Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Geo Jammin' By Design - Day 5, Lesson 28: The Mo-tea-if

Katie Koehnemann
Bay District Schools


Preparing a fabric swatch for appliquéing begins with reading informational text and directions for tea dying cloth. The task comes full circle as students are given a piece of fabric, and use tea leaves to dye it to the shade of their choosing.


The student reads informational texts for specific purposes (including but not limited to performing a task, learning a new task, sequentially carrying out the steps of a procedure, locating information to answer a question).

The student identifies patterns in the real-world (for example, repeating, rotational, tessellating, and patchwork).

The student knows some works of art that reflect the cultural heritage of the community or country (for example, paintings, statues).

The student knows ways trade helps families in different places meet their basic needs of clothing, food, and shelter.

The student knows ways people can conserve and replenish natural resources.


-4 inch (suggested; see comment in Teacher Preparation #2) triangle cut from natural fiber material (100% cotton, linen, wool) for each child
-A set of directions printed on transparency (See Associated File)
-Overhead projector with viewing surface
-Sample appliqué (See Suggestion in # 6 of Procedures)
-Styrofoam bowls suitable for making tea with hot water and laying a fabric triangle in--one per student. (Other options: partners for each bowl; or a bowl per group of students.)
-Plastic spoons for poking and stirring the fabric in the tea
-Ballpoint pens
-An area for students to dye fabric. A long counter top near a sink would be ideal.
-A line strung in the room for hanging damp, dyed triangles
-Clothespins for hanging triangles
-Volunteers or classroom aide for assistance
-Hot plate
-Something to boil water in (teakettle, pot, microwave, etc.)
-Teabags (Other possibilities: mashed strawberries make a pink color; blueberries a pretty blue)


1) When choosing the fabric for the triangles you will need a 100% natural fabric. It is suggested that you choose fabric that does not ravel easily. The swatch will be handled quite a bit by the students both when it is being dyed and when it is sewn as motif fabric in Lesson 32.
2) Cut triangles to fit comfortably within a 6 X 6 inch square of fabric. This is the recommended size of the ‘main fabric’ piece students will have to work with in Lesson 32, when they sew the triangle motif onto the square main fabric piece. You will want to have enough size to the triangles in order to have enough edge to iron under a narrow hem for the students. It will be best to have a narrow seam allowance turned under on all three sides of each triangle before students begin to sew (in Lesson 32). After tea dyed triangles have dried, you will want to tend to ironing under narrow hems (DO NOT use any kind of sewing machine stitching on the squares.).
OPTION I: If motif fabric were dyed on a Friday, you would have the weekend to iron under raw edges.
OPTION II: Have classroom volunteers take the triangles home to do it for you.
OPTION III: If the fabric you purchased does not ravel, and you do not have the time to iron under a hem, students can sew the raw edges (Day 6, Lesson 32).
3) Make a transparency of the guided reading text and directions. (See Associated File)
4) Have a sample of an appliquéd piece. (See Suggestion in # 6 of Procedures)
5) Make available at the work area ballpoint pens for students to use.
6) String a drying line somewhere in the room.
7) Have clothespins for hanging.
8) Gather Styrofoam bowls, plastic spoons, hot plate, teakettle or pot for heating water, and teabags.
9) Determine a cleared off area where students can work.
10) Line up volunteers or classroom aides for assistance.
11) Use this option only after all individual student conferences are complete. Option: Choose a book to read while fabric is in the tea bath. For example, a book describing the process of dyeing fabric.


NOTE: IF I WERE DOING THIS I would not want students near boiling water. While the class is out of the room for a length of time (i.e. Special Area) I would boil the water and prepare a bowl of steeping tea for each student. It should have time to cool sufficiently before students return to the classroom. Remove the teabag from each bowl, squeeze it out, and lay it along side of each bowl. When students go to a bowl to dye their fabric triangles, they will see the teabag and understand better that they will be dyeing fabric in tea.

The following steps are written aligned with the suggestion above:
1) Use guiding questions to review with students how fabric used to be dyed. (Lesson 23, Colors to Dye For) Optional: Have a copy of the text from that Associated File to help create the questions. For example:
Q. How did people of long ago get the fabric for replenishing bedding or clothing? A. From natural sources like sheep’s wool or plants, like flax, were used to make linen, or cotton, which comes from a plant.
Q. Why did ladies experiment with different ways to dye the natural fabrics? A. Most natural fabrics are plain colors, like white and light beige. They wanted pretty colors for their houses and they could make designs symmetrical with colors. This made quilting more artistic.
Q. What were some of the ways they dyed fabric? A. Plants. They would mash them and put them in hot water and then put the cloth in the hot colored water.
Formative assessment occurs as students participate in this review discussion and you listen to points and ideas they bring forth as they recollect the reading from Lesson 23, Colors to Dye For.

2) Explain to students they will dye a piece of natural fiber cloth much in the same way it was done long ago. Hold up a teabag.
*Formative assessment occurs as students predict: what will color the fabric? (Yes, they will use tea, but what is tea? Yes, the leaves of a plant.) What type fabric might be used? (Yes, a somewhat plain color, natural fabric.) What is the process used? (Like the article explained, the leaves will be placed in hot water.) What color will the fabric turn?
3) Show the hot plate. Ask how this compares to how people of long ago heated up water for dyeing. (No, they heated water over an open flame.)

4) Explain that for safety purposes, the hot water will be poured over the tea leaves when they are out of the class.

5) When students return to the classroom, review and explain the procedures used to achieve the dye color.

6) Place on the overhead the guided reading text and directions. (In Associated File) Guide students through the text; add new vocabulary words to the Quilt Word Board (i.e. appliqué, motif). During the reading process allow opportunities for students to retell the steps in their own words, explain what an appliqué is and what a motif is. (Suggestion: To help teach the terms appliqué and motif, hold up a sample of an appliquéd piece or a 6 X 6 inch square of white fabric with a different colored shape laid over it.) Formative assessment occurs as students participate in the reading and discussion. Listen for students to accurately focus on key words and correct definitions.

7) Set parameters for the dyeing process. (i.e. dye your own fabric triangle; leave it as long as you like to make it darker or lighter, etc.)

8) Hand out a fabric triangle with his or her name on it to each student.

9) Under teacher direction and supervision, students place their triangles in the bowl of tea dye, using a plastic spoon for stirring and lifting.To insure all students have an understanding of the concepts covered in the discussions, conduct mini-conferences with students as they dye the fabric. While conferencing with students ask questions (i.e. as suggested above). Check for individual student understanding.

10) As students complete the dying process, they squeeze out excess liquid and lay their dyed triangles to one side.

11) As efficiently as you can, hang each wet triangle with a clothespin on a line in the classroom.

12) Close with a follow-up discussion about the procedure used, things discovered about natural dyeing (it went fast, it went slow, it was boring, the color was too dark, too light, etc.) Add the term ‘motif’ to the quilt word board.

13) Remind students there is a summative assessment the next day.


Formative assessment occurs as students participate in and share ideas during the opening discussion about material read in Lesson 23, Colors To Dye For, predict the process, fabric type, and outcome during discussion, read informational text and directions focusing on key words, and participate in a mini-conference. (For detailed criteria see Procedures.)


1) There is no Guided Reading lesson per se for Day 5. However, due to the guided-like reading included in both Lesson 27, and Lesson 28, students are immersed in quality authentic reading opportunities and meet the daily reading requirement.
2) This is Lesson 28 – Mo-tea-if; a Social Studies lesson
Lessons 1 – 6 are for Day 1 of the unit Geo Jammin’ By DeSign
Lessons 7 – 11 are for Day 2 of the unit Geo Jammin’ By DeSign
Lessons 12 – 17 are for Day 3 of the unit Geo Jammin’ By DeSign
Lessons 18 – 23 are for Day 4 of the unit Geo Jammin’ By DeSign
Lessons 24 – 28 are for Day 5 of the unit Geo Jammin’ By DeSign
Lessons 29 – 32 are for Day 6 of the unit Geo Jammin’ By DeSign.
Lessons 33 – 38 are for Day 7 of the unit Geo Jammin’ By DeSign
Lessons may reflect modifications of, but are designed in conjunction with the Reading Framework approach to classroom instruction and may be adapted to the Four Block Classroom.
3) The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, Associated Files. This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).
4) Ask Hannah (Interactive Student Web Lesson) teaches and reviews symmetry concepts. Use as a learning center. If a journal is kept for this unit, allow students time to reflect on this activity.
5) Tie dye samples may be used to display color and design.

Attached Files

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