Tessellations for kids have much to teach about art and math, but need clear guide lines to keep students from jumbling up their cut out shapes.
- Drawing paper
- Card stock or chipboard square, 3″
- Masking tape
- Black marker
- Give each student a 3″ (or larger) square of heavy card stock paper, scissors, tape, and drawing paper.
- Make a diagram on a board that follows the steps illustrated.
- Number the corners as shown.
- Cut the bottom two corners off and move up to the top. With edges “kissing” and not overlapping, tape in place. The numbers are to stay right reading.
- The students draw a triangle on the back side, label “H” for head, and move to the right top and tape in place to make a bird shape.
- Using the bird as a tracing template, they align it with the side of a drawing paper, and trace one stacking column. If they move the bird to the right and interlock the head shapes, they can make another column that interlocks with the first.
- Continue tracing columns until paper is filled.
- Pencil lines are traced with a marker and the shapes are colored in. This artwork uses crayon, but painting would look very nice too.
My tessellation process shown in my diagram comes from many hours of figuring out how to work with a large group (35 or more) students and have as many as possible understand that they need to SLIDE their cut out shapes around, and not flip any over before taping together. The writing of letters in each corner really helps to do just that. To add another level of checking, try using some heavy paper that is colored differently on each side. Students can double check that the colors all match up before taping their tessellation together.
• Drawing paper, 9″ x 12″
• Chipboard square, 3″ wide
• Masking tape
• Black marker
1. Start with a card stock square, at least 3″ wide. Label the four corners. Measure and mark the middle of each side of the square.
2. On the top right corner, draw and cut out a curve, leaving a little flat space that I call the “nose”.
3. Flop the top curve piece and trace to make a symmetrical version below. Cut out the shape.
4. Both curved shapes are aligned and slide to the back of the square as shown. Tape in place. It is VERY important that the numbers read as shown as flopped and rotated shapes will not fit together when complete.
5. Cut one equilateral triangle from the bottom of the shape. It is slid to the top, aligned with the front of the fish and taped in place.
6. Place your fish on at least a 9″ x 12″ drawing paper, and trace. It’s best to make one row going across the paper first, and then add rows on top, always interlocking the shapes when tracing. Lastly, trace the lines in black marker and color with crayon. See artwork by M.C. Escher to get inspired for more complex tessellations.
Incredible. And to think he went into graphic design because he failed his high school exams. I guess testing has been misreading artists for longer than I thought.
This handout might be good just to help students appreciate how complex Escher’s tessellations are. You could color them to match, or not. Either way, once you put them together, you can’t miss how those fish, lizards and birds fit together.
• Print of Escher Hexagon Tessellation, one per student
• Markers or colored pencils
• Masking tape
• Large white butcher paper
1. To make the animal patterns repeat, there must first be a plan for the colors of the animals that everyone repeats. For instance, mine was yellow fish, orange lizards, and purple birds.
2. Students color their tessellation carefully with colored pencils or markers. 3. The hexagons are cut out.
4. All of the hexagons are glued to a large sheet of white butcher paper, as large as needed for the class.