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Lapbooks: Creative Engagement with Purposeful Activities

By Meghan Everette on August 31, 2012
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

I begin each school year by reading Kate DiCamillo’s novel Because of Winn-Dixie. A short version appears in our reading series, but I wanted students to have a chance to read the entire book. Beginning a novel can be a daunting task for some students, so I developed a lapbook to help guide reading and retain what we learn.





Lapbooks: An Introduction

Lapbooks are file folders that contain folded pages, graphic organizers, or any fun additions that go with the topic. These colorful note-keepers can be used with any subject and are easily expanded. I’ve heard them described as scrapbooks with an educational purpose, and they are very popular in homeschools. A quick Pinterest search shows just how popular they have become. My mom teaches over 100 middle- school students and doesn’t have the space for large projects. Lapbooks, which capture all the creativity and organization of a project board turned into a small folder, are the answer.

Winn Dixie Lapbook
Winn-Dixie Lapbook Samples

My Winn-Dixie lapbook contains all the reading activities we would normally finish piecemeal. I use a whiteboard lesson to illustrate important steps and to enable the other teachers in my grade to complete a lapbooks in their classes as well. We attack one small item each day, doing one open-ended question or the vocabulary flip book, for instance, and glue in pieces as we go.


Types of Lapbooks

Fraction LapbookThere are as many types of lapbooks as there are topics. They can house pop-ups, folded books, graphic organizers, and glued-in decorations. Any mini-book or foldable becomes a fun addition to your lapbook. Data-Collection Mini-Books: Science, Math, and Social Studies, Graphic Organizer Booklets for Reading Response, and Scholastic Printables are just a few places to go for new ideas. See other ideas below.


Country Studies

For country study lapbooks, students can include maps and flip books of holidays, images, popular clothing, and the famous historical sites in each country.


Outer Space Lapbook

Outer Space

Each planet can have a book to itself. I use the pieces of a space webquest to outfit out independent space study. Students love adding sparkle and decoration with a solar system diagram featuring star stickers and glittered planets.






Author Studies

Each student works on a separate author in their own lapbook, providing required elements such as lists of awards and books, biography, and a literary analysis. Bring it to a lower level with books from Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, or Gail Gibbons.


Science Notebooks

A lapbook can be a vehicle for recording science information about one topic or experiment. Students can include illustrations, musings,
predictions, and results along with pictures or actual items glued right in.



Students can recreate habitats as a background and include images, fur samples, or shells, and tell about predators and prey. If each child has a different animal, the final books can be assembled into a large food web display.


Getting Started

Interested in trying your own lapbook? The member forums at Lapbook Lessons give mini videos and tons of ideas to get you started. Before you introduce the project to your class, consider the elements you want in your books. Make a folder for yourself and see what can reasonably fit. How much will you do for your students? I prefold and glue folders and open-ended question sets into the lapbooks. I’ve had students do them in the past and it isn’t worth my headache! On the other hand, my mom has her older students complete books independently. I made a quick video to show how easily they can be folded. Finally, I grade my books using a rubric. However, you might use the lapbooks simply as a way to record information.

Students are truly proud of their books when they finish and they have a unique way to display their learning. Our books are always a hallway hit. We’ve even sent a few to Kate DiCamillo and she wrote us back! I can't wait to share all of our Winn-Dixie projects. In the meantime, check out  Dinah Zike, a founding mother in the world of lapbooks and interactive manipulatives for learning. She has written the book, literally, on notebooking and has some great online ideas to get you started.

Please leave a comment and let me know what kinds of lapbooks you have created. Be sure to check my next post to see how all of our Winn-Dixie lapbooks and activities come together. I'll also post all of our activities so that you can print them out and adapt them for any class novel study.

My Class Working Hard
My kids are hard at work on their Winn-Dixie lapbooks this week.

Comments (8)

I really like this idea. I like how it challenges the students to be organized and to be creative. I also like how it ties together multiple subjects into on project! When I was in high school, I always loved doing projects and I wish we would have had to do one of these! Thanks for sharing!

Kimberly Bunge

I really like this idea. I love how this lets the kids be creative, and also learn to organize information well. It is great idea to help tie other subjects together, especially science and math. Thanks for sharing it!
-Kimberly Bunge

I do not change the materials or rubric for differentiation on this particular project, but it just depends on the subject and child. I might have some kids work alone, some in groups, or some one-on-one with me to make sure their work gets done. While I might require 10 character thoughts from one child, I might only grade five of them from a lower-performing child. I would still say they need ten. I think when we expect more, the kids give more.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean about differentiating across the whole group using books? I differentiate with levels of guidance more than anything.

Generic question stems are not what I use. I use open ended questions that mirror our state assessment. They require the child to think about a situation, assess as a whole, and respond in paragraph answers citing examples and using information to back up their reasoning from the book. That's just an example in reading.

-- Meghan

The models look very nice, but I was wondering how these could be adapted to meet the rigors and level of depth required by the new common core standards that most states are now using? I was also curious how you differentiated across a whole group setting using the books. Do you change the materials and rubric requirements? The integration of art and reading instruction is commendable, but our final products must also meet high expectations. Generic question stems, coloring in maps, and write words down on dog bones might have worked some places last year, but not so much anymore.

We have a very high level of rigor. As the National Turn Around Model, a Blue Ribbon School, the Intel School of Distinction in Mathematics, etc... I only do things with a high level of rigor. I have open ended stems they must write to answer, which is high order thinking and writing skills. I have them write thoughts from the characters' points of view, which is higher order. We color maps, yes, but they are labeled and they have to determine the route the man took through the south on their map using the written directions in the book. I know the fears over common core, but I assure you we've worked at a high level of rigor for many years in my school and these are just one of the ways we accomplish those goals. I hope you'll try it.

Thanks Katie! Let me know if you try one. I've been wanting to do something with Native Americans this year. I'm working on it!

This is so creative. I like how kids can get creative with different subjects, including science.
-Katie Jones

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