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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