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WritingFix...Two Easy-to-Make Classroom Book Formats

A Creative Publishing Idea from WritingFix
Celebrating Student Writing with Authentic Publishing Efforts

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This on-line write-up was posted by Ann Urie, who invites you to share your methods of creative publishing with us at WritingFix!

Ann keeps an online portfolio of lessons at this website.

Two Easy-to-Make
Classroom Book Formats

inspiring creativity and motivation by
publishing actual books in the classroom

Ann's Book-Making Advice:

This page contains write-ups for how to make two different types of books for students to publish their words in.

A well-designed homemade book cover demands its audience to open the book. Expose your students to your favorite book covers and discuss the elements that make a book enticing, such as text, design, font, word size, centering, etc. When decorating, encourage students to write in pencil first, and then allow them to go over their words with colored pencils or sharpie markers.

The organization of the book must fit into a finite number of pages. It is helpful to create a “practice book” to do the initial writing, or break up the writing after it is finished by numbering what will go on each page. It is acceptable to type out a story that has been written for younger writers or longer stories, leaving breaks between pages.

Leave room for illustrations, either on an opposing page, or above or below the writing. Remember that the illustration and design of a book are integral to its tone, ambience, and readability.

Some Background from Ann:

So much of children’s learning comes from the book form, so it should follow that children are able to process learning by making and writing their own books. For years I have observed my own children as they have written and illustrated books of their own: hours upon hours of literacy development captured in books as evidence of eager young learners.

My oldest daughter recently graduated from high school. As I looked through years of photos, I also came across years of writing that she had done. Little books popped up from every box I opened. As a Writing Project consultant, I had taught many inservice classes on the publishing process, focusing on “Literacy and the Book Arts” when my children were small. My daughters were my sample makers, especially my older daughter, Lizzie, who has always loved to write. She wrote about flowers, plants, friends, family, activities, and vacations. As I revisited these little books, I realized what they had done for her as a writer, that is, enabled her to see herself as an author from a very young age.

(Lizzy's books)

When I took these books to Lizzie’s graduation party along with photos of her throughout her school career, she looked at me with wide-eyed amazement as in “Really, Mom? You are not going to embarrass me by sitting these out, are you?” I also had piles of high school newspapers for which she had written many articles and served as editor-in-chief. Of course, the books and newspapers were the hit of the party! Everyone enjoyed the writing and pictures and topics.

I firmly believe that these books serve as natural vehicles for young authors. In the book Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk, the title character (who hangs on my classroom door, at right) challenges the boys and girls in the library to write their own stories by setting out a stack of tiny books for them. Young children (and even high school students) will rise to the challenge!

In my first grade classroom, the book can be the inspiration for the writing. Knowing HOW a book is made can help the author with the initial intention for writing. The book can provide meaning and motivation. Critical thinking skills must be engaged to make decisions about layout, text, editing, etc. Many writing lessons are taught with a book in mind as the final publication, but sometimes empty books are presented and made with the children, waiting for the ideas to tumble into them.

Below are some of my favorite books to make with children. Carol Pallesen, a gifted calligrapher, artist, bookmaker, and good friend has been a mentor to me with these books, and I would like to thank her for teaching me the basics of book making.

Two Easy-to-Make Books

Book #1: Concertina Books (a.k.a. accordion books)

This project lends itself to many writing lessons. It works very well with The Important Book format. It also can be used for a gift at Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day. You may use many sizes of paper. For small books, I would suggest strips of paper that are 3”x 24”; any length of paper will work, just as long as it is long and narrow.

Suggested Supplies & Step-by-Step Directions: Long strips of paper, bone folder (can be found at art stores), 16” length of satin ribbon, smaller cardstock paper for covers, glue sticks.

  1. Fold paper in half precisely; unfold.
  2. Bring both ends to the middle; unfold.
  3. Turn over.
  4. You will see three “peaks” or “waves” in front of you. These are the folds. At this point you have four panels.
  5. Bring the first fold to the edge of the paper.
  6. Bring the second fold to the edge of the paper.
  7. Bring the third fold to the edge of the paper.
  8. Fold over the last section.
  9. You will now have eight panels in front of you.
  10. Cut two pieces of cardstock (for the front and back covers) the same dimensions as the panels. (3” for the 3”x24”)
  11. Cut a 16” length of satin ribbon; set it under the back of the book between the cover and the book.
  12. Use a glue stick to glue the back cover on with the ribbon underneath.
  13. Glue the front cover on.
  14. Tie the ribbon into a bow to present the book as a gift.


Book #2: Single Section Binding

This hand sown book is wonderful for just about anything. It can be used as a gift book, for poetry, or any type of narrative writing. Wall paper works well as a cover for this book. Any other specialty paper, construction paper, or cardstock also work well to personalize this book.

Suggested Supplies & Step-by-Step Directions: Paper for the cover and the inside (cut slightly smaller than the cover page), large needle, heavy duty or embroidery thread, (2 ½ times the length of the spine), beads, shells, or buttons to decorate the outside of the book.

  1. Fold the cover and inside paper in half.
  2. Find the center point.
  3. Find two points on either side, equidistant from the center point.
  4. Make “jig” marks with the needle through the three points.
  5. Start sewing at the midpoint. (Note: If you start on the inside of the book , you’ll end on the inside of the book; if you start on the outside of the book, you’ll end on the outside of the book.)
  6. Use the needle to go back in on either end.
  7. Now go all the way to the other end and go back out.
  8. Come back in through the middle and tie a knot.
  9. Hang things on the end if you like.

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