Notes on how to teach origami
from a presentation by Mick Guy on the 8th April 2017 at the Campanile Hotel, Bradford
Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail
Nothing is taught unless something is learnt
- Consider the size of the teaching paper, perhaps two sizes for a complicated model so that you can swap later on. A 15cm square of paper will look the size of a stamp a distance away! But using large paper has its difficulties so using it will require practice before you teach with it.
- Consider the size and type of the students paper so that the best model can be made.
- Consider the colour of the teaching paper and avoid dark shades. Magicians use black to hide things. Whilst it may seem a good idea to use black or a dark grey to give a good contrast with the white, you can easily lose creases and edges because of the colour. The same goes for patterned paper. Foil paper can pick up reflections and teaching with duo paper can also cause a problem if the students do not have the same paper with the same colours. Even if a model does not require the white colour reverse, it is still useful to have it for orientation purposes.
- Consider the colours of your clothes to avoid the paper becoming ‘lost’. There maybe a student who is colour blind. Know the sequence. Practise, practise, practise and have a back-up plan in case your first try doesn’t work, particularly for those moves that maybe tricky for the student. Getting the folding sequence right is crucial. Try and have a private run through the night before you are teaching and an hour or two before if possible. Remember that the best way may not be from the instructions from which you learnt the model. Folding to an edge is easier and usually more accurate than folding to a crease.
- Organize the room layout to suit your style. Don’t be afraid to move furniture. Most teachers prefer the ‘C’ shape of table style as this allows easy access to the students if they need help. But this can also be a hindrance as some will expect your individual help at nearly every step. If this happens it will seriously lengthen the duration of the class. Have all students facing you and position yourself so that you don’t finish up teaching the same move three times over; to the left, the centre and the right.
- Have instructions to hand in case you forget the sequence.
- Use a large felt tip pen if you are trying to describe a tricky crease pattern. It maybe useful to prepare this earlier. Pinch marks can easily get lost at a distance, so don’t be afraid to use the pen.
- If equipment is available, consider the use of projecting diagrams or the folding sequence.
- If teaching more than one model, especially to beginners, consider building on techniques in your model selection. e.g using models where the waterbomb base is always involved.
- Try to visit your teaching room beforehand to establish the position from which you are going to teach. Do not stand with your back against the natural light. Some prefer to teach against a wall or other surface. The advantage of this is that your position to the paper is the same as for the students. But sometimes a wall is not available and you have to teach by holding the paper against your chest. This requires special practice as it is easy to confuse left and right as your hands are often in the wrong place. So it is a good idea to practise in a mirror. This will show you what the student will see and get you out of the habit of looking down on a horizontal model, which helps you fold but shows the student nothing.
- Always try and teach the model to someone or preferably a small group before a convention. You will always learn something on how to teach it a better way.
If you want to give it a go for the first time cut your teeth with a simple model. This will gain your confidence.
- Ask at the start of the session whether anyone would like a ‘buddy’ to help them if they get stuck. Don’t take anything for granted. Even at conventions, some may not know what a waterbomb base is. Explain the classification of the model, whether it is simple intermediate or complex. Newcomers often do not understand some origami terms, particularly if they have been brought up on the Internet.
- Is the paper the right way up? It can be useful to fold a spare corner over a small amount to show which way up the paper should be.
- For the session to be enjoyable, keep it moving, be encouraging and be honest. Use jokes and anecdotes if you feel they are appropriate.
- Ask for help if you get stuck and encourage a helping environment.
- Develop your own style that you are comfortable with.
- Be aware of language difficulties. A good exercise is to teach without a verbal instruction!
- Try not to touch the student’s paper. A student will not learn if you do it all for him or her.
- Use verbal pictures to demonstrate the shape you are looking for.
- Video has shown us that seeing the teaching in the same attitude as the student is folding is the best way. So think about using a wall or a flip chart if it helps. If you are teaching one to one, sit side by side rather than nose to nose.
- Of all the techniques, novices will find reverse folds amongst the most difficult. Sometimes it is best to work around it (as with outside reverses) or just get preliminary creases in and then show the reverse fold being done without dialogue.
- How you feel at the end of the session is a good guide as to how you have done. What percentage completed the model?
- Did you complete the model on time? If not why not? Was there a particularly slow person in the group? Sometimes they may have to be ‘surrendered’ for the good of the group. So don’t worry if not everyone finishes. You can always offer to help them afterwards. If you have finished up teaching everyone individually, then something has probably gone wrong. There are, however, some models which due to their complexity, are only suitable for small groups. A restricted number of students and an extended teaching period is put into place for these sessions.
- Ask yourself whilst it is fresh in your mind what you would change.
- Ask a friend to give you feedback.
- Observe and discuss with other teachers about how they overcome problems. You will learn a lot from them.
- If this is your first time give yourself a pat on the back. Teaching is not easy.
- Was something learnt?