The sixth grade English teacher in this school likes the idea of each of her students making a book that they can use as (her words) a memory catcher. Writing, pictures, and ephemera will go into these books. The design challenge is that I can’t count on having more than 40 minutes to work with the students. I want them to end up with something large, sturdy, and I want them to enjoy making it.
On my day with these sixth graders, they walked in the library, saw the colorful papers and were immediately delighted. “Do we get to do this today?!” They were all so happy! My papers here are tabloid size, 11″ x 17″ 67lb papers (which, by the way, are getting more expensive and harder to source every time I look).
Each student chooses eight papers. We have plenty of space to work. It’s interesting to notice how each student chooses to arrange their stash.
Some students choose to work alone and spread their papers out all out in front of them
Other students work two, three or four to a table and have to stack their papers.
Next step is to fold the papers then nest them together in groups of two.
I’ve worked with these students many times before, and they are all have expert paper-folding skills.
The trick to accurate paper-folding is to hold the paper with one hand, then slide the other hand towards the curl.
These students have been using my bone folders just about every year they’ve been in school. If I forget to hand them out they will ask for them. In schools I refer to them “folding tools” to avoid vegetarian discussions. If the fact that they are made of bone comes up, I advise vegetarians not to eat them.
The students end up with four groups of two folded papers. This grouping is completely non-intuitive: students want to nest them all together, one inside of the other, and wrap one rubber band around the spine and be done. In fact, the book would work just fine that way, but I’m here to show them something different, and, arguably, better. By asking them to make four groups of paper they will end up with a thicker, and much cooler looking book spine, one which shows off some of the colors in the book.
Once the pages are grouped together, there’s one more step before the assembly starts. The corners of the tops and bottoms of the folds are snipped off. These snips create valleys that the rubber bands will settle into.
Two groupings of papers are set next to each other side-by-side, opened in the middle. The rubber band slides over the four adjacent pages, binding the page groupings together. I use Quill Brand Rubber Bands, 7Lx1/8″W which are humongous in just the right way. Smaller rubber bands will actually work for this, but the tighter the rubber band stretches, the sooner it will rot and break. I want these books to stay together for a good long time.
On goes the rubber band! This is done until all four sections are linked, in sequence, one group right next to each other. This book can be made to be just about any number of pages long.
It’s a good idea to decorate the cover of this book right away, as the flexible nature of the spine can make it tricky to figure out which page is the front once it’s been opened and looked through. Students make pockets to go on the front and back covers, to store items that will be eventually attached into the books. I’ve been making these books with this school’s sixth graders for a number of years, but I don’t get to see them finished. Students, however, will joyfully tell me about them, and they will also tell me, oh I remember when my brother made these! From what I understand, they hold a plethora of memories.