This is one of my favorite all time lesson plans, I have updated it for this year’s class and plan to use it on Tuesday.  I was also wondering if anyone had any constructive criticisms or suggestions that I can use to make it even better.

Also if you see that it fits under any other of the English Common Core Standards (I could probably add a math one in if I really wanted to – measurement, mean, mode, etc).
Paper Airplane Lesson Plan

Author: Harold Shaw, Special Education Teacher Suggested Grade Level: 6-12 Subject Area:  English Language Arts Time Required:

2-4 Periods Common Core Standards

Standard Title:  Writing Standards 6-12
Standard Language:  Text Types and Purposes

3.    Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
a.    Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
b.    Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing, and description, to develop experiences, events, and/or characters.
c.    Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence and signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another.
d.    Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.
e.    Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on the narrated experiences or events. Lesson Objectives

(a): This exercise is to promote the idea that the students can follow instructions and that teachers can help them to do something better than they can by themselves, but most of all that they can learn.

This is an introductory narrative writing assignment to help determine the student’s ability to  describe the classroom and their personal activities while making and flying paper airplanes in the classroom using the appropriate sequence, descriptive details and effective narrative writing techniques. This lesson can be used as a stand alone icebreaker lesson and/or as a precursor to the Introduction to Google Doc Lesson plan to introduce that tool to the students. Hook:  Who ever heard of making and then flying paper airplanes in class with the teacher’s permission? Preparation Required/Preliminary Discussion:
The teacher will introduce to the students that they are going to create paper airplanes in the classroom individually without any help from other students or teaching staff.  Remind the students that this is supposed to be a fun activity, the teacher should be upbeat and positive about the activity. Modeled Lesson (to):

Not applicable – this is a “cold” start lesson for the students. Guided Practice (with):

Task #1
Do not allow students to make fun of each other’s planes – the students should remain quiet and respectful of each other’s work.  Teacher should intervene immediately if any students do this.

Each student will construct 2 paper airplanes independently (should be done in 5-10 min), they can only use the paper given them (no tape, staples, paper clips).  The work needs to be completed independently, teachers should not help students with this initial activity.   While the students are making their planes, the teacher(s) should be making at least one paper airplane as well. Keep reminding students that this is supposed to be a fun activity, some students may complain or get frustrated and have to be kept on task to complete their plane.  Students should write their name under the wing on their planes.

  • Take a picture of each student and their airplane (just the airplanes are okay if student doesn’t want picture taken).
  • Students will fly their paper airplanes (irregardless of how complete it is – even if it is a crumpled up piece of paper) to see how far they go.
  • Students will keep track of how far their plane flew.

Task #2
Students will individually write the following information in paragraph form either in long hand or using a word processor :

  • Have you made paper airplanes before, how do you think it looked and why did it look that way?
  • How did your plane fly today?
  • What were the other students doing while you were trying to fly your plane?
  • What did you think of this activity?

While students are doing their reflection, teacher is writing down quick points that they observed during the activity.

Note:  If a word processor is used – the teacher should download the photos to a thumb drive and allow the students to insert the pictures of their paper airplane into the document. TASK  #3

After students have written their reflection on their first airplanes and its flight, pass out two more pieces of paper and ask the students to just sit there.  Tell students we are going to build the next airplane as a step-by-step process and that no one can go ahead and that we have to do it together and wait for each person to complete that part of the process.  The teacher will go around and help each student to complete each step in the process. Below is a picture series of how to build one type of paper airplane.

1.  Fold the paper in half

2.  Fold back one corner

3.  Fold back the other corner

4.  Fold the turned in corner parallel to center.

5.  Fold the other side parralel to the center line.

6.  Fold paper once more to create the wing.

7.  Fold the other side to complete the other wing

8.  On each wing tip fold about one inch of paper to form stabilizers.

Each student will have a completed airplane that looks similar to the last one above. Independent Practice (by)

After the students have built the airplane using the above steps together, allow students to build the second plane independently, but with help from the teachers if they run into difficulty.

  • Take a picture of each student and their airplane (just airplane okay if student doesn’t want picture taken).
  • Students will fly their paper airplanes to see how far they go.
  • Students will keep track of how far their plane flew

Fly the new set of planes (hopefully they look better and fly further than the original).
Using the same piece of paper or word processing document as their original reflection, students will individually write the following information in paragraph form and insert their photographs into their document:

  • How your original paper airplane looks compared the other two you made, please explain the difference(s) between the two.
  • How did the second set of planes fly compared to the first set?
  • What were the other students doing while you were learning how to make the second set of planes.  Did everyone pull together and help each other out, did everyone wait for the instructions?
  • What did you think of this activity?
  • What did you learn from this activity besides how to make a paper airplane?

Note:  If a word processor is used – the teacher should download the photos to a thumb drive and allow the students to insert the pictures of their paper airplane into the document. After student complete their reflection on the paper airplane activity Write on the whiteboard  “WHO CAN LEARN?”  Then go on to discuss your observations of the activity, solicitating the students views and opinions about what happened.  Focus on the students ability to learn how to do something new or how they learned how do something differently than they had in the past in the classroom.   Extension:

Ask the students if this is the only way a paper airplane can be constructed, discuss the various other ways to build paper airplanes and ask the students to try it at home and write about their experience with other types of paper airplanes and bring their results back into class in the morning.  This is a voluntary assignment to create more independent writing opportunities. Closure:

Discuss with students that learning can be fun and that they all showed that they can learn during this activity.  Grading of this lesson is optional.  It is more important for the students to learn that teachers are there to help them do things that they didn’t do as well prior to the activity.  The biggest accomplishment that students should have at the end of this lesson is to know that they can learn something new or how to do something better than they could previously. If grading the students during this activity is desired, teachers can use a locally or classroom holistic participation rubric and Writing rubric to score the student reflections. Vocabulary:  paper airplane, reflection, instructions, step-by-step, narrative writing, fun, learning, individual, Materials and Resources Required:

  • 2 pieces of blank paper
  • If writing reflection in long hand paper/pencil or pen
  • If using word processor – Computer & word processing software
  • Digital Camera
  • Thumb Drive
  • Masking tape – to create a line for students to stand behind when throwing their paper airplane


  • Extra help for students for whom folding paper is difficult
    Extra Time for completion of assignments
    Use of Word Processor to complete writing assignment
    Multiple re-learning opportunities
    Review student IEP (if applicable) for further Accommodations/Modifications

If you can use any portion of this lesson plan in your classroom please do, all I ask is that you attribute my work and not try to sell it.  – Harold Shaw

“There is no try, only do.” – Yoda


  1. This is a quite brilliant idea. I am always on the lookout for a quirky and meorable lesson that will help make normally mundane IT skills lessons such as word processing much more interesting. And this looks like perfectly fitting the bill. Thank you so much for sharing it.


  2. Drew – I usually use the word document created with this lesson as a precursor to Google Docs and then go into my Google Docs Lesson Plan uploading and using this document as their first shared document in gDocs, showing them a sample of what can be done there. Instead of having them just finding something or using a document that I created. Usually the kids love it, I used it as my first observation lesson plan last year when my Director and Assistant Sup were observing me. Got lucky with it.Harold


  3. Harold,This is a fantastic idea. I used a variation of it a couple of years ago when I presented a seminar at the Scottish Learning Festival entitled 'What Makes a Good Teacher?'. The idea was to try to prove the old adage that I learn best by teaching others, so the participants were put into pairs. One had the instructions and had to tell the other one how to build the plane. The builder was not allowed to look at the instruction sheet. Good exercise in communication!Bill


  4. Bill – That would be a great extension to the activity, or maybe a 3rd set of plane building only have the directions slightly different on how to build the plane or even have the students write down a set of directions and then have the other students build a plane based on their instructions!!! Wow could really add to this and cover a few of the Communications Common Core Standards too :-)ThanksHarold


  5. Harold this is a great lesson on so many levels! I'm going to use it with my class of 10-11 yr olds. I'm sure they'll love it! It is so important to convince children that they CAN all learn – it's so vital that teachers recognise this and we shouldn't take it for granted that just because the child's body is in the class that they are also learning!! Another task for teachers it to convince children that they can be creative..have a look at my blog to find my introductory lesson to convince the children that they can all be creative and that learning CAN be fun. :)


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