Productive Paper A Pressing Matter

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Students will compare different ways to create a smoother form of paper.

Big Idea

Can a paper’s form change?


5 minutes

I ring my chime to get the class’s attention and ask them to return to the carpet squares and ‘Show Five’.  Once seated, I announce that we are about to begin the third Science lesson in our unit about paper.  To engage the students, I often start the lesson with some connection to themselves because it provides quick engagement and allows students to experience material through a variety of modalities.  I ask them to put their fingers on their cheek.  “How does this feel?”  Knowing that nothing is as smooth as a child’s cheek, they answer... “Soft!”  “Now I’ll ask you to put your fingers on the carpet.  How would you describe that?”  “It’s more rough.”  This compare and contrast piece is important because it give them an opportunity to get some sensory input that will help them better integrate this lesson.  “So you noticed the difference between smooth (or soft) and roughWe’re going to explore this texture more and apply it to paper with this lesson.”  Activities like this, as simple as they are, are valuable focusing tools.  When this step is complete, we are ready to move on.

Whole Group Instruction

10 minutes

For this lesson, I introduce a book titled Amazing Ben Franklin Inventions You Can Build Yourself. I found this book in a used bookstore and became fascinated by the ways Benjamin Franklin's ideas can be applied to NGSS. While it is not a Kindergarten level about paper per se, it does a great job introducing the amazing mind of this man, along with the reasons his inventions came to be (in fact, I liked the book so much, I bought the same book on Leonardo Da Vinci.  Stay tuned!). Pages 36-43 focus on the printing press came to exist. While the printing press does have a connection more to 'printing' than to 'pressing', it is a great way to help students see creative thinking.  

I review these pages, highlighting the 'why'. “Remember in one of our last lessons, we learned about ways we could make paper?”  “Yes!”  “Today, we’re going to look at how we can change the form of paper to make it easier to use as a paper for writing. Who can tell a way they use paper for writing?”  “Drawing..Work..Folding..”  We brainstorm these items to help with retention and application. “Today, we’re going to practice how to create a smoother form of paper.”   

More than two hundred years ago, there was a famous person in America named Benjamin FranklinHe was very, very smart and had lots of great ideas to make things better.” To help give the children a visual, I hold up a picture of him. When possible, I like to pull up famous people related to the subject we are studying to help the students understand that everyone starts learning about subjects at an elementary level.  “When he was a teenager, he worked in a print shop. He didn’t like the ways that people had to do things there, so he tried to figure out better ways. One thing he wondered about was how to make paper easier to write on. Who would like to be Ben Franklin and think of a better way to use the paper we made for writing?” I plan to do a few other paper activities in upcoming lessons, so this is a great way to bridge the study of ways it’s form can be used and changed.

Small Group Instruction

10 minutes


• Paper Sample (1/small group)

• Collection of round implements (e.g. pencil, dowel) for rolling

Prior to this lesson, I collected some of the paper we used in the previous lesson, specifically the ones that had the most texture. This will give the students a better opportunity to see a dramatic difference in their techniques.

I take a minute to explain the process: 

• First, lay the paper flat on the table.

• Next, collect at least two items you think you can use to flatten the paper.

• Then, start pressing!  Note your results. Which one worked better?

• Last, evaluate results and make changes if necessary. Note a solution that worked best.

This last instruction echoes one of the Design Challenge's steps. It’s always a good idea to overlap material and instructions form previous lessons to better cement the learning and provide new ways to apply it. The students look around the room for a minute and collect things like markers, bottles..and my coffee mug (good thing it was empty!).  

On their own, they discover that round things roll better and made good 'pressers'. As I wander around, I stop to ask questions the why part of the lesson to help them think through their choices and process the reasons behind them. This is a difficult yet, important step for some as they move forward because it helps them make better choices with their learning. The paper experiment takes about ten minutes, although I allow groups to go on if the activity is purposeful and moves their product forward. As the activity winds down, I give them a one-minute warning with a hand clap pattern. I ask the students to take their papers and return back to their carpet squares.

Wrap Up

5 minutes

Once we are gathered, I ask, “What are some of the ways we found to make the paper smoother and easier to use for writing?” “We pressed it with our hands.”  “What made you do that?” “There were bumpy parts and we wanted to push them down.” “Sounds like you discovered something based on your goals.  What way did you find made the smoothest paper?” “We used the roller from the Play Kitchen!”  “Why did you choose that?" "Because the roller rolled smoother and pressed the paper down better." "So you were flexible about the methods you used and looked around for solutions.”  I take a second to gently clarify the vocabulary, while supporting the process. This step is short by design because the intent is to give the students an additional opportunity to process and share their results, thus making the material more concrete. Once this step was complete, I again rang the chime and asked the students to stand up and again stretch themselves out and return to their carpets when they were finished.