Paper Quilts Used to Teach Following Directions

Here’s another idea using quilt block patterns, this time make from construction paper. It can be used to work on following or giving directions, as well as symmetry and patterns.

The project was originally done with adult ESL (English as a Second Language) students but it didn’t work out like I hoped it would. My plan was to give every student a blank piece of paper and a pile of colored shapes. Then I would say things like, “Place a medium sized red square in the upper left hand corner. Then place a medium sized white square directly below the red square.” After they had all finished, I was going to hold up my pre-made pattern to show them what the finished project should look like if they had followed instructions correctly.

What hadn’t occurred to me is that there are different ways of following the instructions, all of which may be technically correct, but which do not yield the same pattern. For example, when I said to place a square “directly below” another square, I meant what would be called “south” if we were looking at a map. Some students tucked the second square underneath the first square, which was still “below” but didn’t work for the pattern I was trying to make. So it was a failure as far as a group project, but could still be fun one-on-one.

Try it both with you giving directions to your child and with your child giving the directions to you. The person giving the directions watches where the other person places a piece, and then gives additional, clarifying directions if the result is not what they were expecting. You may also want to  let a younger child just try to copy a pattern on his or her own, or have everybody just make up their own patterns.

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