Tessellation Monsters 2.0 (5th)

Once upon a time (in my first year of teaching), I taught a tessellation project to my 4th grade students. Just like any good fairy tale, at some point things took a turn for the worse. As great as some of the projects turned out, I was exhausted by the amount of hovering it required me to do as a teacher and left me yearning for a different project. But again, just like any good fairy tale, this story has a happy ending... After taking a 3 year break from tessellations, I have finally made my comeback with an awesome tessellation project for my 5th grade students. Yayyyy!

I started this project by showing my students an awesome PowerPoint that I put together that explains exactly what a tessellation is, some famous examples from history, and then differentiates between the 3 major types of tessellations: translations, rotations, and reflections.
After showing them the PowerPoint, I gave each of my tables a basket that contained a few 3"x3" pieces of tagboard, a written set of directions (in case students get confused), scissors, and tape. Then I showed them step-by-step how to create a translation tessellation piece using my document camera (see the directions to the left).
**A trick that I used this time teaching was to have students draw their shape from one corner to the adjacent corner. That way they don't have to worry about lining up the cut-out piece directly across from the original cutout.. you just have to line it up on the side. (This sounds confusing.. just look at my visual below.)

Once students finished creating their own pieces, I passed out large sheets of scrap paper and had them practice making tessellations with their piece. This was their opportunity to make sure that their piece was properly crafted and that it would work. This was also a great opportunity for me to be able to walk around and assist those that found that their piece wasn't working.
Once they verified that their pattern piece would work, I asked them to turn their piece around and see if they could see something that they could make their shape into (some type of character or monster). Monsters are honestly the easiest to do because, as I explained to my students, you can take any type of blob shape and slap some eyes on it and call it a monster (just being real). :) Once my students knew what they were going to make their shape into, I gave them a sheet of 9"x9" white drawing paper to use for their final project.
I advised my students to use the original edges of their tessellation piece to help them to line up their shape on their sheet of paper. Even though this cuts off part of the piece, it really does help to make sure that everything stays properly aligned. I also explained to them that just because you can't see the whole shape, doesn't mean that they shouldn't add the additional details they were planning to add for their character - they just need to add what they can see.
Once their pencil drawing was done (including adding details), students were asked to outline everything with a sharpie marker, and then add color with either crayons or color sticks.

Many of my students decided to take their tessellation patterns and make each shape into its own character in a series (instead of just repeating the same thing over and over). Doing that really helped to keep more of my kids engaged in finishing their project because it made it a little more creative and a little less repetitive.

If you are interested in this lesson, I have an incredibly awesome package posted up in my store. Seriously.. it has EVERYTHING.
Included in the package:
1. Tessellation PowerPoint: An introduction to what tessellations are, a brief history, M.C. Escher (with a link to a interview he did), his influences, his artwork, and the three main types of transformations used in making tessellations – translation, rotation, and reflections. This PowerPoint includes animated slides, which make it easier for students to visualize the shape’s movements.
2. Color Your Own Worksheets: Grid-filled pages that students can demonstrate how to draw translation, rotation, and reflection tessellations on.
3. Practicing Transformations Worksheet: Worksheet asks students to reflect specific shapes over horizontal and vertical axes, translate shapes, and rotate shapes.
4. Step-by-Step Direction Sheets: Three step-by-step instruction sheets with visuals showing how to create stencils for all three transformations. These instructions also match up with the included videos, which also demonstrate how to create them step-by-step.
5. Practice Tessellation Sheet: This page includes the base stencil for all three transformations shown in the videos and step-by-step sheets.
6. Transformation Videos: 3 videos demonstrating how to create a reflection tessellation, translation tessellation, and rotation tessellation (including how to do a graphite transfer or light table/window transfer for complex details).

Also available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.