Foldable Mini Books

 

As most all teachers do over the summer, I have been tinkering with student materials (when I should be catching up with missed doctors’ appointments and bathroom cleaning and dog hair vacuuming– or even enjoying a day at the pool). I want a student-made dictionary style resource for commonly misspelled words for my students next year. Ideally, the spelling notes will be in some kind of individual booklet that each student could add to all year. I may have found a solution– a sturdy little mini foldable booklet.

foldable mini book

I called in my temp help to see if the mini books would work, and team RoomMom has been printing, cutting, folding, and testing all day.

mini books materials

Materials

  • 8 1/2″ x 11″ white cardstock OR 4×6 notecards
  • scissors
  • rubberband (medium sized)
  • paper cutter with ruler guidelines

Directions

  • If you are using an 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of cardstock, cut it in half horizontally and vertically, so you have 4 pieces of cardstock that are 4 1/4″ x 5 1/2″. Fold each piece of cardstock in half the “hamburger” way making sure the corners line up neatly. That means the 5 1/2″ side would be folded. Press down firmly along the fold.

mini books divide paper

  • If you are using notecards, fold 2+ notecards in half the “hamburger” way making sure the corners line up neatly. That means the 6″ side would be folded. Press down firmly along the fold.

spelling mini books folded

  • Once each card is folded, stack the cards on top of each other lining them up evenly. I think 3-4 cards is about the right amount for each booklet. You can use a combination of notecards and cardstock. ** Make sure your sizes match if you are mixing cardstock and notecards.
  • Following the center fold, cut a 1/2″ notch from the top and bottom edge of the stack of cards.

mini books cut knotch

  • Wrap a rubberband around the stack of cards. Have the rubberband sit down into the cut sections of paper to act as the mini book binding. If the rubberband is too tight and pulling on the paper, cut your notches a little deeper.

mini books rubberband

  • Decorate the cover and add notes, drawings, information, doodles… to each page of the booklet.

mini books sampleUses

  • I set up a template in Word and inserted the spelling information I needed. I printed front and back, cut down the paper, and folded the pieces into the booklet. There is space for students to add additional notes, but they will each have a starter booklet.

spelling mini books notes

  • Mr. Star Wars wrote a personal narrative about our trip to North Carolina last summer. Using the Word document template, we inserted pictures and printed the pages (it takes a little spatial thinking to get your pictures on the pages in the order you want when you assemble the booklet). He handwrote the story using the printed pictures as enhancement. This would be a great back to school activity. Students could use a blank booklet and write and illustrate a story about something they did over the summer. You could also use the booklet as a way to assess summer reading by having students create a book review in a mini book.foldable mini book
  • Miss Priss used her booklet to report facts about elephants. This was an end of year project for her. She took her researched information, grouped it by topic, and wrote bulleted facts on each page.

mini book elephantThe spelling mini book template with pre-printed notes for 31 tricky words like there, their, and they’re is now available in my Commonly Misspelled Words product at my teacher store. CLICK HERE to purchase.

Mother’s Day Writing

My students just completed a beautiful and meaningful Mother’s Day writing activity. We recently finished reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and spent some time discussing C.S. Lewis’ descriptive sentences. I wanted my students to mimic Lewis’ style in a writing assignment, but I needed a vehicle to make their word choice meaningful. I pulled two passages out of the book and removed key words. I replaced the key words with a blank line and labelled the space with the type of word or part of speech that should go in the blank. Basically, I built a literary Mad Lib.

mothers-day-writing-activity

The students spent some time thinking about their mothers (or another loved one) and brainstormed words to describe that person. Following the brainstorming, they re-read the original passages in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and then plugged words into the frame I gave them to create their own beautiful description with a C.S. Lewis vibe.

mothers-day-writing-activity

We typed the paragraphs, and students added small images that corresponded to details in the descriptive writing. We printed the text and pictures on a piece of cardstock and cut them apart. The students folded a small pocket folder using colored cardstock and decorated the cover. The pictures and small paragraph were no bigger than 3″ x 3″ each and fit nicely in the small pocket card.mothers-day-writing-activityNot all of my students are quite finished with this project, but the ones I have read so far make me tear up because they capture such sweet thoughts about a loved one. If you need a thoughtful card or gift for a mother, father, grandparent, sibling… pull a favorite passage from a story and use the basic structure to write a special message.

Mother’s Day Pocket Card Materials

  • 8 3/4″ x 7 1/4″ colored cardstock
  • 4″ x 3 1/2″ white cardstock (optional)

mini pocket folder

Mother’s Day Pocket Card Directions

  • Place the colored cardstock on a flat surface in the landscape direction.
  • Fold the bottom edge (8 3/4″ edge) up about 2″, match the corners carefully, and press firmly to fold the crease.
  • Open the flap and fold the paper in half, so the two 7 1/4″ edges meet. Match the corners carefully and press firmly to fold the crease.
  • Open the paper flat and fold the 2″ section up creating the pocket. The pocket sides will be open but create a little “shelf” to hold the small pieces of paper. Fold the paper in half down the center fold.
  • If you would like, glue the 4″ x 3 1/2″ white rectangle to the front of the folder as a cover for writing a title or salutation.

Want to try your own literary Mad Lib? Click Author Mad Libs to download a free copy of my activity page. To purchase other Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe activities, CLICK HERE.

Explorer Timelines

explorer timelines group

Timelines are a great way for students to get an overview of a history topic. We recently finished a unit in our history book about famous explorers. Our textbook organizes the explorers by country, so students read about Marco Polo (Italy) first. Then, move over to Portugal, followed by lots of Spanish guys, and end with Engand, France, and the Netherlands. The format of the book makes it seem like Spain did all of this conquering and then other people sailed across the Atlantic and explored the northeast coast of North America and Canada last.

I had my students create an explorer timeline, so we could see that after Marco Polo’s great journey, the explorers of the Americas were actually all sailing and conquering at about the same time. We used paper Sentence Strips for the timelines, which are a great length and width to make a timeline– and they already have a straight line printed on them.

Building a Timeline

  • Gather your information in notes or a chart like this Explorer Timeline Notes page. Identify the first date and the last date that will appear on the timeline. Determine the time span and then add a few years before the first date and after the last date, so there will be space at the beginning and end of the timeline. With our explorer timeline, the first year was 1295 and the final year was 1609. We needed a span of at least 314 years.
  • The sentence strips are 24″ in length. The next step is to determine the increments of time along the strip. This is the part that can confuse kids. Their first reaction is to list each explorer in order of travel on evenly spaced lines, but the point of a timeline is to show how close or far apart events happened from each other. After counting, subtracting, dividing, and measuring, we determined that we would make marks every 1.25″ and each mark would equal 10 years. Creating the spacing on the timeline is great measuring and counting practice.

explorer timelines

  • We noted that there was a break in explorer activity from 1295 until 1492. We created a “broken timeline” where we could jump over 100 years, so we would have enough space to fit all of the years we needed.
  • To further emphasize the point that the explorers from various countries were all sailing within the same time, we color coded the explorer information by sponsoring country. The color on the timeline created a great visual and helped students group the information by time as well as by nationality.

explorer dates

  • The final timeline included 12 explorers, the year of the explorer’s main or first voyage, a brief explanation, and a small illustration that represented the explorer.

The finished timelines gave a great overview of all of the explorers we studied. We were able to make generalizations about the explorers as well as incorporate math skills. Students need more practice reading charts, tables, and graphs, so they can draw conclusions about any data presented. When students are reviewing big chunks of information at the end of a unit of study, have them create a chart or table of some kind to help visualize similarities, differences and big ideas.

explorer timelines close

Another fun way to work with data is to build infographics. After our timelines were finished, students focused on two explorers to compare. To see how the infographic project turned out, Click Here.

 

Haiku Tunnel Poems

April is officially National Poetry Month, but I always read and write poems with my students in December. Class instruction gets interrupted due to holiday performance rehearsals, parties, and various holiday activities. I like to share poems during the holiday craziness because I can work around smaller blocks of time, and we won’t be left hanging at a critical part of the story if we have to put our work down.

haiku tunnel poem

This year, I combined a poetry lesson with one of my favorite craftivities– haiku tunnel poems. The students learned about haiku poems, and we created a finished product that kids took home to their parents for a holiday gift. I even made a tunnel poem to give to my teaching partner with a picture of us from our school Halloween carnival.

haiku tunnel poemI asked students to bring a 4×6 family photo, landscape orientation, to school. The photo could be of any family member (and that included pets) and show any special memory whether it was a recent event or something from several years ago.

Students generated word lists that related to their chosen picture using THIS HANDOUT. When they completed their personal word list, they counted the syllables in each word and wrote the syllable count next to the matching word. Using the haiku formula for the 3-line poem (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables), students moved words from their lists around until they created a haiku poem. The finished tunnel poem has 4 frames layered on top of the photo. The first frame displays a title for the poem. The next 3 frames display the haiku– one line at a time– across the top.

tunnel poem pieces

CLICK HERE to go to my post about foldable booklets with step-by-step directions for making the tunnel poems. When I made these with students in the past, we used postcards as the back panel. This time we used personal photos to make it more meaningful. The photos were flimsier than postcards (especially if they were printed from home on printer paper), so I attached each photo to a 4×6 notecard to give the photo a little more stiffness.

haiku tunnel poem

Basically, you need lots of 4×6 notecards and a paper cutter to cut the side hinge pieces evenly. You will also need glue, scissors, colored pencils or markers, and lots of patience. I recommend training your early finisher students in tunnel poem construction and let them help other students. Spatially, it is difficult for some students to comprehend how to layer the frames and attach the hinges to the backs of each frame. It is easier to fold the side hinges if your photos are landscape orientation, but it is possible to make the tunnel poems with a portrait (tall) orientation.

dog haiku tunnel poem

Magazine Text Features

text features scavenger hunt

Kids don’t always have to be reading chapter books to build good reading skills. Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss enjoy reading magazines targeted at elementary aged children, and we have a few subscriptions delivered to our house monthly. We particularly like the National Geographic Kids, but we like Muse and Spider as well. When we finish reading at home, I donate the magazines to my classroom library. Recently, my fourth grade students and I worked on several activities to reinforce better non-fiction reading and expository writing skills using the magazine text features for guidelines.

PicCollage magazine text features

Standard non-fiction text features like captions, tables, sub-headings, and sidebars are great ways for students to clue in on the main idea of what they are about to read. If students have a prediction about the general topic in their reading, they will anticipate certain vocabulary and ideas, and their reading will be more accurate. We completed a fun iPad activity where students went on a text feature scavenger hunt. I gave each student 3-4 magazines to peruse and a Magazine Text Features Definition List. When the students located one of the text features, they snapped a picture. Once they had at least 7 different examples, they pulled the pictures into a PicCollage and labeled their images.

PicCollage magazine text features sample

Reluctant readers often do very well with the short articles and images you find in magazines particularly if the magazine focuses on a specific interest of the child. Help your reader clue into the common features of magazines and build those reading skills.