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November 30, 2015 Publishing “Real” Class Books in Four Steps By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    One of my favorite teaching traditions is to make at least one book each year with my students using either a photo printing website or an online self-publishing service. To my students, these books feel impressively “real” in a way that handmade bookmaking does not, and these hardbound books have a long shelf life. The student-authored book basket is a favorite in my class library. My students love reading the books created years earlier — especially, when the books connect with a current classroom experience or unit of study. Here are some tips for publishing class books of your own.

    This basket sees the most traffic in our class library.

     

    Step 1: Decide on the Content for the Book

    There are many different ways to approach publishing a class book, so you can tailor the project to work for any age and subject area. Some possibilities include:

    A shared writing book (perfect for primary students):

    • A photo story with captions about a memorable class event

    • A travel log about an important class field trip

    • A nonfiction book about a topic of study (i.e. community helpers, with photos and writing about each community helper the class meets)

    An anthology of individual student writing:

    • Each student includes a poem and an illustration

    • Each student includes a personal narrative

    • Each student includes a non-fiction essay grouped around a topic (i.e. birds)

    • A mixed-form literary magazine

    • An ABC book with writing organized alphabetically by letter

    You can read our class book about our school garden online (pictured above). Now that our school garden is 5 years old, new classes of students love reading about its early days. (Mixbook saves a virtual copy of each book that you order.)

     

    Step 2: Gather Your Book Materials

    Depending on what type of book you’re creating, you’ll either write the text together as a class or collect individual student writing. With upper elementary students, I’ve found that they love creating an anthology, and they put a TON of effort into their writing when they know it’s going to be published in a “real book.” I usually have students draw or paint illustrations to go along with their writing, and I ask a parent volunteer to scan their artwork to create the illustrations for the book.

    With younger students, I’ve had a lot of success with “photo essay” books. Student photographers take lots of photos of a special activity or an on-going project. Afterwards, I project the photos from my computer and the students write captions to tell the story of the experience.

    Our Amazing Adventure at Princeton University helped students reflect on a very special field trip. We wrote the captions for the photos together, and the students decided on which photos to include in the book.

     

    Step 3: Create the Digital Book

    It’s time to create the book online using a photo or book printing website. Wondering which to choose? It really depends on which type of book you are planning on making. If you don’t mind some spam, I suggest signing up so you get the emails about the promotions all of the websites run from time to time. (Sometimes there are free photo book offers. I always jump on those!) Note: I’m not officially endorsing any of the sites mentioned below – they are simply the ones I’ve used with my class.

    For a photo-heavy book (mostly photos with short captions or paragraphs), a photo printing website is easiest. I’ve had a lot of success with Shutterfly, Snapfish, and Mixbook, and a Google search will turn up many other options. Honestly, I usually wait until I get a promotion code for a free photo book or find a great discount before I place the order. I rarely spend more than $10 for a class photo book.

    For a text-heavy book (an anthology of student writing with longer stories or essays), I prefer a self-publishing website, such as Blurb or My Publisher. Both of these services allow for a lot of customization to create a book of writing that looks like, well, a book! Blurb is the most advanced option – you can publish an entire novel – and it uses it’s own free software to layout the book. It’s not as easy as the photo book options but it’s really cool to create such a professional book. Some older students may enjoy tackling the layout of the book as an enrichment project. Or you can hand this work off to a tech-savvy parent volunteer.

     

    I created this photo book using Blurb with my first and second grade bridge class. It is an anthology of poems inspired by the paintings of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. Each student chose a favorite artwork as the inspiration for his or her poem. You can read our book online on the Blurb website.

     

    Step 4: Order Your Book and Celebrate!

    It costs way too much for rush processing and shipping, so don’t make the mistake I have and wait too long to order your book. If you need it for a class celebration on a particular date, leave plenty of time for the book to arrive!

    Once the book arrives at school, unpack it with a lot of fanfare in front of the entire class. My students go crazy as I dramatically reveal their book and do the first read-aloud. How could they not be glowing with pride at seeing their writing and art in a real, hardcover book?! Often I plan a publishing party (a “book release party”) and we invite their families to come see the precious new book. After the party, the cherished book lives in the special student/class authored book basket in our class library.

     

    The Secret Life of Third Graders (above and below) was the first personal narrative anthology I created with my students, along with their watercolor illustrations. It became an annual tradition, and the kids love reading the narratives written by students in previous years. With this rich collection of student writing on hand, I frequently use stories written by my former students as mentor texts. You can view this full book online on the Blurb website

    Have you created photo books with your students? If so, I'd love to hear about your process! And as always, please reach out with questions or comments. 

    And as a thanks to you for reading my blog posts, please use the promo code from the coupon below to receive savings from the Scholastic Store!

    For updates on my upcoming blog posts, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

    One of my favorite teaching traditions is to make at least one book each year with my students using either a photo printing website or an online self-publishing service. To my students, these books feel impressively “real” in a way that handmade bookmaking does not, and these hardbound books have a long shelf life. The student-authored book basket is a favorite in my class library. My students love reading the books created years earlier — especially, when the books connect with a current classroom experience or unit of study. Here are some tips for publishing class books of your own.

    This basket sees the most traffic in our class library.

     

    Step 1: Decide on the Content for the Book

    There are many different ways to approach publishing a class book, so you can tailor the project to work for any age and subject area. Some possibilities include:

    A shared writing book (perfect for primary students):

    • A photo story with captions about a memorable class event

    • A travel log about an important class field trip

    • A nonfiction book about a topic of study (i.e. community helpers, with photos and writing about each community helper the class meets)

    An anthology of individual student writing:

    • Each student includes a poem and an illustration

    • Each student includes a personal narrative

    • Each student includes a non-fiction essay grouped around a topic (i.e. birds)

    • A mixed-form literary magazine

    • An ABC book with writing organized alphabetically by letter

    You can read our class book about our school garden online (pictured above). Now that our school garden is 5 years old, new classes of students love reading about its early days. (Mixbook saves a virtual copy of each book that you order.)

     

    Step 2: Gather Your Book Materials

    Depending on what type of book you’re creating, you’ll either write the text together as a class or collect individual student writing. With upper elementary students, I’ve found that they love creating an anthology, and they put a TON of effort into their writing when they know it’s going to be published in a “real book.” I usually have students draw or paint illustrations to go along with their writing, and I ask a parent volunteer to scan their artwork to create the illustrations for the book.

    With younger students, I’ve had a lot of success with “photo essay” books. Student photographers take lots of photos of a special activity or an on-going project. Afterwards, I project the photos from my computer and the students write captions to tell the story of the experience.

    Our Amazing Adventure at Princeton University helped students reflect on a very special field trip. We wrote the captions for the photos together, and the students decided on which photos to include in the book.

     

    Step 3: Create the Digital Book

    It’s time to create the book online using a photo or book printing website. Wondering which to choose? It really depends on which type of book you are planning on making. If you don’t mind some spam, I suggest signing up so you get the emails about the promotions all of the websites run from time to time. (Sometimes there are free photo book offers. I always jump on those!) Note: I’m not officially endorsing any of the sites mentioned below – they are simply the ones I’ve used with my class.

    For a photo-heavy book (mostly photos with short captions or paragraphs), a photo printing website is easiest. I’ve had a lot of success with Shutterfly, Snapfish, and Mixbook, and a Google search will turn up many other options. Honestly, I usually wait until I get a promotion code for a free photo book or find a great discount before I place the order. I rarely spend more than $10 for a class photo book.

    For a text-heavy book (an anthology of student writing with longer stories or essays), I prefer a self-publishing website, such as Blurb or My Publisher. Both of these services allow for a lot of customization to create a book of writing that looks like, well, a book! Blurb is the most advanced option – you can publish an entire novel – and it uses it’s own free software to layout the book. It’s not as easy as the photo book options but it’s really cool to create such a professional book. Some older students may enjoy tackling the layout of the book as an enrichment project. Or you can hand this work off to a tech-savvy parent volunteer.

     

    I created this photo book using Blurb with my first and second grade bridge class. It is an anthology of poems inspired by the paintings of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. Each student chose a favorite artwork as the inspiration for his or her poem. You can read our book online on the Blurb website.

     

    Step 4: Order Your Book and Celebrate!

    It costs way too much for rush processing and shipping, so don’t make the mistake I have and wait too long to order your book. If you need it for a class celebration on a particular date, leave plenty of time for the book to arrive!

    Once the book arrives at school, unpack it with a lot of fanfare in front of the entire class. My students go crazy as I dramatically reveal their book and do the first read-aloud. How could they not be glowing with pride at seeing their writing and art in a real, hardcover book?! Often I plan a publishing party (a “book release party”) and we invite their families to come see the precious new book. After the party, the cherished book lives in the special student/class authored book basket in our class library.

     

    The Secret Life of Third Graders (above and below) was the first personal narrative anthology I created with my students, along with their watercolor illustrations. It became an annual tradition, and the kids love reading the narratives written by students in previous years. With this rich collection of student writing on hand, I frequently use stories written by my former students as mentor texts. You can view this full book online on the Blurb website

    Have you created photo books with your students? If so, I'd love to hear about your process! And as always, please reach out with questions or comments. 

    And as a thanks to you for reading my blog posts, please use the promo code from the coupon below to receive savings from the Scholastic Store!

    For updates on my upcoming blog posts, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

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