Radial Plate Weaving (3rd)

For this 3rd grade lesson (inspired by Art with Mr. E) we began by looking at the art of the Navajo Native Americans of the Southwest. Students learned about their amazing weaving skills (textiles, baskets, etc.) and their frequent use of symmetrical geometric motifs. We talked about how having symmetrical designs helped to achieve balance and harmony in their artwork. After viewing several examples, I presented students with our project - radial yarn weaving! :)
Anytime my students get to work with new materials they are super excited.. and yarn is no exception. I think it's the really hands on part that they love and that they are working with materials that not all the other students get to experience.
To begin, each student was given a paper plate on which I had them immediately write their name on the "front" of (the part you would eat off of), because this actually becomes the back of the artwork. Then I passed out my "cheater-plates" to each table and had students take turns tracing the odd numbered and evenly spaced triangular cuts around the plate onto their own (this saved an incredible amount of time and frustration). Once students had traced the triangular cuts from my cheater-plate onto their own, they cut them out. As they were working on that I walked around the classroom and poked a hole with a needle tool into the middle of each student's plate. Once they were finished cutting out their triangular cuts, I had them stick a pencil into the needle hole to make it wider.
The next step was to take a ruler and create a straight lines from the apex of the triangular cuts to the center of the plate (essentially dividing up the plate into even "slices"). Once they were done with their lines, students got to color in their slices with crayons. I suggested sticking to a color scheme so it wasn't super random - after-all the Navajo strove for balance and harmony!
Once the decoration of the loom (paper plate) was completed, it was time to add the warp strings!

I knew this would be incredibly difficult to translate into words for you.. so I created a diagram to help me explain it (see below).

Once the warp strings were added, students chose a color to use for their first weft string and using a plastic yarn needle, strung it through the center hole (tying the end of the yarn onto a warp string on the back of their plate). Then it was just a matter of weaving over and under and over and under and over and under until the end of time. :) I demoed this several times for my kids using my brand new document camera (yayyyyyyyy for new tech toys) and showed them what it looks like if you weave it correctly, and then what it looks like when you've missed a string in your pattern (you'll end up going under the same strings and over the same strings instead of it alternating).
Once students ran out of their weft yarn, I had them choose another color of yarn and overhand-knot (like the kind of knot you use to tie a balloon or start a friendship bracelet) it onto the end of their first string and continue on. Students kept going until we ran out of time on the last day!
In total we spent 5 days (about 40 minutes each class) working on this project.

Day 1: Navajo powerpoint and triangular cuts to create the loom
Day 2: Finish cutting and line/color plate
Day 3: Add the warp strings
Day 4: Weave
Day 5: Weave

This is definitely one of those projects that you need to be super hands-on with. Many students do not know how to tie the knots and will need to be shown how. You will definitely have students that need to be constantly reassured that they are "doing it right". And you will also likely have those students who are still having trouble getting the warp string on on day 5.
My third grade classes currently all have about 35 students in them... and I remained constantly busy helping students as soon as the yarn came into the picture. Be prepared! :)

Another way of doing this (inspired by pinterest - these examples created by me)... flowers! Cool idea for spring time!


  1. These are STUNNING! So vibrant; your kids did a great job !

  2. These are gorgeous! 35 kids in each class??? Holy Moly!!! I am now feeling very blessed with my 17- 24 class sizes!

    1. Yep.. we got split classes this year! :/
      Luckily 35 is my largest... which is good... because I don't think I could handle 36! haha :)

  3. Is there a specific type of paper plate you used? Perhaps a heaver paper plate or the coated paper plates so it doesn't rip as easily? I'm thinking of trying this out with my 3rd graders.

    1. Yes! I used heavy duty paper plates from Wal-Mart (great value brand).