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Completing a shawl in Otavalo, Ecuador

Images of traditional weavers in the highlands of Ecuador can help students draw connections between social studies and the arts. (Photograph by Margery H. Freeman. More about the photograph)

Making connections

Teachers may include comparisons and contrasts with other cultures and their weaving methods, designs, and techniques. Examples are readily found on the Internet and in book resources.

Integrating social studies and the arts

I like to engage students in hands-on and kinesthetic activities as often as possible. I also like to integrate the arts into my lessons. The weaving project is optional, but it offers an opportunity to provide an alternative way of engaging students while learning about the cultures of distant and not-so-distant places. The weaving can be altered and larger boards and larger rope-like pieces of string or yarn may be used instead of knitting yarn.

Learn more

Related pages

  • A magic carpet ride: Exploring carpet weaving in India: In this lesson, a photo analysis activity helps students learn about carpet weaving in India. Students discuss how this tradition compares to the weaving traditions of other cultures.
  • Majestic peaks: Mountains of North Carolina and Ecuador: In this lesson, students analyze two photographs: one of the mountains of Ecuador and one of the mountains of Western North Carolina. Students then analyze the two photographs together to gain an understanding of the two regions' similarities and differences.
  • Ecuador: A study of population: In this lesson, students will create population pyramid graphs and analyze photographs to investigate population in Ecuador. Students will draw on this analysis to make predictions about how population issues will affect Ecuador's future. The lesson plan is designed to be adapted to the study of various countries.

Related topics


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Weaving and textiles are an integral part of many cultures of the world. The woven arts and crafts are expressions of various life experiences and events and tell a story of the people or groups of people who create them. This lesson takes a look at the weaving and textiles created in the Andes of Ecuador in and near the town of Otavalo. In addition to learning about Ecuadorian weaving, students may also create their own woven artifact.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • explore native weaving traditions of Ecuador through photo analysis and research of textiles created in Otavalo, Ecuador
  • make observations of the traditional weaving process in Otavalo, Ecuador through the analysis of various photographs
  • create their own weaving/textile sample using basic weaving techniques and processes (optional activity)

Teacher planning

Materials needed

  • Multimedia projector
  • Internet connection
  • Images of weaving in Otavalo, Ecuador from the LEARN NC multimedia collection (Printed copies of the images may be used if there is no access to computers or multimedia projector.)
  • Photograph analysis worksheet
  • Weaving art project [optional]:
    • Scissors
    • Thin stiff cardboard pieces cut to about 5×7 inches for each student, with an even number of slits cut into each 5 inch end OR ready-made weaving cards, which are available at craft stores and through school supply catalogs.
    • Various colors of yarn (enough for all students to have about 3 yards)

Time required for lesson

One to two 60-minute class periods (More time may be needed if the student weaving project is included.)


The activities in this lesson should be part of a larger study of South America.

Teachers should read to familiarize themselves with Ecuador through sites such as the CIA World Factbook or other online sites about Ecuador. A good place to begin is by locating Ecuador on Google Earth and pinpointing Otavalo, Ecuador (location 0°13’55.09” N, 78° 15’58.81”W). Ecuador has a rich pre-and post-Columbian history as well as a diverse geography and climate. Teachers should also read about traditional weaving activities in Otavalo, Ecuador and read the captions for the photos in the LEARN NC Ecuador multimedia collection.

Before completing these activities, teachers should have students locate Ecuador on a map or Google Earth and discuss basic facts such as regions, climate, culture, and language groups. Students may also pinpoint Otavalo through a Google Earth search. Teachers will want to familiarize students with analysis of photographs through various levels of questioning.

Teachers may want to also familiarize themselves and their students with the vocabulary listed with this lesson plan. Furthermore, teachers may want to read about and present to their students the work of Ecuadorian traditional weaver Miguel Andrango from the NativeWeb website.

Teachers using the mini-weaving project (activity three) should collect needed materials before the lesson (yarn, 5 x 7 thin cardboard pieces for each student, scissors). Cut about 10 slits (or any even number of slits) evenly spaced on the 5-inch ends of the cardboard (10 on each end) before beginning.


It is not necessary to use all of the activities described below. Each activity can be used by itself or in conjunction with the others.

Activity one: The weaving process through pictures

  1. Divide students into small groups and give each group a copy of the photos showing the weaving process from carding wool to selling the finished product in markets. (This will require teachers to cut and paste the photos into a Word document and make copies, to present the pictures, or to set up a file with the photos on student-accessible computers.)
  2. Direct students to place the photos in the order they believe shows the weaving process from start to finish (processing wool to finished product to be sold).
  3. Each group’s set of photos should be in random order with no labels. Give student groups time to discuss the set of photos and place them in the order that they believe shows the textile-producing process.
  4. After students complete the task, allow groups to share their ideas with the class and explain why they ordered the photos in a particular order.
  5. Reveal to students the order and the captions for the pictures and discuss the weaving process. (The basic order is carding of fibers, spinning into thread, weaving using a back-strap or pedal loom, finishing the product, and selling in the marketplace. Several pictures may show the same step. One suggested order is presented in the slideshow “Traditional Weaving in Ecuador.”) As you discuss the weaving process, incorporate some of the vocabulary related to weaving such as carding, loom, warp, weft, etc. (See “Critical Vocabulary” below.)
  6. Further question students about how weaving is a cultural expression for the people of Otavalo and in many other cultures. Possible questions may include:
    • Why do people still use traditional weaving methods today?
    • Why do people not use modern machines and technology to produce their craft?
    • How does the climate, location, and overall environment of Ecuador and, more specifically Otavalo, impact the weaving process, materials used, and finished product?

Activity two: Photo analysis

  1. Choose a photo from the selection related to weaving in Otavalo, such as a photo showing the open air market in Otavalo or someone weaving a traditional textile. Have students complete the photo analysis sheet or create your own photo analysis questions that engage students in higher levels of thinking such as those found in Bloom’s Taxonomy. (LEARN NC provides many professional articles on photo analysis and Bloom’s Taxonomy. See “Supplemental Information” below if you would like to read further on these topics.)
  2. After completing the analysis, have students share and discuss their answers and thoughts about the photo. Guide students in the discussion about the cultural aspects revealed such as modern versus traditional methods (Is modern necessarily better?), appreciation of diverse cultures and traditional methods, and the preservation of traditional crafts and techniques.

Activity three: Mini-weaving project

  1. Instruct students to take a length of yarn and wrap it around the card, making sure that the yarn is secured between the slits. These will be the warp threads. Have students tie off the loose ends to another thread.
  2. Have the students take a second piece of thread to be used as the weft. Students should tie off one end to the first warp thread toward the bottom of the card. Instruct students to begin weaving over and under the warp threads making sure they pull the weft thread through firmly.
  3. As students work their way up or down weaving, remind them to make sure the weft threads are slid down against each other tightly.
  4. Finishing: Once the weaving is completed, have students turn to the back of the card where only the warping shows. Students should carefully cut the strings across the middle of the card. Starting at one side, instruct students to grasp two (warp) strings together in a loop knot close to the weaving to create a tassel so the weaving will not fall apart.
  5. Have the students repeat tying the tassels to have 5 tassels on each end if using 10 warp strings, and finish by trimming the tassels to the desired length.


Have students investigate other traditional crafts or techniques in Ecuador or other areas of South America such as pottery. Search for examples of traditional crafts in other countries or regions of study. Discuss similarities and differences in materials, style, uses, etc. You may also want students to make connections with local North Carolina crafts by highlighting local traditions such as quilting, dancing, woodwork, etc.


  • Assess student responses and adjust questioning and activities as needed.
  • Students can be graded on completeness of work.
  • You may also gauge students’ level of thinking and understanding of photographs through the photo analysis activities and the ability of students to completely and thoughtfully answer questions on various levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. It is encouraged to have students use photo analysis activities several times throughout the year to help students create a “habit of learning” on what to look for when analyzing photographs and documents.

You, the teacher, are the best judge of your students’ learning levels and abilities.
Learning rubrics can be developed through Rubistar.

Modifications and alternative assessments

For students with certain learning disabilities, teachers may opt to accept verbal responses rather than written responses for the analysis of photographs. Teachers may also want to give students the captions for the photos in activity one to help students judge how to order the photographs.

Critical vocabulary

An activity done for many years and passed down from generation to generation
Cleaning and straightening fibers such as wool or cotton before they are spun into threads for weaving, usually with a comb or brush-like device
Twisting fibers into longer threads in preparation for weaving; can be done by hand, by simple drop distaffs (spindles), “walking” spinning wheels, or by modern machines
A device, human- or electrical-powered, used to weave threads into cloth or textiles; examples range from the simple backstrap loom to more complex treadle or pedal looms introduced into South America from Spain in colonial times
The up-and-down threads through which the weft is woven
Threads that are woven over and under the warp threads

Supplemental information

Information about Ecuador

Photograph analysis and rubrics

Bloom’s Taxonomy

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 6

        • 6.C.1 Explain how the behaviors and practices of individuals and groups influenced societies, civilizations and regions. 6.C.1.1 Analyze how cultural expressions reflected the values of civilizations, societies and regions (e.g. oral traditions, art, dance,...
        • 6.E.1 Understand how the physical environment and human interaction affected the economic activities of various civilizations, societies and regions. 6.E.1.1 Explain how conflict, compromise, and negotiation over the availability of resources (natural, human...
      • Grade 7

        • 7.C.1 Understand how cultural values influence relationships between individuals, groups and political entities in modern societies and regions. 7.C.1.1 Explain how culture unites and divides modern societies and regions (e.g. enslavement of various peoples,...
        • 7.G.2 Apply the tools of a geographer to understand modern societies and regions. 7.G.2.1 Construct maps, charts, and graphs to explain data about geographic phenomena (e.g. migration patterns and population and resource distribution patterns). 7.G.2.2 Use...

    • Visual Arts Education (2010)
      • Grade 6

        • 6.CX.1 Understand the global, historical, societal, and cultural contexts of the visual arts. 6.CX.1.1 Understand the visual arts in relationship to the geography, history, and culture of world civilizations and societies from the beginning of human society...
      • Grade 7

        • 7.CX.1 Understand the global, historical, societal, and cultural contexts of the visual arts. 7.CX.1.1 Understand the visual arts in relationship to the geography, history, and culture of modern societies from the emergence of the First Global Age (1450) to...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 6

  • Goal 1: The learner will use language to express individual perspectives drawn from personal or related experience.
    • Objective 1.02: Explore expressive materials that are read, heard, and viewed by:
      • monitoring comprehension for understanding of what is read, heard, and/or viewed.
      • analyzing the characteristics of expressive works.
      • determining the effect of literary devices and/or strategies on the reader/viewer/listener.
      • making connections between works, self and related topics.
      • comparing and/or contrasting information.
      • drawing inferences and/or conclusions.
      • determining the main idea and/or significance of events.
      • generating a learning log or journal.
      • creating an artistic interpretation that connects self to the work.
      • discussing books/media formally and informally.
  • Goal 2: The learner will explore and analyze information from a variety of sources.
    • Objective 2.01: Explore informational materials that are read, heard, and/or viewed by:
      • monitoring comprehension for understand of what is read, heard, and/or viewed.
      • studying the characteristics of informational works.
      • restating and summarizing information.
      • determining the importance and accuracy of information.
      • making connections between works, self and related topics/information.
      • comparing and/or contrasting information.
      • drawing inferences and/or conclusions.
      • generating questions.

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 6

  • Goal 1: The learner will use the five themes of geography and geographic tools to answer geographic questions and analyze geographic concepts.
    • Objective 1.02: Generate, interpret, and manipulate information from tools such as maps, globes,charts, graphs, databases, and models to pose and answer questions about space and place, environment and society, and spatial dynamics and connections.
  • Goal 2: The learner will assess the relationship between physical environment and cultural characteristics of selected societies and regions of South America and Europe.
    • Objective 2.01: Identify key physical characteristics such as land forms, water forms, and climate,and evaluate their influence on the development of cultures in selected South American and European regions.
  • Goal 3: The learner will analyze the impact of interactions between humans and their physical environments in South America and Europe.
    • Objective 3.01: Identify ways in which people of selected areas in South America and Europe have used, altered, and adapted to their environments in order to meet their needs, and evaluate the impact of their actions on the development of cultures and regions.
    • Objective 3.03: Examine the development and use of tools and technologies and assess their influence on the human ability to use, modify, or adapt to their environment.
  • Goal 11: The learner will recognize the common characteristics of different cultures in South America and Europe.
    • Objective 11.02: Examine the basic needs and wants of all human beings and assess the influence of factors such as environment, values and beliefs in creating different cultural responses.
  • Goal 12: The learner will assess the influence of major religions, ethical beliefs, and values on cultures in South America and Europe.
    • Objective 12.02: Describe the relationship between cultural values of selected societies of South America and Europe and their art, architecture, music and literature, and assess their significance in contemporary culture.
    • Objective 12.03: Identify examples of cultural borrowing, such as language, traditions, and technology, and evaluate their importance in the development of selected societies in South America and Europe.

Visual Arts Education (2001)

Grade 6

  • Goal 5: The learner will understand the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.
    • Objective 5.03: Discover relationships of works of art to one another in terms of history, aesthetics, and cultural/ethnic groups.
    • Objective 5.06: Recognize and discuss the aesthetic diversity of various cultures.