Minibooks are a staple food in my classroom. I use them for everything! At the beginning of the year, I get my students to make a mini library using an old cereal box and some coloured paper, then we start to work on filling it. Students make vocabulary books on themes – e.g. My Book of Colours – or practise their letters – trace, copy, write, draw an appropriate picture for each letter. When I read a story to them, I often get them to retell the story in their own words afterwards. They can work in groups, or you can retell the story as a class and ask students to copy the sentences from the board. Advanced students can retell the story themselves, and just ask you to check grammar before they “publish” it (go over the pencil in ink). Sometimes, as a reading assessment, I will write the words of sentences into the book myself before photocopying it; students have to read, and draw an appropriate picture as a measure of understanding. They love making them, and I encourage them to take the books home and read them to their parents (where I live, most parents don’t speak English, but can still take part in their children’s education by listening to their child in English).
Each minibook has a cover and seven inner pages, so make sure your lesson takes that into account. Making the book is easy once the kids have got the hang of it, although at first you might get a few tears over a wrong cut. Make sure they are making the central cut on the fold, and anything else can be fixed afterwards with a bit of sticky tape.
1. Print out a page for each child – or just use a piece of scrap paper, if you weren’t organised enough. As long as one side is blank, it can be used, it doesn’t really need printed guidelines once your students are used to making the books. I use the penknife to cut off the margins for my younger students, but it’s not essential.
2. Fold the paper along all the lines – it doesn’t matter which way the paper is folded, as long as there is a fold on each line.
3. Fold the paper in half widthways, and cut inwards from the fold to the centre point, along the thinner line. This can be a problem with inattentive students – make sure that they’re not cutting the wrong side, or their mini-book won’t work.
4. Open the paper out, and then fold a second time, this time lengthways, so that the cut you’ve just made opens out – I get my students to think of it as a mouth, opening wide into a big smile.
5: This is the slightly awkward part, but it will make sense when you’re doing it, promise! Push the sides of the paper together so that they meet, then fold the pages over into a book, with “1” at the front.
And you’re done! You could staple the spine, but I find it’s unnecessary, unless some cutting has gone seriously wrong, when you may need a staple or two to keep it all together.
Here are the versions that I use, but as I said above, they’re just to guide beginners. I keep a stack of discarded photocopy pages in my classroom (make sure they’re blank on one side, and that the other side isn’t a confidential school letter!), and can then improvise if I have a few minutes spare at the end of a lesson.
Mini books to practise writing skills, based on The Very Hungry Caterpillar, here.