Using Handmade Books for Your Content-Area Curriculum

Art Journals are all the rage these days. These are blank books (your students can make them) in which artists write and make art. People glue in ephemera and paint watercolors. They write all kinds of things.

You can see some very interesting ones here. These journals are taught and made by Laurie Gatlin, who I heard at the Utah Art Educators Association meeting last year. She taught a wonderful starbook structure, pointing out that these are a wonderful way to review and present subject-matter content. Not long ago, I also heard of a math teacher who makes handmade books with his students and then uses them throughout the year to make a journal record of formulas and math strategies, complete with illustrations. For tests that allow student notes, these journals are permitted and very useful!

It’s not hard to make a handmade book (Here’s a demo for one sketchbook that I made).

Truth is, kids love to make books. They always turn out to be beautiful and much beloved. The one below is a free lesson from Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord. What could be more interesting than a little stand-alone handmade book on the water cycle? On basic genetics and Mendel’s Peas? On alliteration (think of the illustrations)?

It actually requires minimal time, inexpensive materials, and not much skill to make wonderful little books. Here is one of the simplest books, but very beautiful and useful. You teachers will be astonished at how much your students love the books.

And more than that, you will be surprised at how much they remember what they put in the books. Think about it: students must master the material well enough to write about it and illustrate it. Then they share each others’ cool books, so every time they read one of them, they’re reviewing the material.

At the end of the year, students have a beloved collection of books they made, all with the most important concepts in your course.

Irresistible.

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One thought on “Using Handmade Books for Your Content-Area Curriculum

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