Welcome to Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten! My class blog is the place I share information about some of the fun learning activities we are doing at school. I hope to provide parents with insight into what we are doing, and why, and to share ideas with other early childhood educators. Please don't use the photos or text of this blog without permission, but please do use any ideas you find useful. Thank you for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ever so much learning with class books

How do you learn best?  Do you like to hear information, or do you prefer to see it?  Do you need to be involved in doing something to really learn and remember?  Do you learn best when you are totally involved?

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

I think most of us are familiar with this quote from Benjamin Franklin.  It has stood the test of time, and still rings true today.  So how do we involve children, so that they really do learn?

One of the ways I like to do this is to make class books.  There are so many possibilities!  Over the years I've helped my classes write class experience stories, telling about a field trip or a cooking activity, bringing an element of literacy to follow up other kinds of learning.  We've made books of graphs, class books that are innovations on popular children's literature, big books, little books, whole class books and books by individuals.  We've made them with sturdy cardboard covers, flimsy paper books, and books we published in a "real" bound book.

For the last several years I've helped each child make two books of their very own: a hand print alphabet book, and an abc activities book.  Children sit and read them frequently, looking back at their illustrations, commenting on their writing, reading their names, and remembering letters and sounds we worked on to make each page.  I love that the children look back at their work so often, reviewing their learning because they want to.  I plan to publish examples and directions, as well as printables, for those of you who also teach little people - follow my TeachersPayTeachers store to get updates when these and other new materials become available.

Children love to see themselves, their writing and their pictures.  That's what makes class books such fantastic learning tool - they love to look back and revisit their learning.  In our Baa Baa colorful sheep book, we have lots of repetitive text (which helps support early reading), a familiar nursery rhyme (they know the words, so pretend reading and other early reading strategies are supported), and pictures that help the children figure out the unknown parts (using picture clues is an important early reading strategy too!)  Do you see where the children added their own name in the middle of the song?  We practiced writing our names as we made the book, and when they revisit the book they read the names of their class mates.  Want to try this one out?  I have a freebie you can download.

Innovations on familiar stories also support children's early reading - with repetitive text, familiar stories, opportunities to write and read our names, and picture clues.  Add in the irresistible draw of seeing their own work in the books, and you have a recipe for reading and writing success.  Those of you who know me, or are regular readers (thank you!) know that I like to include hands on learning, math skills, cooking, and field trips whenever I can.  Below you can see the letter C shaped cookies that the children made from scratch, and plastic sorting cookie shapes we practiced math skills with, along with a class book we made. 

Those field trips and cooking activities are great learning tools all by themselves, but it is easy to add an element of writing and reading, with class experience stories.  The pictures below tell the story of making applesauce, so why not have the children dictate as a class how it was done, then publish it?

After we finish an activity, I sit with the children and ask them to tell me what we did.  Because they are so young, they usually tell what they liked the best first, or what was most memorable.  I write their thoughts down on a chart, modelling the writing process.  When we've got all the important ideas down on paper, we look at the chart together, and decide what order their sentences should be in.  When the children go outside to play, I'll type up their words, add photos taken during the activity, and print it off.  My favorite simple way to bind children's class books is to print on regular paper and slip the pages into a bradded folder, gluing on a cover to finish it off.  These books have been sturdy enough to survive a couple of years of classroom use, and if you buy lots of bradded folders during back to school sales, you pay only a few cents for them.  The return on that investment is hours of children reading, an absolute bargain!

Below is an even easier, cheaper version, made by simply stapling pages of children's writing together.  The 3 children who made this book chose it for story time several times too, because we let them read it to their friends, another powerful motivator and teaching tool!

You can also use songs to put together class books.  When we were learning the letter J, we also learned Jugo de Naranja in Spanish, singing along with it on youtube.com.  I transcribed the words to make a book so that the children could choose to review it during storytime (who doesn't love a book that also involves singing along?!).  As you can see, we added a small drink of orange juice to the mix to keep everyone fully engaged, and we practiced the book, song, and Spanish language learning at least once a week, because students chose it for story time.  Happy memories are worth revisiting, and adding a literacy element was simple and effective.

Class books aren't only for learning literacy skills either, you can practice all kinds of math skills with your class books.  Here's the beginning of a spring/farm themed counting book we made.  Again, I made a simple cover to glue to a bradded folder, and inserted the children's pages.  This book includes names, numerals, counting, and an art project, all in one simple to create book.  Did we reread it? You bet!

You can also make books of graphs or other math skills that your class practices. When we read the very popular Pigeon books by Mo Willems, I added a math element to our learning with some Pigeon themed graphs.  I put the completed graphs in a bradded folder, and the children read and reread that too, finding their names on the graphs and practicing graphing skills as they did so.

For those of you who want to include more class books in your school day, but just don't have time to make them, I have put together a collection of 28 class books, ready to print and go: click on the picture below to check it out.  For even more ideas, check out Class books.
Class Books for Every Letter of the Alphabet, Using every PP word

 This set has books that work well for each letter of the alphabet, and between them use every preprimer word, so you cover reading and writing skills all year long, with very little preparation.  The books are all available individually too, so you can pick and choose what's right for you, or get the whole set at a huge discount.

Making class books is a tried and true method of involving students in their learning, and like Benjamin Franklin's quote, it has stood the test of time.  I hope you found some new ideas about how to incorporate class books into your school year, and I'd love to hear new ideas too, so please share your ideas in the comments!

Happy teaching and learning!

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