Notan for Fifth and Sixth Grades

notan for 5th and 6th gradesOur 5th and 6th grade students did a quick 40-minute cut paper notan collage project. Our inspiration came from these beautiful notan artworks at the MiniMatisse blog. If you are unfamiliar with notan, it is a Japanese design concept of dark and light. Notan cut paper projects are great for teaching a lot of concepts including contrast, positive and negative space, symmetry, and geometric vs. organic shapes.

This was the very first time I taught notan. I found two really good resources that gave me confidence: 1) a great video that shows the notan process and 2) a great illustration showing single and double cuts.

Each student started) with a 6″ square of red construction paper and a white format (background) paper . The minimum assignment was to make four single cuts – one cut from each of the square’s sides. Double cuts were optional (about half the students tried them). Cut pieces could be geometric (hearts were popular) and/or organic shapes.

Our students really liked this project. Some made Valentines and wanted to take them home immediately. I think they turned out great. I also think that their second attempts will be even better. Definitely a project to repeat!

Fifth and Sixth Grade Results:

more notan

notan valentines

notan names

The next two designs contain cut pieces that were rotated incorrectly. But you know what? I consider the artworks successful. They are beautiful designs, even if they don’t fully fulfill the assignment. They still illustrate the concept of positive and negative space although they are in places asymmetric.

not notan

Although we did these red paper notans in honor of Valentine’s Day, they will look great displayed as a group any time of year.

I would LOVE to find an iPad app or interactive website that illustrates notan. If anyone knows of one, please leave a comment!!


Have you even tried notan with your students?

Do you have any tips to share?


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