A WritingFix/NNWP Teacher Presenter: Ann Urie
a Northern Nevada Writing Project Teacher Consultant shares her on-line materials
The Book is the Hook! My name is Ann Urie. I am so very fortunate to be a first grade team teacher with a fellow Writing Project Teacher Consultant, Rose Whistler. Both of us believe that if our children are given the opportunity to write books in class, they will create wonderful stories and publications! And they'll discover a new motivation for writing.
First I would like you to imagine your life without books? Consider a favorite book. Is it a children’s book, a novel, a handmade book, or something else? Can you recall books from your childhood? Did the pages of the book have a distinct texture or smell? Was the book’s size or shape unique in any way that might help you to describe it? If you received the book as a gift, how did it make you feel? Are there emotions that are associated with the book? Personally, I have nothing against e-readers, etc., but the physical presence of a well-loved book in my hands is one of life’s simple pleasures...and cannot be replaced by anything technological
I am hoping that this webpage makes you interested in making artistic books with your students. I find that blank books can be very motivational to writers in first grade, and to older students (including adults!) as well. As Paul Johnson, director of The Book Art Project, says, “The book art concept is not yet another new subject to be squeezed into the curriculum: it is the most effective way of processing the whole curriculum!”
Much of my introduction to publishing and the book arts came from a friend of mine named Carol Pallesen. She is a world-class calligrapher and artist in Reno. Carol has patiently taught me how to use a bone folder as a tool in folding paper to create different types of books. She is a fine artist and frequently talks about the weight, grain, etc. of the paper. This is important to her as an craftsman, but as a teacher with 32 plus students, I will admit that because of budgetary issues the use of copy paper, construction paper, recycled paper, magazines, wallpaper and fabric remnants is essential. In addition, with younger children, I will teach helpers in the classroom to make the books for and/or with the students, as their little hands are not always capable.
Inspired by on my two daughter's earliest experiences with making homemade books, I began using the motivating factor of these personalized books at home. I would make different types of books for them (see samples in write-up below) and then ask them to write whatever they wanted inside their books. Their books have remained a cherished component of their literacy history, and at times have shown up at graduation parties as artifacts of time passing.
In my classroom, these books are usually used in more directed lessons, such as the lesson for If You Give a Mouse a Cookie below. Typically, our homemade classroom books will house writing assignments that interface with a unit of study or are to be used as a gift for a special holiday, such as Christmas poetry books, or Mother’s Day simile books (inspired by Sandra Young's online lesson here at WritingFix). Parents treasure these books, and I have often been reminded that they hold a place of honor in their homes. At the same time, there is every reason to leave small books out during writing workshop to lure young writers to create new stories. This is the premise for the lesson I created for Library Mouse, which was suggested to me by Jack, one of my first grade students.
So much of children’s learning can come from creating books; it should follow that they can also process learning by making their own books. When my kids know how a book is made, it can help them with their initial intentions for writing and what they really want to accomplish. It gives them both meaning and motivation! Critical thinking skills are used to decide what is to be put in and what is to be left out. The cover design makes demands on an audience to open a book. The illustration and design are integral to the tone and ambience of a story. Standards are addressed such as writing with a clear focus and logical development, evaluating, revising, and editing for organization, style, tone, and word choice.
Paul Johnson’s book Literacy through the Book Arts is an invaluable resource. In it he says, “When children plan and design a book of their own, integrate handwriting, lettering, illustration, layout, and binding as a vehicle for the communication of ideas, a superior kind of mental activity comes into play.”