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Story Quilt

for more on Story Quilts, see Chapter 8 Getting Started with Literature Circles
Katherine L. Schlick Noe and Nancy J. Johnson

©1999 Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc.

A story quilt is an ideal whole-class extension project that works at all grade levels. Quilt squares feature chapters, characters, or significant scenes from the literature circle book. They can include a border with a repeated design or symbol that represents a key idea. Quilt squares can incorporate visual as well as written components (e.g., an important quote or brief summary). Effective adaptations are possible for all grade levels.

Planning Forms:
1 and 2
(downloads as pdf file)

1. After students have finished reading a book, have them choose a key scene, main event, character, chapter, or theme to illustrate.

2. Squares can be made from paper or cloth. The simplest format is white construction or copy paper cut into a square with dimensions of nine to 12 inches. The size of the square and the number of students will determine how large your final quilt will be.

3. We suggest that you guide students to draw a draft of their quilt square on scratch paper. This will help them plan the spacing and arrangement of their visual and written responses.

4. Around the edges of the square, students draw a one-inch border.

5. Inside the border the students create their illustration. We suggest that you have them include a sentence or two explaining the significance of the illustration, or a quote directly from the book that supports the illustration.

6. Students can create their quilts with their literature circle group (so that each group uses a common motif for the border but each student creates his/her own square). You can also create the quilt with the whole class. In that case, students brainstorm ideas for symbols to go around the border and then vote for their favorite.

7. As a final touch, every student draws in the border.

8. You then mount all the squares on a long strip of butcher paper. If you don’t have the right number of squares to make even rows, you can have a student (or group) create an extra square with the title of the book and author. If you need yet another square to even things out, you can ask another student to create a square that identifies the class that made the quilt and include the date.

REMEMBER: An important part of extension projects is having each student present their project to the class. With the quilt it is fun to sit in a circle and have each student lay their square on the floor as they talk about their process. This way students get to see the quilt slowly come together into one complete work of art.
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Several examples are shown below. The first is from a 5th grade classroom reading books set during the Revolutionary War and focused on a theme of Finding the Courage to Help Others.   The quilt square pictured on the left came from the group that read My Brother Sam is Dead by Christopher and James Lincoln Collier.  The group designed a border with common symbols, then each member selected an important part of the book to illustrate.  Each quilt square also includes a short explanation of how the book tied to the theme. The photo on the right shows another group's segment of the assembled quilt (squares are glued onto a large piece of black butcher paper; yarn "ties" are glued in place)

Student working on quilt square
Teacher: Kirstin Gerhold, 5th grade
Columbia Elementary, Mukilteo, Washington
Segment of the finished quilt
Teacher: Kirstin Gerhold, 5th grade
Columbia Elementary, Mukilteo, Washington

The following examples show story quilt squares based on literature circle books organized by theme. On the left is a quilt from a first grade classroom learning about the lessons in fairy tales [Although you can't read it, the square in the bottom left corner identifies the lesson of Little Red Riding Hood as "Never eat people" -- always good advice!]

The other two squares are from a graduate course in teaching with children's literature at Seattle University.

First grade:
Lessons learned from fairy tales
Teacher: Vicki Yousoofian
St. Joseph School, Seattle, Washington
Theme quilt:
"Facing adversity with courage and hope builds character"
Designed by Ana Legaspi
graduate student at Seattle University

Theme quilt:
"With someone in your corner supporting you, you are able to stand up for yourself"
Designed by Jessica May
graduate student at Seattle University

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Click here to go to the Themed Literature Unit web site to learn more about organizing literature circles around themes.

Click here to see sample planning forms for Story Quilts: Example 1 and Example 2.

Click here to see a sample evaluation form for Story Quilts.

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Literature Circles Resource Center
© 2002 Katherine L. Schlick Noe
School of Education
Seattle University
900 Broadway
Seattle, WA 98122