Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Patchwork Quilting

Kathy Pajak


Students apply knowledge of symmetry to design and create individual squares of a patchwork quilt. Students' squares are compiled to form a classroom quilt which can be used to explore area in a follow-up lesson entitled -Math on Your Lap Quilt.-


The student writes notes, comments, and observations that reflect comprehension of content and experiences from a variety of media.

The student understands the concepts of spatial relationships, symmetry, reflections, congruency, and similarity.


-Construction paper (9- x 12- pieces cut in half to 9- x 6- --use various colors)
-Copies of -Six-Inch Block Templates- and -Planning Guide- (see Associated File)
-Crayons, colored pencils, or markers
-Chart paper entitled -Symmetry How-To's-
-The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy, E.P. Dutton, 1985.
-The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco, Simon & Schuster, 1998.
-Student online lesson, -Let's Learn Symmetry- available from the Beacon Learning Center
-Internet accessible computers


Teacher Preparation

1. Secure book(s) and quilts to share.

2. Cut 9- X 12- construction paper in half -Hamburger style- to get two 6- X 9- pieces. You'll need one 6- X 9- piece for each student plus extra pieces for additional one-inch squares.

3. Gather scissors, rulers, and glue.

4. Copy the -Six-inch Block Templates- and -Planning Guide- for each student.

5. Title a sheet of chart paper -Symmetry How-To's-.

6. Check computer availability in case some students need to use the online lesson, -Let's Learn Symmetry- for review.


NOTE: Several days before reading the book(s) ask students to bring in homemade quilts they might have (with parental permission, of course). Encourage students to ask their parents about the background of the quilt : -Who made the quilt? What was special about it? When was it made?,- etc. (This lesson will stretch over a couple of days, possibly allowing time to share both books.)


1. Read, or select students to read, one of the stories about quilts.

2. After reading, lead the class in a discussion about the book(s) and quilts. Allow students to share homemade quilts with the class, telling the background - who made it, what was special about it, when it was made, etc. (Be sure to share your special quilts and stories, too!)

3. Tell the students they will spend the next few days applying what they have learned about symmetry to design and create their own small quilt squares. The class will then attach all of the individual quilt squares to make one large class quilt. (If students need to review symmetry, have them complete the online student lesson -Let's Learn Symmetry.-)

4. Hand out 9- x 6- pieces of construction paper to each student, and ask the question, -How can we make a square out of this piece of paper?-

5. Give students time to brainstorm ideas and experiment with the paper.

6. Students should be able to tell or show that a square can be made by folding the top left hand corner over to the right-hand side until the top of the paper and the right side of the paper are even, thus forming a triangle. Then, the leftover piece below the triangle can be cut off. When the triangle is opened, the students should see a perfect square.

7. Students follow the above procedures to cut out 6- x 6- squares. (See -Teacher Preparation- to determine the number of squares needed.) Encourage them to fold and cut carefully because a good quilt depends on accurate measurement and cutting. (Have students put their names on the 6- x 6- squares and collect the leftover 3- x 6- pieces to use on day two.)

8. Explain that each quilt square will be built on some type of symmetry: horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. Ask students, -What line of symmetry is currently showing on your square?- (Possible answer: diagonal) -How do you know it is a line of symmetry?- (Possible Answer: It divides the square into two equal halves.)

9. Ask students to fold their squares in half so that two opposite corners touch in order to show a horizontal line of symmetry. (Have the students hold up their squares as they finish for a quick visual assessment.) Ask them to refold their squares in half so that the two opposite sides touch in order to show a vertical line of symmetry. (Do a quick visual assessment again.)

10. Give each student one copy of -Six-Inch Block Templates.- Direct students to work in pairs to identify the lines of symmetry occuring in each design. If needed, the student pairs may cut out each of the four templates and fold them in order to find the lines of symmetry. (Answers: Weathervane--horizontal, vertical, diagonal; Aunt Sulsey's Choice--diagonal; Fifty-four Forty or Fight--diagonal; Jacob's Ladder--diagonal.)

*While students are working, collect their 6- x 6- squares to keep them neat and clean for use on day two.*

11. Discuss answers and observations. Have students use the bottom two templates to practice designing a quilt square. Instruct them to use crayons, colored pencils, or markers to create a design on ONE half of each block (their partner will complete the other half).

12. When finished with their halves, students swap papers and recreate their partner's designs to complete the symmetrical square blocks.

13. Students share design ideas in small group settings to gather further ideas for their individual quilt square.


1. Pass back the 6- x 6- squares you kept from day one. Explain that they will be using one-inch construction paper squares to cover their quilt block. Ask them to predict how many one-inch squares they need to cover the square block.

2. Pass out the remaining 3- x 6- pieces from day one, and discuss how to make one-inch squares using a ruler. Students use rulers and scissors to cut out eighteen one-inch squares from the remaining pieces.

3. Have the students place the one-inch squares on their 6- x 6- squares to -test- their previously made predictions.

4. Ask the students again, -How many one-inch squares will we need to cover the square?- (Answer: 36)

5. Explain that these squares will be the building blocks of the quilt design. The squares may be used -as is- or may be symmetrically folded to create triangles and rectangles. Demonstrate these folds, and allow time for students to practice.

6. Give each student one copy of the -Planning Guide,- and have them place one square (or half of one square) on the grid. Encourage them to use the guide to plan the arrangement of their unit squares. Remind them that the overall design must contain at least one line of symmetry--horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. (Refer students to the templates and practice designs from day one as needed.)

7. Designate a spot in the classroom where additional construction paper may be obtained or where one-inch squares may be swapped to help students gather the squares and colors they need for their designs.

8. Once the students have finished arranging their one-inch squares on the 6- x 6- planning guide, they should write an explanation (on the bottom of the guide) explaining which line(s) of symmetry were used to create their design. When the teacher has read the explanation and approved the pattern as being symmetrical, the students may glue the one-inch squares onto the 6- x 6- construction paper square.

9. As students begin completing their 6- x 6- quilt squares, designate an area in the classroom to begin laying out the quilt.

10. Have students list (on the back of their planning guide) the steps they took to design their symmetrical square. (Compile their techniques onto a classroom chart entitled -Symmetry How-To's- to remind students that there is often a variety of ways to solve the same problem correctly.)


1. Use the completed 6- x 6- squares to check that the students' designs contain one or more lines of symmetry.

*Teacher and students may use class time to delineate other scorable criteria such as neatness, use of color, accuracy of measurement, etc. Be sure to specify which specific aspects will be graded before students begin the final product.

2. Assess students' written explanations--the lines of symmetry used in their design (on the front of the planning guide) and the list of steps taken to complete their design (on the back of the planning guide)--to see that their writing reflects a comprehension of the concept of symmetry.


This lesson builds on students' previous knowledge of symmetry and lays a concrete foundation for discussing area. See the online lesson plan -Math On Your Lap Quilt- for a further exploration of area using student-generated quilt squares.
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