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As a teacher, you strive to give your students every tool and every opportunity possible to learn, to grow, to push the limits of their imaginations, because you’re well aware of the incredible potential they possess. It is up to you to help them unlock it. As Malala Yousafzai once wrote, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
Guiding your students through the process of becoming published authors is a fantastic opportunity to help them realize that potential. After spending the last twenty years publishing over thirteen million books by young authors, we’ve come up with some of the best and easiest ways to make a book stand out. These classbook ideas will allow you to showcase your students’ best work in a way that will let their talents and personalities really shine.
Many of the world’s greatest fiction began with two simple words: “What if?” What if a girl fell down a rabbit hole into another world? What if a boy planted a couple of magic beans? What if animals could talk?
Similarly, some of the best classbook ideas are the ones that ask students to consider not only how the world is, but how it might be. And of course, the stranger and more open to interpretation your question is, the deeper and more carefully your students will have to think about their answers. Some fantastic “what if” sample ideas to get you started might be:
Like many a great “what if,” this hypothetical question opens the door up to a number of follow-up questions and directions in which your students’ responses might go. Where did all the candy go? Who made it disappear, and why? How can we get it back? Do we even want it back?
How would the aliens make contact with humans who could not see them? Would they try on Earth clothing to make themselves known, or take advantage of the situation and take over the world quietly, while no one was looking?
This idea opens up a world of possibilities—several, in fact. Would your students go to another city, another country, or another planet? How about another dimension? The best thing about this prompt is its flexibility—it can easily be tied into a science or geography lesson, or even history, if the shoes happen to travel through time!
Exploring alternate viewpoints is an extremely effective way to help your students build empathy for others while also improving their writing skills. It teaches them not just to think about what others may be feeling, but to imagine what it is like to be them and try to understand what they are going through, and why they react the way they do.
It’s also an excellent basis for a fun and creative classbook idea. Like “what if” prompts, projects which invite your students to imagine themselves as someone else—especially an unusual “someone,” or even a “something”—fosters both their educational and emotional growth. Some especially unusual viewpoints you might consider include:
One of the beautiful things about classbook projects is how they bring people together. Watching your students learn to work together to achieve a shared goal is especially satisfying—as is celebrating together once the final published product arrives in the mail!
But classbooks also offer you the opportunity to invite your students’ families to become more involved in their education in a unique way. By asking your students to spend quality time with their families as part of their assignment, you’re encouraging more than a collaborative spirit—you’re helping them build stronger, deeper bonds through sharing experiences, while learning something new in the process. Try asking your students to:
Of course, great memories aren’t just made at home—with a little help from you, your students can make plenty of them right in the classroom. Unlike at home, however, these moments are rarely recorded on home videos or in a parents’ loving photo album, and many get lost in time.
A scrapbook-style classbook might just be the perfect solution. This classbook idea accomplishes multiple goals at once by giving your students a means by which to explore their emotions, practice emotive writing, and preserve precious classroom memories, all at the same time. Consider trying the following ideas:
Instead of creating pages individually, try having your students team up in pairs or small groups, one group or team per page. Ask each group to choose one shared memory and have them each write about it separately. Then, ask them to work together to create colorful layouts and collages of photographs and drawings to match the memory they chose!
Show your students how far they’ve come by asking them to select an old journal entry or other writing assignment to revisit, either by rewriting it or responding to it with more elaboration or describing whether their answer has changed and why. If possible, do the same thing with an old drawing and include both illustrations alongside both writing assignments for a neat “before and after” classbook!
The majority of classbook illustrations are created with a set of markers and blank sheets of paper. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this—in fact, bright, bold markers tend to print and show up the best in a published book—why not try something a little different? For teachers who have a little more time to make their students’ classbook stand out, here are some other ways to illustrate the stories your kids will tell.
Instead of simply asking your students to draw illustrations to accompany their writing, consider creating a project that will motivate your students to think outside of the box and experiment with new artistic mediums and techniques. Some examples include:
Writing about fictional or historical characters? Try asking your students to create masks of their famous figures’ faces. Take pictures of them wearing their masks to use as portraits for your book!
Using clay or a kid-friendly modeling compound (like Play-Doh), your students can create models of anything they can imagine, including models of wild new inventions or props from their stories. You can’t include their creations directly in your book, of course, but you can include color photos!
Chalk drawings on paper may not print well, but what about good old sidewalk sketching? With permission from your school administrators, take your students out for some fresh air and outline a paved spot on the school grounds. Ask them to fill it with colorful chalk drawings to be photographed for use in your project!
Handprints are good for more than just making turkeys for a Thanksgiving lesson plan! Arm your students with a bit of (washable) paint and ask them to create their illustrations using only their fingers and hands—no pencils, rulers, or other drawing utensils!—for an extra personal touch.
Ready to start your classbook? Here are a few general best practices to follow during the publishing process:
Even the best writers write more than one draft, and even the most talented artists keep a few erasers handy. Before asking your students to write and draw on the final template pages that will be sent to the publisher, allow them to try their ideas out on some practice sheets first.
While you probably want to avoid garish, clashing color schemes, as a general rule of thumb bright, bold colors and high contrast tend to print better than softer, subtler tones. Similarly, pen or marker is always much easier to see than pencil.
Never send original photos, artwork or any other precious items that cannot be replaced or duplicated—they won’t be sent back, and there’s always the minor chance of damage during shipping. Always make copies, either digitally or by hand, of anything you or your students wouldn’t want to lose. When attaching artwork or photos to pages, use glue instead of tape.
Consider going digital. Scanning pictures can be time-consuming and can result in slightly faded images in the final product. If your project relies heavily on photographs, consider using our online bookmaker, rather than a physical kit, and upload digital photos directly to your project to preserve their quality and colors.
Creating a classbook is a rare opportunity for kids to get a sneak peek inside the wonderful world of publishing—don’t waste that chance by shutting them out of the process! Even something as simple as asking for opinions and brainstorming topic ideas together will help them feel involved and that their input matters.
There’s nothing worse than having to rush something that should be completed with care and consideration—especially something as precious as a classbook. When you set a publishing date, be sure to leave your class adequate time for each step in the creation process, along with a little buffer room for unexpected setbacks. That being said, if you do misjudge your timeline, don’t panic! Instead, simply contact customer support to request a change of date.
A classbook is a very special kind of project. It teaches kids about writing and publishing, but along the way they also learn more intangible skills like resourcefulness, cooperation and critical thinking. Making use of unusual materials and asking questions like “what if?” opens their eyes to new possibilities, while exploring unusual viewpoints and discussing memories with friends, family and fellow classmates helps build a sense of empathy and connectedness with the world around them.
Most of all, the process of becoming published authors is an opportunity to give your students a glimpse of that limitless potential you see within each of them. By publishing their work, you help build their motivation and confidence, and make even the brightest futures shine just a little bit brighter.
The best part? It’s not even hard. Whether you’re starting with a physical draft using templates from a publishing kit or organizing your project digitally using our online bookmaker, creating a classbook is easier and more time-efficient than ever. Before you know it, your students will be holding their professionally published classbooks in their hands and joyfully congratulating one another on becoming proud young authors.