Hang a Salami! I'm a Lasagna Hog! and So Many Dynamos!

Did you know that most numbers that are not palindromes can be turned into palindromes?  Simply reverse the digits of the number, and then add the two numbers together. 

(16 reverses to 61.  16 + 61 = 77)  That's called a one step palindrome. 

Some numbers require many steps before becoming a palindrome.  Continue the "reverse and add" method until a palindrome pops up.  For example 153 is a two step palindrome. 


A Two Step Palindrome for Backward Day!



YAD DRAWKCAB YPPAH!  Here's hoping the celebration will reverse our current outdoor temperature

(17 degrees Fahrenheit)!


It's Time to Warm-up!

Math facts warm-up challenge


A warm-up is a short activity at the start of a lesson to jump-start students' thinking.  Warm-ups have many purposes including: 

  • to introduce a new topic
  • to reinforce skills
  • to motivate students
  • to prepare students to learn
  • to assess how much students know


Warm-up time is also a great time to promote higher order thinking.  For example, students who have mastered the math facts may be bored with the following warm-up:



Fact masters need the "benefits of a proper warm-up" such as,  

Math facts warm up challenge


Needless to say, the second warm-up:

  • is more challenging.
  • reinforces relationships between facts.
  • requires higher-order thinking!  

Contact Information

Debra Lemieux

If Then Creativity



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