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Lesson Plans
Sew, You Want To Quilt?
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Prep for Teachers

Prior to this lesson, bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. Load the Shockwave plug-in (available free at onto each computer as well.
Prepare the hands-on element of the lesson by:
  1. Collecting actual quilts (if available) or pictures of quilts to display in classroom. There are many children's books (see Cross-Curricular Extensions) that contain pictures of quilts.
  2. Copying the pattern designs (see attached worksheets). Students will choose one design to color.
  3. Have art materials ready to distribute.
  4. Tape together the "ready-made" quilt of plastic bags.
Determine how many clear, resealable plastic bags you will need to make a quilt holder, using one bag per child. Clear tape the sides together, laying them side-by-side, leaving the top open, to form a grid. For example, for a class of thirty students you can make 5 rows of 6 bags. You can also add one row and column of bags around the perimeter of the grid for pattern borders. This quilt grid allows you to have a quilt theme as often as the students make drawings according to a topic. Finished drawings can be added to the quilt and removed when a new topic is studied. The plastic bags act as a "holder" in a grid format to provide easy access to the quilt.

When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.

Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

Step 1:

Display a variety of quilts or pictures of quilts around your classroom. Ask the students if they are familiar with quilts, if they have any at home, and if they were bought from a store or part of their family's heritage. Have students recognize the patterns of shape and color in the quilts.

Step 2:

Provide a copy of the "Quilt Design Sheet" for each student. Have the students look at the various designs and describe any pattern they see formed by dividing or combing shapes. Focus the students' attention on the geometric properties of the shapes that make up the quilt design. Ask how many triangles they see. Do the triangles make another shape? Ask if the repetition of shapes creates a larger image, such as a leaf or pinwheel.

Step 3:

Have each student construct a three-inch square of white paper. Ask students to create a design in the square using horizontal, vertical, or diagonal lines to divide the interior. Have each student color the design using two different colors.

Step 4:

Connect the squares to make a quilt border. Have the students decide the measurements; how many squares per side are needed to produce a square or rectangle large enough to include all the squares? Are there any left over? What can be done with these? Can one or two more be made to give the border even sides? The border squares can be displayed around the edges of a bulletin board or on a wall. Determine what can be drawn for the middle of the pattern border.

Learning Activities

Step 1:

Insert Cyberchase #107: Poddleville Case, into your VCR. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify the patterns we see in every day life, that we make overlook normally. START the tape at the end of the cartoon, when the "For Real" segment begins. PAUSE the tape at the photo store price list, when the music stops.

Elicit a list of objects showing patterns (mosaic, quilts, traffic light, park bench, street lines, address numbers, hair braids, turtle shell, leaves, bricks, manhole cover, frog, photo price list). Ask the students to think of other patterns they see in every day objects.

Step 2:

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to define the word pattern. START the tape at the previous pause point. PAUSE the tape at the image of the chess game, when the host says, "What's the pattern here?"

Ask the students to answer the host's question (checkerboard, red and black squares. A pattern is defined as a sequence that repeats).

Step 3:

Ask your students to name a pattern using 2 colors or shapes (as an example, “orange-yellow-orange-yellow” or “star-stripe-star-stripe”), then by using 3 colors or shapes (such as "red-blue-green-red-blue-green," or "circle-square-triangle-circle-square-triangle"). Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, having them predict how music can be a kind of pattern.

PLAY the video segment from the previous pause point, and PAUSE when the host says, "When patterns repeat over time, they create a pattern," and you see the sign for STOMP. CHECK for comprehension. (Music can be a pattern if the notes or rhythms repeat over time.)

Step 4:

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to observe how the STOMP performers make patterns. PLAY the segment until the end. CHECK for comprehension. (The performers create rhythms by using everyday objects and by simply clapping.)

Working in small groups, have students create their own rhythmic patterns using their hands. Students can experiment with the many ways their hands can make sound (clapping, tapping, snapping fingers).

Step 5:

Ask your students to log on to Cyberchase Web site at

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to create a pattern of sound and music. Students will click on the colored squares to turn on the sound for each. Each horizontal row plays a different tone. Students will invent original patterns of music.

Step 6:

Ask your students to complete another activity on the Cyberchase site at

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to uncover the pattern of four shapes the computer provides. Students will be given eight turns to solve the pattern. Four leaf shapes are organized into a pattern from six leaf shapes the computer presents. The game guides each turn as to which of the four shapes are in the correct position, until all four shapes are placed in the correct pattern.

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Introduce the artwork of Faith Ringgold by exhibiting her book Tar Beach, or other books you may have in your classroom library illustrated by the artist. Observe her use of patterns as borders around the pages. Introduce the next video segment where she explains her creative style that combines painting and quilt making.

Step 1:

Insert African-American Artists #12: Faith Ringgold and the Last Story Quilt into your VCR. CUE the tape to the close-up of Ringgold as she says, " I said, I was sick." Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them how Faith's mother inspired her creativity as a young girl. START the tape. PAUSE when Ringgold says "...and a lot of love." Discuss Faith Ringgold's mother's influence on her art. (Her mother was a clothing designer and gave Faith art materials and cloth when she was sick in bed with asthma.)

Step 2:

to Faith Ringgold painting on yellow fabric. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them why Faith painted on fabric to make story quilts, rather than traditional artist canvas. PAUSE after Ringgold's explanation when she says, "I became a full-time artist." Discuss her painting technique, the painting surrounded by quilt squares. Review what a Tibetan tonga is (a painting framed in cloth) and how this influenced her painting surface.

Step 3:

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to determine what was Faith Ringgold's "American Art." PLAY the video segment until the close-up of Ringgold, when she says, "That is what makes me an African-American." PAUSE the tape. Review her experiences with her college study of Western Art and her heritage of African Art. This combination is what formed her style and inspirations in creating paintings.

Step 4:

Tell your students that they will see an actual finished story quilt, entitled "Sunflower Outing at Arles." Explain that Arles, France, is a city where the artist Vincent Van Gogh lived and painted. "Sunflowers" is one of his most popular paintings. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them why they think Ringgold chose the title and to identify the pattern in the quilt. PLAY the tape. PAUSE at the image of "The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles," when Faith says, "...the pattern making." Have students tell their opinion of the title. How does the use of patterns work in the painting? (The patterns act as a border, framing the painting, as if it were a quilt itself. The patterns of flowers throughout the painting reinforce Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" painting.) Compare the two paintings.

Step 5:

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to list the women in the painting, and what their significance is to this story quilt painting. PLAY the tape. PAUSE after Ringgold says, "...piecing together freedom in this country." Have the students discuss the painting. What images do they see? What are the women doing? Students will name the famous African-American women, and if possible, tell what each is famous for. Why did Ringgold put all these women together, from different eras and places? What story does it tell? (Figures in the painting include Madame Walker – chemist, cosmetics entrepreneur, millionaire; Sojourner Truth – abolitionist activist; Ida Wells – civil rights activist; Fannie Lou Hamer – civil rights activist; Harriet Tubman – slave, "conductor" on Underground Railroad; Rosa Parks – civil and human rights activist; Mary Bethune – educator and founder of a school; Daisy Bates – welfare worker and anthropologist.)

Step 6:

REWIND the segment to the image of the whole painting. Have students critique the painting. What do they like or dislike and why? How does the painting make them feel?

Step 7:

Ask your students to log on to Faith Ringgold's Web site at On the home page, click on "Frequently Asked Questions." Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to read through the section. Discuss some of the artist's responses to questions such as "How long did it take her to complete the 'Tar Beach' quilt?" (One month.) "How does she write the story of the quilts?" (She thinks about the characters and the story and then writes the chapters in segments. And then, just like the materials of a quilt, she pieces the words together until they make a story.) "Where does she get her ideas?" (Her ideas come from reflecting on her life and the lives of people she has known.) "Where did she teach and where does she teach now?" (She was aNew York City Public School teacher for 18 1/2 years and is presently a senior professor at the University of California.)

Step 8:

Return to the home page and click on "Images." Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to scroll through the art gallery, observing the different story quilts and their corresponding titles.

Step 9:

Scroll to page four and click on the image of "Crown Heights Children's History Quilt." Acquaint the students with this painting, as they will view the making of this work in the video segment. Ask the students to identify the images they see. Do they look real? Why are some flying? Discuss Faith Ringgold's layout of images in a neat grid, in a timeline format.

Step 10:

Insert African-American Artists #8: Faith Ringgold Paints Crown Heights into your VCR. CUE the tape to the segment showing the artist mixing paints. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them what were the problems faced when creating the Crown Heights Children's History Quilt. PAUSE at the image of the map. (This painting was difficult to create because it had to satisfy many people.) Discuss the artist's concerns with trying to do something good for the community, the school, parents, and kids.

Step 11:

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify the first settlers in Crown Heights. PLAY the tape. PAUSE at the end of the historical footage and discuss. (Crown Heights was first settled by Dutch settlers, then Haitian immigrants, and later, Hasidic Jews.)

Step 12:

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them how major groups expressed their cultural differences. PLAY the tape. PAUSE at the image of Ringgold painting the gray panel. (Groups expressed their cultural differences through music, art and the telling of folktales.) Discuss the use of folktales in telling cultural stories.

Step 13:

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to observe the steps involved in creating a story quilt. PLAY the tape. PAUSE at the image of the artist painting the blue panel, when she says, "I like to have the color there." Review all the necessary steps taken to complete a painting, as well as the use of borders, importance of composition, her reasons for painting on canvas.

Step 14:

FAST-FORWARD to the close-up of Faith Ringgold, when she says, " has to hold your interest." Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them why she likes to travel and how this affects her creativity. PLAY the tape. STOP the video at the finished quilt to critique. What are students' feelings about the painting? Do they like it or dislike it? How do they feel about her style of fantasy (flying people, imaginary creatures)? Discuss Ringgold's desire to "absorb cultural aspects of a place." Refer to the Web site, and her connection to people and culture, as her inspiration to paint. Where do the students get their ideas for stories or paintings? How can we combine our imagination with our real life experience to create art?

Step 15:

As an assessment of the lesson, choose a topic or historical story to depict in a class story quilt. Each child will be responsible for creating an image to tell part of the story. Display their drawings in the clear plastic quilt. Have the class decide if the drawings should be arranged in a time line format, or randomly. Students can also decide on a limit of colors to be used for consistency. Students can discuss their choice of imagery. Choose one of four quilt design sheets (Windmill, Old Tippecanoe. Maple Leaf or Churn Dash Design Sheet). Students will color their choice and add to the border of the class quilt. Critique the finished quilt. What are the students' feelings when all of their drawings are put together? Does their quilt tell a story? Does the use of patterns in shape and color enhance the finished quilt?

Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Create a story quilt using fabric paint and cloth. Use patterns to border the quilt. What tradition will this set, and how can it be passed down to other generations?

Visit the Web site for America's Quilting History at
Research the history of quilts in other cultures. How are quilts used, and why are they made? Where does the fabric come from? Who are the people who create them? Study the designs from these cultures and compare to American designs.


Using fractions, create a pattern border. Changing colors, divide squares into 1/2, 1/3, and 1/4.

Read Faith Ringgold's Tar Beach to examine the use of patterns and quilted borders on each page.

Read The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy to see how a little girl and her Grandmother complete a family keepsake. Have students design a quilt about themselves with each square representing one year in their lives.

Read Patricia Polacco's The Keeping Quilt to discover the Russian tradition of quiltmaking. Make a time line exhibiting the life of the quilt, how it was used and by whom, as it is passed from generation to generation.

Community Connections
  • Visit the American Folk Art Museum, Columbus Avenue, New York City. See the display of quilts from American History.

  • How do family heirlooms play a significant part in their culture? Ask family members to visit the classroom, bringing a family keepsake to discuss its value in the family, and the culture from which it originates.

  • Visit a local fabric store, and ask for remnants or scraps. Create patterns using these fabric pieces, sewing them together to make a real quilt.

  • Visit a local quilting workshop. Learn some of the basic designs and steps in creating a full size quilt. Observe the extensive variety of styles.