Mini Books

mini books 2

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.

I called in my temp help to see if the booklets 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.
  • mini books sample 2Miss 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.

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Mother’s Day Writing

mothers day pocket folders

I just finished reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with my students, and we 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 mad lib

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.

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 sample 2Not 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.

Pocket Card Materials

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

mini pocket folder

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.

mothers day writing sample

 

Ribbon Bookmarks

ribbon bookmark groupHonestly, I need an Etsy store for all of my craft project overages (or I need craft counseling). Currently, I am over-producing ribbon bookmarks to wrap around journal books. I was testing an idea to make some riboon bookmarks to give to my children’s teachers for Teacher’s Appreciation Day on May 3. Come to find out, the ribbon bookmarks are easy to make; the color combinations look super cute, and I like making things in large batches.

I thought these would make nice teacher gifts because, as a teacher, I always need something to mark my page in all of my teacher materials. Teachers use bookmarks for class novels, textbooks, manuals, planning books, grade books… I currently have about 8 Post-it notes, 3 notecards, and 11 scraps of paper peeking out of the stack of teacher books near my school computer. A few ribbon bookmarks would definitely come in handy for me. Plus, they have the added benefit of not dropping out of the book when I pick it up, and I can slide my scraps of papers with notes under the edge of the bookmark where it will hold.

ribbon bookmark supplies

Materials

  • durable ribbon, at least 1/2″ wide (like grosgrain ribbon)
  • buttons in coordinating colors
  • Fray Check (a little like clear fingernail polish to keep ribbon ends from unraveling)
  • covered hair bands in coordinating colors
  • thread in coordinating colors
  • needle

ribbon bookmark flat

Directions

  • Cut strips of ribbon to match the size of the book you will use with your bookmark. I used 5″ x 8″ journals, which are a similar size to a basic paperback book. I cut my ribbons to 15″. This allowed for the length of the attached rubberband not stretched too much and a little end piece to fold around the rubberband when sewing. Your finished bookmark stretches a little because of the rubberband, so the bookmark will fit a book that is a little bigger and smaller than the book you use as a guide for measuring.
  • Drop Fray Check onto each end of the ribbon to prevent the ribbon ends from fraying. Let dry.
  • Place the rubberband near one end of the ribbon and fold the ribbon end over. Stitch across the width of the ribbon with the rubberband held in place. You can hand sew or use a sewing machine.

ribbon bookmark stitched end

  • Loop the ribbon over and let the ends meet to see which side of the ribbon will need the button attached. Sew the button to the non-rubberband end of the ribbon. The button should be attached with only a little ribbon showing beyond the edge of the button.

ribbon bookmark with journals

 

Concrete Poems

book concrete poem

I am always surprised how much my students like poetry and even more amazed at the poetry they create during our poetry unit. We start the poetry writing process slowly with an adjective review. The students make a list of adjectives that describe the sneakers on their feet and then write these simple “adjective” poems using a frame I provide to get warmed up. The poem frame has a fill-in-the-blank structure where students add five adjectives from their sneaker description list.

adjective poems

Everyone can complete the poem without fear of having to rhyme words or create some great metaphor. After completing the sneaker poem, the students choose another topic like dogs, pie, or books and write a new adjective poem that uses the same structure. This year, we took the completed adjective poems and created concrete or shape poems.

shoe concrete poemWe searched for black and white clipart in Google images that matched the poem’s topic. The kids pasted the clipart image into a Word document and enlarged the blackline image to fill an 8 1/2″ x 11″ page. We printed the image and lightly traced the main lines with pencil on a blank piece of copy paper. Using black pens, the students wrote their poem over the traced pencil lines. Students left the paper with the clipart image under the paper with the concrete poem while writing to serve as a guideline.concrete poem and clipart

concrete poems tracing the design

In most cases, the students needed to write their poem multiple times to fill the shape outline. They also added a few details to complete the effect. The finished product elevated the simple poems into something much more sophisticated.

dog concrete poem

pie concrete poem

More ideas for student poetry are available in my poetry unit. Purchase the poetry unit by CLICKING HERE.

The Great Author Letter Project Returns

 

author letters

What started as an “early finisher” activity for students five years ago has turned into one of my signature projects in the fourth grade. Each year, my students prepare a letter to a favorite book author as one of our first writing assignments. They start by hunting down contact information for the author (research skills!). Then, they brainstorm reasons they like a particular author and his/her book(s). We review business letter format, and the students draft a letter to the author. After editing, the students prepare their final draft, and we mail the first wave of letters.

From that first letter drop, we might receive a reply within a few weeks or wait close to nine months to get a reply. After we walk through the process of creating an author letter, students continue to write letters when they have free time. We send and receive letters all year.

wendy mass author letter reply

I wrote a post a few years ago about this project but since we received our first author reply this afternoon, I got excited and thought I needed to blog about the project again. It is one of the best ways I have found to motivate reading with my students! It is easy to write a book author, but if you want a higher reply success rate, I have some suggestions.

  • Newer authors have websites with an e-mail address and are more likely to send a personal reply.  We e-mailed Jody Feldman, Jonathan Auxier, Tracy Barrett, Erica Kirov, and a few others. In most cases, we received replies within three days.  The replies were unique and specifically responded to the letter written by the students.  Some authors even gave new book suggestions, which built excitement among the students to pick up an unfamiliar book.
  • Other authors provide a snail mail address on their website. These replies take longer– sometimes up to three months, so be patient. Kate Klise has written us back for the past four year and each letter contains different content.
  • Mega authors like J.K. Rowling and Sharon Creech are overloaded with letters and are less likely to reply to fanmail personally.  They will send a generic reply if you include a self-addressed stamped envelope with your letter.
  • If you can’t find contact information on the author website, locate a mailing address for the author’s publishing company.  Mail a letter to the author c/o the publisher.  Publishers will forward all mail to the author.  We mailed a letter to John Christopher via his publisher.  We did not realize that the author had passed away, and his daughter actually replied to our letter several months later!

To download free student materials for this activity from my TpT store, CLICK HERE.

tom angleberger letter