Category Archives: lesson plans

Australian Loteria, Part Two


So, my students prepared for their loteria creation by watching watching videos

We discussed putting the cassowary in place of the rooster.

on Safari Montage and on Discovery Education.  I also had them go through the Carole Marsh CRCT Prep book, which is to the point and a great resource.  The videos had a lot of great things to identify, such as strange animals and landmarks.

But, since it was close to the end of school, I thought I needed to step it up a bit.  That’s where Amazon Video on Demand comes in.  The first thing I found was a series called “Bite Me”  with Dr. Mike.  This crazy man goes around finding venomous plants and animals and trying out the venom and irritants on himself.  Then, he tells you what it feels like…  Here’s the blurb:

Virologist and intrepid explorer Dr. Mike Leahy is on a high-stakes mission to meet the maddest and deadliest creatures on the planet. In this 8-episode installment, join Dr. Mike as he puts his body on the line against an army of exotic pests whose bites, sprays, and stings promise much more than rash. From fire ants and vampire bats in Brazil, to venomous lizards in the jungles of Borneo, to acid-spraying scorpions in India, Dr. Mike will subject himself to the full brunt of nature’s wrath in the name of scientific understanding — even if it means swallowing a tapeworm cyst in Hanoi! Down the hatch!

I showed episode 6 of Season 1 – Coastal Australia.  One of my students said that it was the best video they had ever seen at school.  Oh, make sure you get all school videos approved, of course.  😉  Episode 4 shows the Australian Outback, but the images are much grosser and have more to do with viruses and fungi you can get from sheep and other animals… I chose not to show that.

The Spider

Another good series is Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.  Here’s the blurb from Season 4, Episode 5 (Sydney):

Andrew goes snorkeling, spear fishing and visits a farm where they “pamper” their cattle. He ventures to the Sydney Fish Market where he finds things even he has never tasted before, such as Morton Bay and Balamain Bugs, Flathead Fish and Spanner Crabs.

There is also another episode about the Outback (Season 4, Episode 3):

Andrew heads into the Australian Outback where he eats wallaby with some Aborigines, samples crocodile cooked on the barbie and helps thin out the huge populartion of poisonous cane toads by making them into a meal.

I told my students to do their best on spelling the names of the things they thought should go in the Loteria deck.  I also put some of the words on the board.  Then we talked about the traditional food and plant and animal cards in the original Don Clemente deck and what items we would substitute from Down Under.

That is one wierd camaron (shrimp) - lobster... but it works.

There is a need to show a spectrum of foods, famous people, cultural icons, everyday items, musical instruments, and other things – slang words are good – so that the entire loteria is not animals.  That’s an easy thing to do in Australia, where there are so many bizarre fauna.  You may have to have them vote on what animals should go in the deck.


House of the Scorpion Loteria, Card #4


How else do you get a spare heart?

Spoiler alert!  If you have not read House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer, yet: this may upset you…  On the other hand, it tells you right on the back of the book in the blurb what is supposed to happen.  I think that the only person who does not know is Matt, the clone.

Alebrijes and Oaxacan Woodcarving


I am a big fan of Oaxacan Woodcarving.  Good thing I’m going to Oaxaca!  Last year, I picked out a fabulous rabbit painted by Aurora Sosa of San Martin Tilcajete.  I think I ended up having my husband buy it for me for Christmas or my birthday or something.  It looks like the bunny on the left, only in the crouching position.

Over the years, I have purchased a couple of woodcarvings, but they are smaller and less detailed.  This was the first one I purchased as a collector – I just thought it was beautiful and I wanted it.  If I am lucky, maybe I will get to go to Aurora Sosa’s village and meet her.  Her father, Luis Sosa Calvo, is also a carver.

From Wikipedia:  Alebrijes originated in Mexico City in the 20th century.  The creation of the first alebrijes, as well as the name itself, is attributed to Pedro Linares, a Mixe Indian artisan from Arrazola, Oaxaca who made a living in Mexico City making piñatas, carnival masks and “Judas” figures from papier-mâché.   He sold these in markets in Mexico City in the 1930s.

When he was around thirty years old, Linares fell ill with a high fever which caused him to hallucinate.  He dreamed that he was in a forest with rocks and clouds, many of which turned into wild, unnaturally colored creatures, some with wings, horns, tails, fierce teeth and bulgy eyes.  While seeing the creatures, he heard a crowd of voices which repeated a nonsensical word that sounded like “alebrije.” After he recovered, he began to create the creatures he saw using papier-mâché and cardboard.

The descendents of Pedro Linares, many of whom live in Mexico City near the Sonora Market, carry on the tradition of making alebrijes and other figures from cardboard and papier-mâché.  Recently, there has been a yearly Parade of Alebrijes in Mexico City.

Here are some links about paper mache alebrijes and Pedro Linares:

History of Mexican Paper Mache Sculptures
Wild Dreams and Rainbow Faces – article about the Linares family on
Pedro Linares family website – has some glitches, but recounts Linares’ original “alebrije” dream.
Paper Mache Dragon by Joel Garcia Grande, who studied with Pedro Linares
The Skeleton at the Feast:  The Day of the Dead in Mexico
by Elizabeth Carmichael and Chloë Sayer – includes work of the Linares family
Exhibit in San Diego featuring Linares

More from Wikipedia on Wooden alebrijes (paraphrased):  “What are called “alebrijes” in Oaxaca is a marriage of native woodcarving traditions and influence from Pedro Linares’ work in Mexico City.  Pedro Linares was originally from Oaxaca, and during family visits to Arrazola, he demonstrated the designs he was making in Mexico City. The first to copy the fantastic forms and bright colors was Manuel Jiménez, who carved the figures in local copal wood rather than using paper.

Animal figures had always been carved in the central valleys area of Oaxaca by the Zapotecs since the pre-Hispanic period.  Totems of local animals were carved for luck or religious purposes as well as hunting decoys. Figures were also carved for children as toys, a tradition that continued well into the 20th century.  After the craft became popular in Arrazola, it spread to Tilcajete and from there to a number of other communities.

Now the three main communities are  San Antonino Arrazola, San Martin Tilcajete and La Union Tejalapam, each of which has developed its own style.  The carving of wood figures did not have a name, so the name “alebrije” eventually became adopted for any carved, brightly colored figure of copal wood, whether it is of a real animal or not.  To make the distinction, the carvings of fantastic creatures, closer to Linares’ alebrijes, are now sometimes called “marcianos” (martians).

Oaxacan alebrijes have eclipsed the Mexico City version, with a large number of stores in and around the city of Oaxaca selling the pieces and it is estimated that more than 150 families in the area make a living carving and painting the figures.  Many rural households in the Mexican state of Oaxaca have prospered over the past three decades through the sale of  these brightly painted, whimsical wood carvings.   They sell them to international tourists and the owners of ethnic arts shops in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Here are some books I found about Oaxacan Woodcarving:

Mexican Folk Art: From Oaxacan Artist Families by Arden Aibel Rothstein and Anya Leah Rothstein
Crafting Tradition: The Making and Marketing of Oaxacan Wood Carvings
by Michael Chibnik
Oaxacan Woodcarving: The Magic in the Trees by Shepard Barbash and Vicki Ragan  and the sequel:  Changing Dreams: A Generation of Oaxaca’s Woodcarvers

Dream Carver by Diana Cohn and illustrated by Amy Cordova – children’s book inspired by the story of Manuel Jimenez

Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan – the focus is on the Night of the Radishes, but Naomi is descended from a Oaxacan woodcarving family.

ABeCedarios: Mexican Folk Art ABCs in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill.  The carvings were made by Moisés Jiménez and Armando Jiménez and photographed by K.B. Basseches. Cynthia Weill also wrote Opuestos: Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish with carvings by Martín Santiago and Quirino Santiago.  She also has a new book coming out called Colores de la Vida: Mexican Folk Art Colors in English and Spanish (First Concepts in Mexican Folk Art) – there is no mention of who the carvers are.

Lesson Plans:

Wood Animalitos:  alebrijes made from pieces of wood

Woodsies Extraordinaire – could be adapted to Oaxacan Wood Animals

Texture Critters – a drawing project inspired by Oaxacan art

Mythical Beasts – can be adapted – students create  a mythical beast and write a story about it

Mexican Animalitos – these are made from paper mache

Whimsical Oaxacan Animals – made from paper clay

Alebrije Painting Lesson based on a  book based on a Zapotec legend called Rabbit and Coyote by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

Drawing Oaxacan Alebrijes – from

Here is a 9 week art unit on Mexico for sixth grade

Here is a lesson plan where students  construct a fantasy animal of paper and plaster (for 3rd or 4th grade)

Alebrijes: Fantasy Animals – 3rd grade Spanish animal unit with links to Activity Sheets in English and Spanish – very well thought out.

Websites with examples of Oaxacan Woodcarvings:
El Caracol Zapoteca – beautiful photographs – my favorite!
La Fuente Imports – photos also very well done
Solmar Imports – more examples, along with other folk art

Port Wahakaa’s website, The Art of Oaxacan Woodcarving has an excellent gallery with articles on copal trees, the styles of woodcarving villages, animals in myth and nature.  There are three galleries illustrating the work of many carvers, with short comments on each artist.  There is also a “Rough Guide” describing various styles with an examples from the same artists described in the gallery.

Articles about Artists and the art of woodcarving:

Here is an article on Gabino Reyes and Eloy Santiago
Crizmac Article on Zeny Fuentes
Website of Jacobo and Maria Angeles Ojeda – own a gallery and restaurant in Tilcajete article on how woodcarvings are made
Oaxacan Woodcarving: Innovation Meets Tradition – this is a DVD featuring Zeny Fuentes offered by CrizmacEl Caracol Zapoteca offers articles on woodcarving and artists

From – here is a reading in English and Spanish about alebrijes, with a recording of the Spanish reading – there is also a long version for more advanced students.

Finally, here is a clipping I got a while back from the Crizmac website (click on the image for full size).

The Mesoamerican Ballgame: An Interactive Website


I just spent over an hour at a great website I found.  It is and it was the companion website to an exhibit that toured from September 2001 through December 2002.  The exhibit was called The Sport of Life and Death: The Mesoamerican Ball Game.

The website is engaging and well laid out.  The common theme is the ancient ball game played in Mesoamerica for over 3000 years.  There is information on various cultures:  the Olmec, the people of Western Mexico, the city of Teotihuacan, the Maya, the ancient people of Veracruz, the Toltecs, the Huastecs, and the Aztecs.  There are four major parts to the website, including information on the now defunct exhibit.

The first part is called Explore the Mesoamerican World.  When you enter this section there is an interactive timeline that illustrates the rise and fall of several civilizations.  The map is loaded with information on the culture, artwork, ballgames and archeological sites where the ballgame was played. Information can be accessed by clicking on the map, on the time line dates, or on the menu to the left of the map.  The civilizations mentioned above are included and there is also a segment on the Spanish Conquest.

The second part of the site is called Explore the Ball Game.  This section is divided into information about the Ball, the Uniform, the Ball Court and the Game.

The page about the ball has four components: artwork depicting an offering of a rubber ball by a priest (click on it for illustration), a slide show on how the rubber balls were made (from tree to molding), an interactive game that offers interesting facts about rubber and the balls, and a series of first hand accounts written by Europeans who witnessed the game when they came to the New World.

The Uniform page is illustrated with statues and also has a menu to explain each element. The Parade of Players has a wide assortment of clay figures of ball players and spectators that are clearly labeled with arrows.  The Mascots are various animal carvings worn by the players or used to decorate the ball courts – each figure is labeled with interesting pieces of information about the uniform, the players, and animal symbolism. The Locker Room shows more stone replicas of ball player equipment with explanations.  After learning about the parts of the uniform, one can then dress a player for a game.  Watch out – the “hacha” was tricky to place…

The Court page has five interactive parts.  First, there is video panorama of the Mayan ball court at Copan (Honduras).  Click on “Listen to an Aztec Song” and there is a three-part musical rendition of the Matlatzincayotl, which was an ancient song honoring Xochipilli – the patron god of the ball game.  There is an interactive diagram of a ball court with explanations that appear when you move your cursor over parts of the illustration. Finally, there is a gallery of artwork from ball courts, with explanations and symbols clearly pointed out and explained.  In another link to historical art,  there is a cylindrical vase that tells a story.

The Game page has a video clip re-enacting a ball game from the National Geographic Special called “Lost Kingdoms of the Maya”. There are links to click on that ask “Did Women Play?”, “What Happened to the Losers?”, “The First Dream Team” compares ancient sports with those played today, and there is a depiction of the Mayan glyph for ball player.  My favorite link is “Explore this Artwork” which explains how the creation story of Popol Vuh – the Hero Twins is contained within the design on a plate. Be sure to click on the diagram and line drawing to get the full effect.

Experience the Game is a section in two parts: Watch the Game (or Be a Fan) is a narrative interpreting an elaborate clay model of a ball court with players and spectators. You can also click on the links for close ups of the model.  It is interesting, once you get used to the idea that no actual game will be played in the segment.  The final activity: Play the Game (Be a Player) is a great trivia game.  Players who answer correctly win a point for their team.  It can be played more than once – maybe three times before the questions begin repeating themselves.  These questions might also be transcribed for a quiz.

If you click on the Classroom Connections link at the bottom, there are four art projects with instructions: Make a paper face mask, Create a clay effigy vessel, Craft a headdress and costumes from paper, and Mold clay ballgame figures.  In fact, if you click on the different instruction links, there are charts and diagrams that can be printed out – information that I didn’t see anywhere else in the site.  These included a Cosmic Diagram, Story of Popol Vuh, Animal Imagery, a Pronunciation Guide, a Glossary of Terms related to the Mesoamerican Ballgame, and other printables.

This is a very rich website that should be suitable for upper elementary to adult learners (I liked it and learned a lot!).

Oaxaca Projects, Part One

I made this map to include in my students’ Mayan codices. It looks great laser printed on brown craft paper.  You have to cut the paper to size, however.

At the moment, I have to say that I am maxing out my loafing potential as Summer Vacation begins.  I have all sorts of ideas and projects, but at the moment, I can’t seem to be bothered much.  So… in an attempt to focus, I am looking back at my application for the National Endowment of the Humanities Summer Institute that is four short weeks away.

In order to be considered for the Institute, I had to write an essay of no more than 4 pages, double spaced.  I tried hard not to play with the margins too much, but I had so much I wanted to say.  The excerpt below is the part where I explain what I would like to do while I am down in Oaxaca.  Yes, there will be tours, and lectures, and all sorts of interesting things to see, but the main idea of getting a bunch of teachers together is to create lesson plans that will use the resources we will learn about – as well as any others we can bring to the table.

Here goes – of course, I’ve added notes as I am thinking of them now:

If I am fortunate enough to be chosen to participate in this Summer Institute, I have some specific ideas of what I would like to pursue.  First of all, I am interested in expanding upon my lesson plans on the Mayan Civilization, which is one of the standards that I must teach in sixth grade Social Studies.  I would like to take the idea of creating a Mayan codex (which I did as an accordion book out of cardboard and brown paper this past year) and add more elements to that book.

Glyph with Mayan Long Count Birthdate

This will be a challenge – but I think that my students already have some experience with “creative” spelling.  It may not be as difficult as I envision.

If possible, I would like to have clarification on how to calculate the dates in the Long Count calendar so that this could be aligned with the Mathematics curriculum.  I would also like to collect more specific information about the Mayan observatory – perhaps this information could be added to the Astronomy unit in the Earth Science curriculum.

To be honest, I found some excellent lesson plans, but the Mayan calendar in long count confuses me…  It is true, however, that we do study the planets in Earth Science – I just am not aware of any specific astronomical information in my Mayan resources.

In regards to teaching ESOL and reading, I have also located two young adult novels that portray young people living in Ancient Maya.  One of these books is called The Well of Sacrifice (by Chris Eboch) and the other is Heart of a Jaguar (by Marc Talbert).  The Well of Sacrifice has a female protagonist and Heart of a Jaguar has a young male protagonist.  I would like to organize a parallel book study where the students can identify with life in a Mayan village.  Both books portray vivid scenes of ritual sacrifice and I look forward to sharing ideas about teaching this sensitive subject.  I have supplemented my reading materials with books of Mayan folktales and legends and want to use those as resources, too.

I hate to sound jaded, but for most middle school students, the portrayal of blood and gore only seems to ENHANCE the reading experience.  Truth be told, I am having a hard time getting into these books, so I don’t know how that bodes for younger readers…  I forgot to mention that I DO use Me Oh Maya!, which is a Time Warp Trio series of books.  It’s pretty funny and is a good attention grabber.  In coordination with the new British series I found, it could be good.

In addition to these texts, I have found four texts that illustrate the modern world of the Maya and Mixtec people.  What the Moon Saw and Red Glass by Laura Resau involve heroines that voyage to Oaxaca and encounter curanderas, divination using corn kernels, and the Mixteca language.   Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Muñoz Ryan also involves a journey to Oaxaca, and highlights the woodcarving culture of the region.  Although Colibrí by Ann Cameron is set in Guatemala, many of the traditions and references are similar to those in my books about Oaxaca.  I would like to make the teaching of these texts in more depth possible by collecting information and real life examples and making them available to our school library – to generate interest and understanding in the subject matters and culture described so vividly in these books.

So, there.  I don’t know if I am going to do all of those things, or choose aspects of each.  I do want to do some advance preparations so that I have some idea of the lesson plans before I get to Mexico.  After I made the proposal, I came up with the idea of looking at my collection of folk tales – which is pretty extensive, and using those for a Language Arts lesson plan on elements of a folk tale.

On top of that, I have many interesting picture books about the area that can be appropriate for introducing the culture.  I have a book called Josefina by Jeannette Winter that is written about the artist Josefina Aguilar.  We don’t have a trip planned to Ocotlán, but I could go down there.  She and her family have a pottery studio there.  Dream Carver by Diana Cohn is said to be inspired by the real life of Oaxacan woodcarver Manuel Jimenez.  There is also a series of books by Cynthia Weill which include Oaxacan woodcarvings to illustrate the alphabet and opposites.

So, my problem is not with coming up with ideas – it is with narrowing down the possibilities for the four week Institute!

Time Warp Trio and Magic Treehouse, and one more thing!


Months ago, I decided to organize my ideas on using these books to integrate Social Studies and Language Arts teaching through reading.  I have three more topics to cover, and then I will talk about a new line of books that could also be used!

Destination: Ancient Greece.  Here is another great topic that the two series have in common.  It makes me sad that Ancient Greece is no longer part of the Georgia 6th Grade Social Studies curriculum.

The Magic Tree House has a book called Hour of the Olympics.  Here is a good synopsis from English Campus:

This is the last mission for Jack and Annie as Master Librarians. The Magic Tree House takes them to ancient Greece where the Olympic Games are taking place. With the help of the famous philosopher Plato, they get the book they need to save. He also invites Jack to watch the Olympics. However, females in ancient Greece are of low status. They are not allowed to attend the games. Being a smart and brave girl, Annie disguises herself with a helmet and sneaks into the crowd. However, she gets too excited and her helmet falls off!  The guards at the Olympic Games are now chasing after them. Can they escape and go back home? Will they be stuck in Greece on their last mission?

There are lesson plan ideas at the Random House website (RH publishes Magic Tree House) as well as a Research Guide called The Olympics of Ancient Greece.  There are activities to do on the website as well.

In the Time Warp Trio Version, the book is called It’s All Greek to Me and it is the 8th book in the series.  Here is a synopsis from the School Library Journal:  Joe, Fred, and Sam are transported back in time to Mount Olympus while performing in a school play about ancient Greece. Needless to say, they aren’t much of a threat when they try to use their cardboard thunderbolts on Cerberus. Instead, the boys use their wits, and a Ding Dong in the case of the three-headed dog, as they quickly slip in and out of danger. Children who know Nike is the Greek goddess of victory will double over with laughter when Sam Orpheus, friend of Nike, introduces his chums as Fred Cyclops, follower of Reebok, and Joe Paris, cohort of Fila. Humor continues as the friends help hide a nervous Zeus, who is worried that his wife, Hera, will blab to the other gods if she finds out he lost his thunderbolts. Dionysus wants to party and Ares wants to fight, but the real trouble starts when Zeus challenges Joe to give his golden apple to the fairest of all goddesses.

My Big Fat Greek Olympics is the name given to the episode in the TV series.  It even has a different twist to the synopsis:  A wild warp at the Olympia Diner sends Fred and Samantha to Ancient Greece during the Olympic games (and Sam to another diner on the edge of Time). Can the three of them get it together to avoid historical disaster? Bonus, huh?  That is, if you can get access to the series – I don’t think it is on the DVDs.  Still, the Lesson Plans on the series site can probably be used for the book.

Leonardo DaVinci: the Man and the Code.  Leonardo is not only of interest to adults, obviously.  Both series came out with their Leonardo books later:  I think I had to wait for the Magic Tree House to come out later.

Monday with a Mad Genius:   I don’t know if I mentioned this, or if anyone else has noticed it, but it seems that the Magic Tree House series books got better later in the series.  I mean “better” in that the writing is more engaging, the reading level is higher, and the books on CD are not as mind-numbing as the earlier ones in the series.  This, I think, is important if adults have to also listen to these books while the children do.

Okay, enough editorializing.  Here is the synopsis:  In Monday with a Mad Genius, travel with Jack and Annie to Italy in the Renaissance, a time when every new morning brought with it the promise of artistic and scientific wonder. There, they meet none other than Leonardo da Vinci! – this was added to the information:  Now available in paperback with all-new backmatter full of activities. That’s interesting – I hadn’t checked!

There are activities on the Random House website, including Pre-Reading Questions. Of course, there is also a  research guides to go with the book, because I think that they realized that Added Resources = uh, More Money… It is entitled Research Guide: Leonardo DaVinci and there are additional activities at Random House.

Book Number 14 in the Time Warp Trio series is called Da Wild, Da Crazy, Da Vinci.  Here is a product description from  It was Sam’s bright idea to look for the inventor of The Book. But when the guys land in fifteenth-century Italy, they meet up with Leonardo da Vinci. You probably know that Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa. Did you know that he also invented an early version of a helicopter and a tank, and that he planned to execute the Time Warp Trio for spying on his inventions? Now it’s going to take at least three more bright ideas, two magic tricks, and one great invention to get the guys out of hot water and safely back home. . . .

The TV series episode is called Breaking the Codex.  Here is the episode description: Jodie and Freddi unexpectedly grab Joe and warp him to 1503 in Italy at the height of the Renaissance. Their mission? To rescue the brilliant inventor Leonardo da Vinci from Mad Jack who has some how gotten the idea that Da Vinci can help him create his own time traveling book. There a four page PDF document with lesson plan ideas and background history, just like there are for all of the series episodes.

American Revolution Theme:  Finally, I have come the the last common topic for both series (to date).  I haven’t read the books yet, just cataloged them because middle school doesn’t really focus on American history – I don’t think…

Magic Tree House has Revolutionary War on Wednesday and this is the synopsis:  If it’s Wednesday, it must be Revolutionary War day. Jack and Annie, stars of the Magic Tree House series, are in for another adventure in their time- and space-traveling tree house. Mysterious magical librarian Morgan le Fay has set four new tasks for the siblings. Jack and Annie must find four special kinds of writing for Morgan’s library in order to save Camelot, the ancient kingdom of King Arthur. Jack and Annie set aside their apprehension and soon they’re spinning back through time to Christmas Day, 1776, on the banks of the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, where they encounter none other than the man on the dollar bill himself, George Washington! The children accidentally-on-purpose end up embroiled in the famous commander-in-chief’s mission, where they not only play a part in convincing Washington to carry on with his patriotic duty, but also find the second kind of writing for Morgan’s library: “something to send.”

Time Warp Trio has Oh Say, I Can’t See (Book #15 in the series).  This preview is from Booklist: What could be worse than being time-warped away from home on the day before Christmas? Landing in George Washington’s camp on the night before the crossing of the Delaware! In fact, according to Scieszka’s improbable history, the Delaware would never have been crossed if Washington hadn’t been nudged into action by Fred, Sam, and Joe, the hapless young time travelers known as the Time Warp Trio. But once events are set in motion, they stay in motion, with Washington’s men intent on their mission, and Sam intent on finding his cat, which wandered off into the late eighteenth century. With witty dialogue keeping the pace moving along at a good clip, this will entertain readers who like their chapter books short, illustrated, and, if at all possible, funny.

Magic Tree House has a Research Guide on the American Revolution, as well as a Teacher’s Guide on their website.  Time Warp Trio did not do a TV series episode, so they don’t have lesson plans.

BUT, I have good news on that because of a brilliant new series from Great Britain called You Wouldn’t Want to Be… by Salariya Publishing.  More on that later…

Useful links for bookmaking in the classroom


Yesterday, I had the pleasure of presenting a session at the ESOL Conference at Kennesaw State University.  In truth, I had contemplated presenting back in October or November – whenever they were calling for presenters.  Then, I forgot about it – things are moving so fast this year!

I thought that, since I had not sent in an official presenter application, that KSU had forgotten about me, too.  So, imagine my surprise last month when I got an e-mail asking for my presenter information…  I decided to go ahead and go for it.

I had planned vaguely last fall to maybe give a presentation on making mini books in the classroom.  I have collected all sorts of resources on the internet, as well as bought many MANY possible supplies for making books.  So I gathered as much as I could find:  student examples, reference books, the photo albums and other book vehicles I had accumulated over the years.

Then, I worked and worked to plan on what handouts to provide with my session.  I included information on folding 8, 12, and 16 page books from one piece of paper, and I demonstrated these using LARGE pieces of sketchpad paper in the front of the class.  I also had a last minute inspiration to use some sentence strips to make little accordion books.  There were 35+ attendees, and I ran out of handouts because I had only made 35 folders of paper.

I worked very hard to compile a list of internet resources on the more accessible and fun mini book projects that I could find.  I told the attendees that I would make them available online.  Here we go (this may take more than one post):

8 page mini book:  There are many MANY sites that give instruction on how to make a book out of 1 piece of paper.  Some people call it a “hot dog” book.  I realize now that, since I gave people a copy of the folding directions, I didn’t include a link to folding directions.  Here is a link from Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord’s wonderful website called Making Books with Children.  At the bottom of the page, you can click on a link to print a PDF document of the instructions.

Pocket Mod:  I could probably write an entire post on the wonders of the Pocket Mod, the free recyclable personal organizer, and I may.  One day.  For now, if you go to, you can explore the different types of pages you can add to this little 8 page book – made, of course, from one printed page of paper.  You can even print out 8 tiny copies of the folding instructions for projects on 8 page books in your classroom!

That is only the tip of the iceberg – there is also a free piece of software called the PDF to PocketMod Converter (click on the link to the right of the page to download).  With this utility, you can type up 8 pages of your own and convert them to a mini book!  The only caveat is that you have to first convert your 8 page Microsoft Word document into an Adobe Acrobat document, or PDF.  If you have a Mac, there is already a utility to do this.  If you don’t, then you need to find a PDF converter to download.  I have BullZip PDF on my computer.

Additional useful links:

  • Eduzone has a tutorial on formatting text on a computer for a mini book using Microsoft Word, I think.
  • has a “staple-less mini book generator”  that allows students to format their own mini book, then print it out.
  • has a tutorial on making an 8 page paper bag book.  There are also story ideas.

Now, I am going to just try and put the rest of my links up – I did categorize them.  They are by NO means exhaustible in scope.

16 page mini books – a step up from the 8 page.  These are also called maze books or meander books:

Accordion books – there are LOTS of links on these:

Stapled books – these are simply made by folding paper in half and stapling the “spine”.  They are also called “chap” books:

Books in a Box – Most of these are accordion style, but some of the boxes are hand-made – you could put other kinds of books in a box, too.

I still have more to list, but I need to sign off and continue later!