Educators use a range of tools and resources to promote student learning. While we have many valuable digital tools, I’ve found that students never tire of good ole cut-&-paste activities, and hand-crafted foldables are often the best tool we can use to help students compile and organize new information. In the School Library, they also provide an opportunity for students to collaborate as they learn, and foldables provide the teacher with an excellent quick assessment for a daily grade.
The vast chasm of time since I was in school prevents me remembering if foldables were part of my education, but once I discovered them, I’ve continued to add new ones to my Teaching Toolkit. I encourage you to try my 4 favorite foldables for your School Library Lessons—they’ve “stood the test of time” during my 13+ years as a Middle School Librarian.
A very simple foldable is the biocube from ReadWriteThink. I first used this when a new 8g ELA teacher discovered our sizable Special Collection of Historical America books that support 8g American History classes, and, instead of doing a whole class novel, wanted each student to read an historical fiction book. I suggested that, rather than a standard book report, students could use higher-order thinking skills to create a “BioCube Biography” about a character in the book, and the teacher was excited to try it out.
Students use the ReadWriteThink biocube planning sheet to gather and refine “biographic” information about their book’s chosen character:
- name and personality traits
- personal background
- time period and location of story
- significance in U.S. History
- biggest obstacle to overcome
- important quotation from story.
I adapted the RWT cube to fit our preferences, and copy the 2”x 2”x 2” paper cube onto colorful paper. Students write the condensed information about their chosen character on each side of the cube, then cut out, fold, and paste the pattern together into a finished cube. They then attach a 2-ft. length of string and a bent paper clip to the cube, tape the label with their name & book title on the string just above the cube, and we use the paper clip to suspend cubes from the acoustic ceiling dividers in the ELA classroom. The project is fun for students and the hanging cubes are a real conversation starter for classroom visitors.
This unique foldable book was introduced to me by a new 7g Social Studies teacher to use during a Jigsaw cooperative learning activity using our Texas Native Nations library kits & books. Created with one sheet of letter-sized color paper and a second ½ sheet of a contrasting color, the foldable has front & back covers, 2 inner flaps, plus 6 woven pages that are perfect for summarizing information: 2 on the front, 2 on the back, and 2 “secret hidden” pages, as shown in the picture below.
For the Library Lesson, the teacher creates learning groups and, in the classroom, students create their book and write on the left inside flap the 4 different cultural aspects about Texas Native Nations they will explore. On Library Lesson day, I distribute resources to library tables, 1 Nation per table. When the class arrives, each student in a group picks a different Texas Native Nation library table, and works with students from the other groups to summarize information about that Nation on one “hidden” column of their foldable.
After a suitable time, we have the original learning groups regather at library tables to report their findings. Students record information about 5 other Texas Nations onto their foldable’s columns as it is shared by their fellow group members. On the right inside flap students summarize information about all nations for each cultural aspect. At the end of the period, every student has collaboratively collected the information needed to pass the quiz given during class the following day. Creating and using this foldable is so much fun for students that they keep it throughout the unit (which they wouldn’t if it were just a sheet of paper).
The Accordion Booklet
I learned about this foldable at an International Baccalaureate workshop for Middle Years Program Librarians. It is so flexible it can be used for any subject or purpose depending on which size paper is used and how it’s folded. The original student examples I saw—for an ELA Shakespeare project and a Social Studies project—were 8½” x 14″ paper for the accordion and construction paper for the covers.
For a series of IB-MYP Approaches to Learning Library Lessons I used 11″ x 17″ art drawing paper (stiff, but not as bulky as construction paper) cut in half lengthwise for the accordions, folding up the bottom third for the pocket, and 3″ x 5″ index cards covered in bright color paper for the ends. (I told students the way we cover the index cards and attach the accordion ends is the same way the covers are made for our library books!) At the end of each following lesson I gave students a small memento to put in the corresponding pocket of their Toolbook to remind them of their learning.
Teachers liked the student accordion booklets so much that I created ATL Toolbooks for them, which held small brochures of information on & applications for each ATL skill. They loved using this compact tool during lesson planning to quickly determine which skills they could include.
The Tiered or “Waterfall” Flipbook
The beauty of this foldable is that it can be as simple as a single sheet of letter-size paper glued down into an interactive notebook or as complex as the 4 sheets of 8½” x 14″ I used to create my Library & Technology Services Guide for Teachers. The professional document did take considerable planning and a digital publishing application, but a student project can be much simpler.
The easiest way for students to create this flipbook is to fold a sheet of paper so the bottom edge of the top portion is offset about ½-¾” above the bottom edge of the bottom portion, then add outside pages so each bottom sheet and top sheet have the same offset as the first sheet. Once the sheets are tightly creased, students can progressively glue an inner sheet to an outer sheet at the crease, or they can staple all the sheets together at the crease (you need an extended arm stapler for this, which any Super-Librarian has!). Keep in mind that the top portions get progressively smaller as you add sheets, so there is a limit to how many sheets can be used effectively.
For younger middle school students we keep it very simple—just 1 or 2 sheets—and the teacher or I designate what students will write/draw on each flipsheet, but older students can plan their own publication depending on how much space they need for each part of their project. To make it especially eye-catching, students can use different colors of paper, as I eventually did with my Guide.
The Future of Foldables
These 4 foldables have been very popular with students, and there are others I’ve used for my Library Lessons. A simple Google Image search for “foldables” can net any teacher or school librarian a myriad of great foldables to try.
As successful as foldables have been in my middle School Library, I can’t imagine that they will ever fall out of favor. Even with the ubiquity of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers, there will always be a place for simple cut-and-paste activities in education.