Book Publishing Classroom Project

By Victoria Jasztal on March 17, 2010
  • Grades: 3–5

Research has proven that granting students the freedom to write about the topics of their choice provides them greater opportunities to emerge as an author. From time to time, I rummage through the papers I saved from my school years to locate publishing projects, creative writing attempts, school newspaper articles, and research reports I once took pride in as a young author. Seeing how my own confidence emerged when my teachers encouraged me to develop original prose, I decided to develop a Book Publishing Unit Plan as a classroom project to help my students to embrace themselves as authors.

The following Book Publishing Unit Plan includes four lessons (PDF files), student reproducibles, a list of culminating activities for a Young Author's Celebration, and a list of books you can use to enhance your instruction during this unit. Additionally, I have included *BONUS* resources at the end of this post that you can easily use for your reading instruction.

Learning Objectives:

1. Students will compose a piece of creative writing with the desire to publish it in our classroom.
2. Students will revise their writing with the encouragement of classmates, teacher, and “expert editors”.
3. After students have revised their drafts, they will create illustrations for the different parts of their story.

Unit Lessons:

Reproducibles:

Culminating Activities:

My primary goal for this unit is for my students to produce a book of original prose in which they can take pride. Students receive blank books after developing their text features and illustrations, using acid free scrapbooking glue or tape to adhere the papers to the pages. I did not include that part of the project in the lesson plans because it is self-explanatory.

The culminating activity for this unit is a Young Author’s Celebration, where the students share their stories with one another, members of the community, and other classes at the school. Students by then have their published books, bound in a white blank book with their original illustrations and additional text features.

Share stories with one another - Students take the Author’s Chair to share their novels with one another. Each student’s sharing time can be recorded and copied onto a DVD to be kept as a keepsake.

Share stories with the community - Our class holds a “Press Conference” when invited members from the community (such as newspaper reporters or the school principal) come to hear about our published books. Here is one article published in the Hernando Today newspaper in May 2008. I read the books thoroughly first so I know an ample amount of information about the characters and plot. I ask students questions, such as:

  • What inspired you to write your book?
  • Is your book based on a true event?
  • Your book is still in the process of being written. Where do you think you will head next with your plot?
  • If you were to write a sequel, where would you start off in the next novel?
  • Classmates also ask questions.

Share with other classes at school - Our class invites a few classes from different grade levels to join us for a portion of the Young Author’s celebration (this past year, it was a first- and third-grade class we chose). The purpose of inviting classes from other grade levels was to prove to my students that they are role models, both through behavior and achievement. For the first-grade class, we invited the class to sit in our classroom library as we shared one published novel for them that was age-appropriate. Other students then shared some of the illustrations and text features they developed, such as maps. With older classes, grades 3-5, your class can put their books on display and have the visitors glance through their novels.

Award Winning Books - Traditionally, I have selected students to receive the Newbery Honor award for Jasztalville. However, I may lean to give individualized awards for each student, such as:

  • Best Memoir/Real-Life Account
  • Best Villain/Antagonist
  • Strongest Hero/Protagonist
  • Most Suspenseful Story
  • Story That Can Become a Film

Of course, this is not a definitive list. Have fun thinking about the personalities of your students as you develop your awards!

Honorary Breakfast: To jump start our celebration, we have an honorary breakfast where the students cook pancakes and bacon as well as served juice, muffins, and fruit.

SUPPORTING BOOKS and BOOKS TO ENCOURAGE YOUNG AUTHORS: 

Look at My Book: How Kids Can Write & Illustrate Terrific Books by Loreen Leedy (Paperback - April 2005)

Look at My Book: How Kids Can Write & Illustrate Terrific Books

You Have to Write

by Janet S. Wong (Author), Teresa Flavin (Illustrator)

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Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices (Paperback)

by Ralph Fletcher (Author)

How to Write Your Life Story (Paperback)

by Ralph Fletcher (Author)

How to Write Your Life Story

 


THIS WEEK'S BONUSES:

  • Books for Making Connections: View this website to see a list of books where students can make text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections.
  • Posters from Our Mini Lesson This Morning: As students are beginning their publishing projects in my class this year, they are also focusing on chapter books during Reader's Workshop. Here are the posters that got my students thinking about the chapter books they began reading yesterday:

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I truly believe these posters helped my students confirm their feelings about what they have read so far. The quality of our class discussion was excellent based on the questions I wrote on the posters above. A few students "abandoned" the books they had chosen, yet they focused on the lack of plot and character development rather than simply "not enjoying" the book. It is amazing to know what quenches my students' "thirst" for reading, which helps me to know them as writers as well.

Peace,
Victoria

Comments

Hi, Grammar! Have you taught grades 3-5 and done a project like this before? My students are off to a good start with their project; after spring break, they are going to start writing on the "official" pages that they will insert into their blank books. - Victoria

Additionally, Bruce, in saying that "Students emerge so much when you don't give prompts", I mean that students emerge a great deal when they feel they have ownership of their writing. Sometimes teachers give very stringent, specific prompts that don't motivate their entire class to write. It depends on how the teacher presents the prompt, too, because teachers can either read their own examples or "hook" the class with an awesome PowerPoint slide show. I love when I give the prompt about students going on a "haunted" field trip to St. Augustine and I show them a presentation starting with the words "Are you ready?" It spooks them out, and then their pens begin to fly!

Patricia: Students emerge so MUCH as writers when you don't give prompts! Or if the prompts are general (like write a story about exploring a new place), kids can really focus on their own creativity. Now this morning, I was watching a student write, and he began writing about a pirate-related adventure, though in my opinion it brought in a little bit of violence. Not giving prompts opens all kinds of doors... and it opens opportunities for so many discussions because the kids connect more personally with what they have written. I can ask this student why he expressed his writing in the way he had this morning. Overall, if I gave a specific prompt all the time, some of my kids perhaps would not have developed their skills as much. On the other hand, a few students may not have ever thought that writing can be personal, fun, and an interesting way of self-expression.

Bruce: Good idea! Some students need ideas to develop, and I always have prompts available because it gets students thinking. We do have to write to specific prompts at times, such as "Write about an adventure on the TITANIC" or "Write a story about living in a haunted 100-year old house". Giving the choice motivates reluctant writers to make connections and write something stellar. The majority of my students absolutely love writing!

I found your article insightful. Not giving prompts can definitely develop a more creative approach to writing. Students write from there own point of view or interests!

When I give my students prompts, they are motivated and enthusiastic to write. I agree that students need the freedom to choose a topic of their choice. I assume that happens more often than writing to a prompt. Depending on the grade and student, some may have difficulty choosing a topic to write about. So let's give children the choice... prompt or choose a topic. As teachers, we need to find a balance. In addition, imagination and creativity increases with both.

Thank you, Robin! Which grade do you teach? I noticed that it is better not to give the kids prompts about three years ago... and it has helped my kids to become more tremendous writers. Today one girl said to me, "Ms. Jasztal, I have written twelve pages! Is that okay?" It's awesome to see the kids' enthusiasm.

Very complete post! I totally agree that children become better writers when allowed to write on a subject of their own choosing. We should stop giving them "prompts" so their true creativity can shine through.

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