Learning with Origami

No doubt it’s difficult for teachers to continuously make learning tasks, such as comprehension exercises and writing, interesting for their students. Many students find studying boring and difficult and personally, I found that some of my students have difficulty following instructions and are impatient when longer tasks and passages are given, which then results in avoidable mistakes. Racking my brain for a solution, I finally found it!

Origami is the traditional Japanese art of paper folding. It involves the creation of three-dimensional forms usually entirely by folding paper. Animals, geometric shapes, puppets and toys are among the models that even very young children can learn to make in just one sitting.

Study and life skills are in directly taught through origami. Students learn how to listen and be attentive. Origami, being a precision activity, requires a student to be focused, read instructions carefully and not to jump headfirst into the exercise: to think before acting. These learning skills teach students to have pride in their work, which in turn raises self-esteem.

The art of origami can teach chil-dren cooperative learning and be an excellent ice-breaker. Some children will catch on to origami faster than others. The best origami folder may not be the best language student in class. When students can help their peers, this will also boost self-esteem.
Furthermore, it’s imperative to teach students to maintain a healthy relationship with other students. The teacher facilitates in setting a positive mood in the class by teaching students how to behave, get along in a group activity and acknowledge each other’s individual strengths. At the end of it, being able to complete a seemingly complicated origami project allows a student to feel proud and to experience feelings of success.

Another great asset of taking part in this activity is the development of fine motor skills.

Origami encourages cognitive development as students work with both hands to manipulate the paper to get the shapes. Certain steps need to be repeated which also requires memory skills. These skills are necessary not only for the project but also in everyday life.

Educational benefits of origami have the possibility of being limitless with careful and well thought out lesson planning.


Origami can be extended to include subject content. It can be used as part of a pre-writing strategy, oracy activity and more. For example, a simple butterfly origami can be used to brainstorm adjectives for the insect. This can be followed by watching a butterfly’s life-cycle video or to teach vocabulary words like ‘camouflage’.

If you want to teach sight words / word families, for example ‘boat’ and ‘float’, fold a paper boat and students can practice their spelling on it as part of the decoration. It is easy to adapt origami to every age level.

Origami can be first introduced by choosing a creation that will stimulate and maintain students’ interest. This way they will listen carefully to instructions and pay very close attention to what they are doing and to the teacher’s demonstration in order to get a decent result at the end.

With a lower primary class, I started with an airplane and a boat origami, which have less complicated folds. With a secondary class, I gave students the option to decide a shape and difficulty level.

Ideally, both visual and verbal instructions must be provided to students for the first few lessons. Instruction sheets with diagrams and instructions (visual) must be accompanied by teacher demonstrations (visual & verbal) as it takes time to understand the diagrams and technical terms.

The simplest yet most effective benefit of the art of origami is that it’s a great way to break a mundane class routine! It’s an amazing hands-on activity that transforms a single piece of paper into something totally new.
It also has a calming effect on students. It gets them to be patient when things do not work out the first time round. Pair it up with classical music playing in the background, and you might even observe miracles from a hyperactive student.

Nuraini Osman
DAS Educational Therapist