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Paper Bag Books and iPads: Old Meets New in Landform Learning

By Meghan Everette on March 27, 2014
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

This fall, I accidentally purchased 500 tiny brown bags instead of regular-size lunch bags. I stuck them on a shelf thinking they would be good for something, and was thrilled to come across paper bag books. A staple in the altered book art world, paper bag books are simply folded bags hooked together. The flaps and pockets become interesting places to hide surprises and the craft paper is an ideal journaling medium to build on. My little bags became the backdrop for a lesson on landforms that started with snack bags and ended with iPads.

First, I had to teach landforms. I used Scholastic’s Everything You Need about Volcanoes and Mountains to kick off our unit. My students live at sea level, so these huge landforms are foreign and very interesting. We then used a simple worksheet to cut and glue landforms. Finally, we watched a StudyJams slideshow complete with a song and gorgeous photos of landforms around the country.

To create the books, I took three bags and sewed them together using a sewing machine. If you aren’t a seamstress, hand sewing or punching holes and tying yarn both work well. Any bookbinding method is OK. Be sure to make each layout the same if you want each student to have similar books. The kids were really excited to make their own book and kept teasing each other about reading their neighbor a “story” that they made.


Paperbag Book AssemblyMaking a Landform Book


To fill the pages, I created simple Venn diagrams, charts, and questions I wanted my students to fill in.  You can borrow our templates for small or regular-size bags. We worked together to research and read articles on our new set of class iPads. Students added information to their books as we worked. It took about two weeks to have enough time to research, write, color, and paste everything into the book. Some special features of our books are:

  • Hidden PocketsPockets in Landform Bag
    Students cut out their worksheet landforms, colored the front, and folded them so the definition was on the back of the little card. They organized them by type of landform and then tucked them into the pockets created by the bags.


  • Flip BookLandform Flip Book
    The landforms flip book was one of their favorite things to make. It was made from a template I found on the Ginger Snap blog. We colored and cut out each piece then stapled the edge. The landforms were applied to the middle of our paper bag books and are very colorful.


  • Question and Answer FlapsHidden Flaps
    Little flaps created by the ends of the bags made a perfect place for questions and answers. We put pre-printed questions on the flaps and then students researched the answers. We hid the answers under the flaps.


  • Favorite LandformsFavorite Landform
    Students wrote about their favorite landforms and inserted them into the book. They illustrated their favorite landform. Many students picked volcanoes of course, but it was fun to see how much they learned and formed new favorites throughout the activities.


Our class went one-to-one in the midst of creating our books. Students were so excited to use their iPads, we had to incorporate technology somehow! I used the site Smore, which allows members to make their own e-flyers through preset designs. They are simple enough for my first graders to use with assistance, but beautifully designed. In groups, students made pictures and video of our work to include in their Smore. Then we posted QR codes with the books so that others could visit our Smore right from the hallway.

Smore about Landforms Smore Landforms

Students loved combining “old” bookmaking with new techniques and technology. The result was a lasting impact on learning and a fun way to spice up social studies.

Plateau vs Hill Drawing Landforms


How are you blending old ideas and new techniques in your classrooms? Are iPads a part of the learning?

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