Christmas in July! Origami Crane Ornaments

Students love making these origami crane ornaments! It's amazing what students can accomplish when they're motivated!Stu­dents love to bring home these exquis­ite origami cranes to hang on their Christ­mas tree! I make these with my 5th & 6th graders, and even though this is not a begin­ner level project, every year I have at least one stu­dent with a pas­sion for origami who already knows how to make them! While these cranes are chal­leng­ing, they’re def­i­nitely do-able, and they’re such fun to make once stu­dents “get it” that the moti­va­tion for learn­ing is very high. And it’s amaz­ing what moti­vated stu­dents are capa­ble of doing!

The crane is the most famous of all origami con­struc­tions. The leg­end of the origami crane states that if some­one makes a thou­sand of these paper cranes their wish will be granted. (This project would also be a great exten­sion to read­ing the true story of Sadako and the Thou­sand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr… prob­a­bly best for upper ele­men­tary students.)

Rather than re-invent the wheel and post my own step-by-step “how to” pho­tos here, I’m going to refer you to two web­sites that have been great resources for me in teach­ing lots of dif­fer­ent origami lessons: and

If you’ve ever tried teach­ing origami to a room full of kids, you know it can be a lit­tle tricky! Every­one strug­gles with a dif­fer­ent step, learns at a dif­fer­ent pace, and needs one-on-one help at dif­fer­ent points in the process. How-to videos are great (and plen­ti­ful on YouTube) but unless each stu­dent is watch­ing on their own iPad, videos are not that help­ful in a large class set­ting. Some stu­dents will be ready to move on while oth­ers will need to go back and watch a step again… and again! How­ever, a video can be help­ful for YOU to learn a new fold­ing tech­nique before you teach it to your class. If you pre­fer to fol­low a photo tuto­r­ial, offers a great photo tuto­r­ial, plus a video as well.

A doc­u­ment cam­era can also be use­ful in teach­ing origami to your class, but has some of the same issues as a video.… stu­dents will need dif­fer­ing amounts of help with each step before they’re ready as a group to move on to the next.

The best solu­tion I’ve found is to give each stu­dent their own page of printed instruc­tions (which they can take home if they’re really inspired). Then, as I demon­strate, I have stu­dents work together in small groups of 3–4 so they can help each other as much as pos­si­ble. I’ll ask which stu­dents have done some origami before and try to group them with stu­dents who have less expe­ri­ence. Even if they’ve never made a crane, any steps in the process that are famil­iar to them will be help­ful.  We make our cranes “hangable” by using a nee­dle to care­fully poke a hole for a loop of metal­lic cord.

Threading a cord for hanging origami crane

The size of the square you start with will deter­mine the size of your fin­ished crane (I used 4″ x 4″ for this exam­ple). If you need enough paper for your whole class, it’s eas­i­est to use origami paper that’s already cut to an exact square than to cut it your­self. Start­ing with per­fect squares and mak­ing pre­cise folds and sharp creases will be your key to suc­cess with origami. After your stu­dents fin­ish their cranes, show them this amaz­ingly TINY origami crane, just for fun. It was made with paper that was only 1cm x 1cm! They’ll appre­ci­ate this more once they’ve made an origami crane of their own!

If you enjoy origami, your enthu­si­asm will be con­ta­gious to your stu­dents, and they’ll want to do more! Here’s a great book with more ideas to inspire you to do origami with kids: Origami by Anne Akers John­son (Klutz Press). It offers ten fun origami projects with easy to fol­low instruc­tions, and even comes com­plete with 80 pre-cut squares of origami paper in solid col­ors and patterns.

What’s your favorite origami project?


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  1. Christmas Project Collection | TeachKidsArt - January 2, 2014

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