Each year I try to teach my students a basic childhood survival skill that I learned from my mother. When I was a young girl we didn’t have a lot of money for toys. I had a few dolls and we made clothes for them. I had some toys that we got at garage sales and the local flea market. Grandparents and other relatives contributed a few. I elaborate so that you don’t think my little world was totally bleak. However, between economic constraints and constant moves I didn’t have a lot so I had to learn to be creative. My mother taught me how to make paper dolls. I could make them from old wrapping paper, newspaper, cereal boxes, and even napkins.
Now, there are two kinds of paper dolls- the kind that stand alone and have wardrobes, and the kind that link together. Yes, I can make the stand alone ones and I’m pretty handy when it comes to creating extensive wardrobes. But my favorites are the linking ones and I teach those to my students.
What always surprises me is how surprised they are by the task!! Most of my children have never seen this process and they are totally fascinated! The fact that the paper unfolds to reveal not one, but two or four dolls is almost beyond their comprehension. It’s magic! And we love magic. J
I start by folding at least five pieces of paper for each child. This isn’t nearly as time-consuming as it sounds. I just do it at odd moments and toss them into a shoebox. I fold the paper just twice so they end up with two dolls. Then I draw only the head on one paper for each child.
The two steps of the skill that I need to really get across to them at first are the basic outline of a person and how to cut without separating the two from each other. I do this with a drawing like the one shown below. I clip one to the white board and then I cut one, slowly, step-by-step, as I talk through the process. Sometimes I have to do it twice.
Then I give each child a folded paper with the head drawn and ask them to complete the drawing to match the one on the board. Most come close the first time, but a few need help to remember the body part. Their natural tendency is to produce a drawing with arms and legs attached at the neck!
Then we start cutting! Some are successful the first time. Some are successful the tenth time. I only ask them to try it once. Then I pull a teacher trick on them. If a child comes to my desk and says “I can’t do this!” I say, “Okay, then don’t. You can go get a book or draw a picture while we finish.” Not one child will quit for more than a minute or two. I told that to four of my children this week and all of them went back and tried until they were successful!!
I usually find that I need to draw the head again for a few students. But most catch on quickly and they also fold their own paper. Then they are on their own and have a new skill for “free choice” and “inside recess” times! We went through half a ream of paper this week, but that’s a lot of entertainment for $2.00! Plus we can also use other types of paper and leftover worksheets.
I know, I know. I should have taken pictures in class and I apologize for that. I will do it next week some time. Many of my students did an excellent job and several glued their dolls together in lengthy chains. (We had made heart chains for Valentine’s Day, so they had experience in gluing pieces together.) One girl made six sets of dolls in varying sizes and then glued them into a chain, in descending order! I really should have taken a picture of that one!
I always wait until my students have grasped the basic concept of the dolls and have created several before I show them more possibilities. No, they don’t care that the dogs and cats actually have too many tails! Lol
We also make snowflakes during the winter, and various chains throughout the year.
One of the other things I like to do with paper is what I call “magic shapes”. This is something I can’t really teach my students but they like to be entertained by it. The first time I do it is usually for Easter. I’ll read a bunny story and then ask them if they want to help me “find” a bunny in a piece of paper. Of course they all do, and I make them “think really hard about what a bunny looks like” while I cut one out of a piece of white paper without drawing it first. I don’t remember exactly how or when I learned to do this, but I can usually think about something and then cut it out. Believe it or not, the pig and elephant in this photo are the first ones I’ve ever tried. I’m not sure why, but they aren’t usually requested in class and I just happen to think of them this morning when I was getting ready to do this. I promise you that I didn’t change or improve them from the “first cut to the last”. I just start and think and cut and leave what appears. Of course the next time I will make improvements. The “rat/mouse” is one I don’t do well, and I’m still working on him. Always a favorite with the kids though. They always want a horse, cow, mouse, fish, butterfly, or snake. The snake is the only one I can really teach and once I make a snake every boy in the room has to learn how to do it.
Paper cutting is entertaining and fun and one of those skills that teaches many other concepts. I love to let my children cut paper even though I always have to apologize to the custodian!