The Biography Project Book project

The Biography Project Book project

Last year I teamed up with second grade teachers to design a book project that supported their curriculum objective of researching a famous person. The project created a good bit of excitement, so we decided to repeat it this year. Repeating a project gives us all the opportunity to make the project even better.

Biography Book, the first spread of pages

Biography Book, the first spread of pages

The concept is this: on the first spread of pages there is a mystery figure, and a book of clues so the viewer can guess the identity of the famous person, and learn something about this person when reading the clues.

Mary Musgrove in her environment

Mary Musgrove in her environment

The second page places the person in their environment,. Here, Mary Musgrove is hunting a deer. The figure from the first page stands on her own, and can be exhibited in front of her illustrated home territory. There is an origami pocket on the left side that holds a small rubber band pamphlet, which contains a report on the person. As it turned out, having the pocketed book on the left (verso) page was a mistake: each time the page opens the little pamphlet book falls out of the pocket. Next time we will put the book on the right (recto) page.

Marco Polo Biography book, expanded

Marco Polo Biography book, expanded

The book structure itself is based on a fold which I call the Book Base, a simply folded but  adaptable structure. Here the book about Marco Polo is opened up to show that the finished book is still just one piece of folded paper.

Marco in his own century

Marco in his own century

Here’s Marco Polo book set up for show.

Both the teachers and I did some things this year that felt better all around. Last year the teachers tried to get all the research done before and during the time that I was working with the students. I saw the students for three one-hour sessions over the course of two weeks.  Trying to get all the research and writing done before my last day with the students turned out to be stressful and unnecessary. This year I asked only that the students know what their person looked like before I arrived.  This was so that, after creating the basic book structure during the first class, that the students could start creating their person with paper, popsicle sticks, and material bits. A real stick figure! My other class time with the students was spent just creating the architecture of the book: we made a graduated page book for the clues; a rubber band book for most of the other written information;  origami pockets to hold the stick figure on one page and the little book on the other: we made an origami base to for the “who am ?” piece;  a pop-up on the second spread of pages and we explored decorative options.  With all of this in place, then the research began in earnest, after my time with the students was over. I think we were all happy with this sequence.

Stick figures, dressed

Stick figures, dressed

These dressed stick figures were the last thing we did during the first class. The students loved doing this part of the project.  The teachers told me that many students opted to continue working on them during recess.

biobaseballpalyer

There were so many really fine pieces of work done by these students that it was really hard to pick out which ones to show here.

I happened to walk into one of the classes about 10 days after my time with the students was officially over.  The students were gathered around a student who was presenting his book about Neil Armstrong. After his presentation the second graders around him were writing.

biocomments

Each student was writing what they liked about their fellow student’s book . What a lovely way to honor each other’s work! Next, there will be a presentation for the parents, where the students dress up as the person they researched! This should go well, as it will be the second dressing.

Related posts:

Biography project proposal

Biography Project decorative details

Anticipating Spring In First Grade

Anticipating Spring In First Grade

One of the best parts of being a guest teaching artist in schools is the relationships that I have with the teachers that I work with. Most of the work that I do is with teachers that I have worked with before.  This means that year after year, as we get to know each other better, we can develop bookmaking projects that can dynamically align to the mandates of the curriculum.  Each year  the projects that I present generally are either repeat projects that are continually refined to serve the classroom needs better, or they are projects that are designed anew, to fit shifting interests of the teachers.

Proposal Sketches for a Healthy Snack Book

Proposal Sketches for a Healthy Snack Book

This past week I started a completely new project with Margo’ s second grade class. I have worked with Margo for years, but this is the first time that she is the primary teacher in the second grade. She said that she wanted to do some research with her students and that she wanted there to be a “global” feel to the project. After brainstorming a bit, we decided that we would reach for the global connection through the children’s snack bags.  Each day for a week the class logged their snacks and noted where they came from. Pineapple from Thailand, bananas from South America, celery from California, Mandarin oranges from Florida, via Chinese origins. We had the concept, then I had to come up with a design that would work in her classroom. What I came up with is illustrated in the drawing above: it includes a pop-up (the snack popping out of the lunch bag), a window to peek through at the habitat of the snack, and two pages for writing. We started the bookmaking yesterday. I look forward to posting images when the books are done!

Alaskan-Animals-book-Sketch

Alaskan-Animals-book-Sketch

Last year I worked with Mrs. Kavney’s first grade class, making a  Dinosaur  Diorama. I loved this project and was looking forward to repeating it. This year, however, Mrs. Kavney wanted the book to be more of this world. She worked up a spectacular unit on following the Iditarod in Alaska, incorporating geography, math, and science. She wanted to have our bookmaking project put another spin on this unit, and she had her eye on studying animals and habitat in Alaska.  She liked the Diorama book that we did last year, so I so I reworked the basic design. The animal is now central, a pocket is included that can  hold standard size paper, which will contain the sentences that the first graders will write about their animals, and there is an area to showcase a haiku that students will write. Of course I couldn’t resist the opportunity to somehow incorporate the Northern Lights…which, when I mentioned this to the students, they responded by telling me that these lights are also known as the aurora borealis. I am learning not to talk down to these students…This project was also started this week.  My next post will likely be on the aurora borealis part of the project, and I look forward to seeing how the rest of it goes.

Now, back to prepping.

How to Make a Tabletop Stage by Paula Beardell Krieg

How to Make a Tabletop Stage by Paula Beardell Krieg

This goes along with the photos in my last post, which shows paper folded and cut in such so as to encourage young playwrites to put on a show. It’s a sweet little project, especially designed for the Pre-k and K crowd.  I used a medium weight paper which was about 23″square before folding, but just about any size will work. I made a few little stages out of 8 1/2″ squares, regular copy weight paper, and they were charming.

learning how to work in illustrator

I’m including a few screen shots of the process here because working in Adobe Illustrator is such a new thing for me. I’ve been making my hand-outs through a laborious, materials intensive use of paper, scanning, copying, tracing, drawing, coloring on and on until I get things just right. I’ve known that there is an easier way, so, rather than abandon what has become a process that it less and less fun to do, I’m trying out something new.

Screen shot of Adobe Ilustrator

Isn’t this funny, all the shapes lines up ready to be put in their place?

I like the more hand-done look of my other hand-outs, and as I learn this program more (and when I get a new scanner) I will be able to get close to the look that I like. In the meantime, I am enjoying this learning curve.

Square to Stage

October 24, 2012

A stage made from a square piece of paper

Here’s a post I have been wanting to write since last spring. I was asked to create a bookish project for a couple of classes of Pre-k and Kindergarten students, and I had only about 50 minutes to work with the students. These students were also going to work with the magnificently talented illustrator Sheri Ansel, who would be leading them through the process of drawing animals.

The World is a Stage….

I wanted, then, to create a structure that the students could use with the drawings that they made.  So, I figured out a way to make a simple structure which they could use to as a stage for drawings, which I imagined could be attached on to the ends popsicle sticks, and then moved around to create little performances.

A view showing the side supports

A view showing the side supports

The stage is made of a single sheet of square paper, which measures about 23″ on each side. It doesn’t much matter how big or small the paper is, any size seems to make a good stage. The paper is folded in half to form a triangle, and a window is cut out to create the viewing area, and a few more folds create the side supports and the flat top.

Backstage

Backstage

Notice how the side supports are open at the top: these supports double as pockets that can be used to store the puppets in, once storytime is over.

stage resquared

Stage Resquared

Here’s the stage, opened up to the square shape. No gluing is needed for the construction of this structure, so was a snap to deconstruct for this photo.

The window cut-out can be used for script writing

Since I was working with such a young crowd, I made sure to pencil in the window cut-out on to each of their papers. Some children cut out the shape themselves, others needed help. If I had been working with a crowd that could actually write sentences I would have encouraged them to use the window shapes as the pages for their script.

As our time was limited, I provided paper punch outs, which were used for decoration. They looked great, all lined up.

Naturally, as soon as the kids saw me snapping pictures, they all wanted to pose in their stage windows. No question, these kids are stars.

What’s delayed me in writing this post is that I want it to be followed by a tutorial page, similar to what I generally do, and that ‘s the piece that I wasn’t finding time for. I am now about half-way through the Adobe Illustrator how-to book, so I will be trying out my nascent Illustrator skills on putting together a tutorial.  I excited to attempt this challenge.

Addendum: here’s the how-to-make-a-stage tutorial post