My day job is as an assistant in a first-grade classroom, and we’re in our first few weeks of the new school year. I’m working with a veteran teacher who has no idea of my involvement with Ooligan and Classroom Publishing. But what did she choose as one of the first projects of the year for these students who are new to so many aspects of classroom learning? Publishing!
After going through a couple of lessons about insects, the teacher gave each child a double-sided, pre-printed sheet of paper that could be split into quadrants (or quartos, for you Shakespeare fans). Each quarto contained a drawing and a couple of facts about insects.
She instructed the children to cut their pages into four pieces, to arrange the pieces (now book pages) in order, then to staple the book together on the left-hand margin. Once the book was constructed, each child was free to color the drawings within the book.
At the end of the day, the teacher read through the eight-page book using the classroom’s document camera. The children read aloud with her from their own books, practicing their new vocabulary words, and connecting their own colored drawings with the facts in the book.
This might be as simple as classroom publishing gets. But here is why it was important:
- It taught children about the parts of a book — cover, left-hand margin, title, page numbers.
- It taught children that books can be made out of just about anything.
- It taught children that books can include simple words and stories that they can eventually read on their own.
- It taught children that THEY can make books — this makes books seem friendlier, even professionally published books (not to mention encyclopedias and dictionaries).
I have believed for a long time that classroom publishing is one of the most effective ways to get students engaged with the written word and take ownership over their learning. But I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that the process was inevitably complicated. This week, first-graders showed me just how effective the process can be, no matter how simple the project.