Educators use a range of tools and resources to promote student learning. While we have many valuable digital tools, students never tire of good old cut-&-paste activities, and hand-crafted foldables are often the best tool 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 as a teacher, I continually add new ones to my Teaching Toolkit. I encourage you to try my 4 favorite foldables for your School Library Lessons—they stand the test of time even in our modern digitized world.
A very simple foldable is the biocube from ReadWriteThink. I first used this when a new 8g ELA teacher discovered our sizable section of Historical America books that support 8g American History classes. Instead of doing a whole class novel, she 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 she was excited to try it.
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 copied 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 attach a 2-ft. length of string to the cube, tape the label with their name & book title on the string just above the cube, and the cubes are suspended from acoustic ceiling dividers with a bent paper clip. The project is fun for students and the hanging cubes are a real conversation starter for visitors to the ELA classroom.
This unique foldable book was introduced to me by a new 7g Social Studies teacher for a Jigsaw cooperative learning activity using our Texas Native Nations library books and kits. 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.
In the classroom, the teacher creates learning groups and students create their book. On the left inside flap they write the 4 cultural aspects of Texas Native Nations they will explore. I prepare for Library Lesson day by organizing materials so information for each Native Nation is on a separate table. When the class arrives, each student in a group goes to a different Nation table and works with students from other groups to summarize information about each cultural aspect down one column of their foldable.
After a suitable time, we have students rejoin their original learning group. Students record information about the other 5 Texas Nations onto their foldable columns as shared by their group members. Students then collaborate to summarize, across a row, the information for each cultural aspect and record it on the right inside flap. At the end of the period, every student has the information needed to pass the open assessment given the following day, during which they can use the basket-weave.
This foldable is perfect for jigsaw learning, plus every year a few students discern the connection between using a basket-weave for learning about Native Nations. Creating and using this foldable is so much fun that students keep it long after the unit is finished, 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 Library Lessons on learning skills, we use 11″ x 17″ art drawing paper (stiff, but not as bulky as construction paper) cut in half lengthwise for the accordions, with the bottom third folded up for a pocket, and 3″ x 5″ index cards covered in bright color paper for the bookends.
As I show students how to cover the index cards with paper, I mention that this is exactly how the hardback covers are made for our library books. As we glue the end segments of the folded booklet to the inside of the cards, I remark that this is the same way the endpapers of a book are pasted to the book cover. These tidbits of information always prompt a couple kids to walk over to the bookshelves and grab a book to see what I’m talking about!
At ensuing library visits I give students a small memento at the end of the lesson to put in the corresponding pocket of their booklet to remind them of their learning. Some are useful, such as a large colorful paper clip, and some are fun, like a peppermint hard candy!
Teachers liked the student accordion booklets so much that I created IB-MYP Toolbooks for them, which hold small brochures of information about the program’s Approaches to Learning. They love using this compact tool during lesson planning to quickly determine which skills they can 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″ paper I use to create my Library Guide for Teachers. The professional document did take considerable planning, but a student project can be much simpler.
An easy way for students to create this flipbook is to fold a sheet of paper so the edge of the top section is offset about ½″ above the bottom edge of the back section. Add an outside page so the bottom sheet extends below the first by the same offset and fold so the top sheet ends above the first by the same offset. The tops get progressively smaller as you add sheets, so there is a limit to how many sheets can be used effectively. Once the sheets are tightly creased, glue each inner sheet to an outer sheet at the crease, or staple all the sheets together at the crease (you need an extended arm stapler for this).
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 often do 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.
Foldables have been so successful in my middle School Library that I can’t imagine they’ll ever fall out of favor. Even with the ubiquity of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers, there will always be a place in education for simple cut-and-paste activities.