Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Student-Made Theme Books!

 What Are Student-Made Unit & Theme Books?
They are awesome.  These little books are very easy to make and cost about a penny each.  They help reinforce key ideas from whatever unit you are working in (I usually use mine for social studies, science, and health) and they help the students OWN the information.  It encourages creativity, reflections, fine motor skills, ELD, graphic organizer use, and some good, old-fashioned copying!  The day before the post test, each student can take home their theme book and study from it so they are ready to ace the test the next day, as well as show off their great work to parents at home.  These little books will make you look good on test scores and to parents!

How Do I Make Such an Spiffy Little Book for My Students?
Most schools keep the necessary supplies on hand-construction paper, blank white paper, and staples.  For most of mine, I just take a large piece of construction paper, and slice it in half.  Do that to 15 pieces of construction paper, and you have a class set of theme book covers!  Decide how many pages you want your book to have.  I usually want at least 6 pages (I make my students use the front and the back of each page).  For books that students will do a lot of writing in, like their Oregon Trail Journals that also have their journals as well as the info from the unit, I do 20 pages.  If you want 6 pages total, you'll just take 3 regular sheets of paper (in a cool color if you so choose), and fold them in half horizontally (hamburger way).  You just made the inner pages for the inside of your theme book!  I like to choose a color that has something to do with the unit we're learning about (like dark green cover and light green inner paper for Oregon, brown cover and tan inner paper for historical things like our Oregon Trail Journals & Corps of Discovery journals, and blue cover with white paper for our government books).  Tuck your inner papers inside the construction paper, and staple twice at the fold.  Done!  It's just that easy!  (The exception is the crazy Animal Classifications one picture above, I'll show you how to make it in another post).  I usually don't waste my students' time making these, but when I have former students come back wanting to volunteer in my classroom, or a random parent volunteer, or an awesome student teacher, I have them make a few class sets in a variety of colors.  If I don't use them this year, I'll sure use them next year.  Generally, I have the students do all the writing on their books, including the covers, that can look something like the picture above.

 What Do We Put in Them?
Anything & Everything.  If it's important, it's in the book.  Ideally, every answer on your post-test should be able to be gleaned from the pages of the almighty theme book.  Students will spend time on this.  They will labor over it, add more to it, decorate it, talk about it, teach someone else from it, and study from it.  I have very few student examples because NO ONE WANTS TO GIVE THEIRS UP!  They work hard on it and they keep them.  Here are some different examples of some things that could be included:

Venn Diagram comparing the life cycle of two organisms, complete with comparative sentence stems on the right side.

The names of Oregon Trail Landmarks along with a sketch of each...Dangers of the Oregon Trail, with a labeled picture for each.

Timelines of important events you want them to know for the rest of their lives (and the post test!)

Summaries of their textbook reading or a narrative input chart (look up GLAD strategies for that awesome tool!)

Labeled diagram of the life cycle of a Douglas Fir Tree and a salmon.

I'll do another post that goes through every page of an Oregon Government Book we are in the midst of teaching from, but the key to remember is that if it's important, it should be in the book.  You can have students teach a buddy (pair up with a younger/older grade classroom and have your students be the experts who are sharing their knowledge with their buddy).  This is NOT just a place for them to copy things from the board into their book without any actual teaching.  That has very little use.  This IS a great place to have students write reflections about what they've learned, write vocabulary words from the unit with pictures & definitions, copy down chants about the subject, write their related sentence stems, and record graphic organizers you've done as a class.  Theme books can make learning more fun, make studying easy, help parents connect with their child's learning, and will be a beloved memory of your students' time in your classroom.

Questions?  Have a cool variation or a different way you use theme books?  Please leave a comment, & remember to pass it on to others through Pinterest & Facebook!

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