Before I taught my first snowflake-making lesson, I felt like my stomach was inside-out. No matter how clear you think you are, students have a knack for interpreting things a thousand different ways and are constantly asking for clarification (Like this? Is this ok, Ma’am? Is this right???).
They have a hard time following simple directions on a worksheet, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to properly explain how to make a six-pointed paper snowflake.
As it turned out, what I thought was going to be the most challenging step—folding the paper into overlapping thirds—actually turned out to be easy for them.
I drew a picture of a triangle on the board and demonstrated how I wanted them to divide their triangle into three smaller triangles with equal bases. At first, I heard a collective “Huh?” from the class. After a second explanation, most students got it and had no trouble measuring and folding the paper. Scales (or rulers) are a standard part of my students’ pencil boxes.
Most students—even those in Class 5—were precise and did a better job folding the paper than I ever could, even if I had a ruler. I was surprised to see that many of my students made some truly stunning snowflakes with beautiful layers and patterns. It’s a hasty generalization, but I think kids in India are overall better visual-spatial thinkers than kids in the U.S.
I did this activity with five separate classes in one week. (I think I can pretty much make six-pointed snowflakes in my sleep now.) It was very interesting to see the differences and similarities in how students responded to the activity.
Guess what? I’ve already made 15 snowflakes!
That’s the difference between Class 7 and Class 5. Within one period, most of my Class 7 students made 3-4 snowflakes and two made more than fifteen. The Class 5 students each only made one snowflake in the same amount time.
Ma’am, it looks like a sandwich!
Class 5 unanimously thought the triangles looked like sandwiches and Class 7 thought they looked like hats. One student in Class 6 also said my sample snowflake looked like a stove top.
Can you cut this for me?
Nothing more annoying than whining students. I didn’t expect that I would have to teach Class 5 and 6 students how to hold a pair of scissors. A lot of them were trying to cut with the tips of their scissors rather than the inner blade.
I think I did something wrong…
If you’ve ever made a paper snowflake, you know that the last step involves unfolding the layers of a tightly folded piece of paper. There were a couple students in each class who somberly showed me half a snowflake and said they didn’t know where they had gone wrong. To which I said: Unfold it one more time. The look of relief on the students’ face was priceless.
Ma’am, I’ll help you clean up the glitter.
Some students are gems. Several in Class 7 offered to help me clean the classroom after the activity. I carried the trash can around the classroom, and a few said: Ma’am, Ma’am! Don’t touch that. It’s dirty.
It’s completely acceptable for a teacher in the U.S. to hold a trash can; in India, there’s more of a hierarchy. You see it in small things—like when students always insist that you sit on a chair instead of standing or when they offer to carry your things for you.
Overall, this lesson went well for two reasons:
- It was a class activity: I asked my roommates for advice because they had made snowflakes with the kids at their NGO the week before. They said I could minimize chaos by structuring the lesson as a class activity. This meant making sure that every student successfully completed a step before showing the next step.
- I used models: Before starting the activity, I held up few paper snowflakes in front of the class. This got students excited and gave them an idea of what they were about to make. I also drew dotted black lines on my paper. When I held it in front of the class, students could easily see where they needed to fold/cut.
It’s actually been a while since I did this lesson—two weeks to be exact. School has been closed for winter vacation since Dec. 20 and will re-open on Jan.4. Naturally, I’ll be taking a break from my Student Quote feature.
Good news though is that I’ve finally updated my timeline. You can check it out by clicking here or clicking on the “Timeline” tab. Enjoy!