The Stunning Simplicity of Notans

Fourth grade art students created notans by cutting shapes out and flipping them to create symmetry.


  • Small construction paper to cut out of (I use 9″ x 9″)
  • Large paper to glue onto (I use 18″ x 18″)
  • Scissors
  • Glue sticks

Downloadable PowerPoint: Notan

I was unsure about doing a notan project with 4th graders. It was one of my favorites for high school students, but I was worried it might be overwhelming for elementary. After doing it 3 quarters in a row, and seeing the beautiful results, it’s a staple in my curriculum.

I did simplify the process, which took a little trial and error. I didn’t want to use exacto knives in elementary. During  the drawing step, they had to start and stop their shapes on the edge of the paper. I also realized that keeping the shape on the same edge made it so much easier when it came time to flip the shapes and glue them.

Probably the best thing I did was to play them a video of someone making a notan. It really helped them to see the whole process before they started. It unlocked the mystery to making something so complicated. They were surprised that the steps were actually simple.

I had bags with their table names that they could put their shapes into as they cut them out. The biggest organizational breakthrough I made was having each kid at a table pick a different color square to draw their design onto. It made sorting shapes so much easier!

I encouraged the kids to draw shapes they would enjoy cutting out. This definitely brought the frustration level down significantly. I was also pretty loose about how the kids glued them down. Most students really wanted to figure out how to make it symmetrical. But for the students who were about to give up, I reassured them that they could glue down their shapes in a way that looked cool.

The end product really is stunning. They are the largest piece of art we make during the quarter. I think creating something that is so intricate really boosts their confidence as artists. When a student chooses their notan as a piece for Showcase, it has a big impact in the hallway!



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