Pocketed Selves

An Autobiography Book by Gail DePace’s 2nd graders, 2010

I had planned that this post be about the Paul Johnson show, but I won’t be able to get in to photograph it just yet. Instead I’ve decided to seize the moment and write about this great back-to-school project that Gail DePace did with her 2nd graders a few years ago. Gail and I worked together many times, and I see my influence in these books, but Gail (now retired) was an inspired teacher in her own right, and just took off with any of the skills that she picked up from me. What she did here was make a  template of a young person, which each student personalized in their own likeness. With some simple folding the students created a pocket, which was glued on to the front of the book and which held the little self.


Origami Pamphlet, modified

Based on Origami Pamphlet folds

For the body of the book I’m fairly sure that Gail started out with a somewhat large sheet of paper, probably 11 inch x 17 inch (A3). The folds are based on the Origami Pamphlet folds. That cut away window in the middle makes a place for a secret picture, which is only revealed with when the book is set up in a certain way. Like this…

Looking through the window

Looking through the window

Here the book is set up so you can peek into the lives of the author.

View from above

View from above

Here’s the bird’s eye view of the book. Have you noticed the bit of framing that is done around some of the little drawings? This is accomplished by providing each student with just one square post-it, which they mount, temporarily, in their book, then color around it, thus masking off what’s beneath.


As lovely as this structure is, it’s the content that makes them so fabulous. Student wrote about their family, about their favorite place to be (which was illustrated inside the window) and what they like and dislike.

It turns out that no one likes picking up their brother's dirty socks

It turns out that no one likes picking up their brother’s dirty socks

Then they ended the book with hopes for the future.


Hmm. I love student work.




June 6, 2012

Lady Wearing a Pink Pillbox Hat

Lady Wearing a Pink Pillbox Hat

Each season that I am involved with classroom bookmaking students nudge me into making discoveries about how to think about bookmaking.  This year one of the  lessons that I walk away with is how satisfying it can be to bond with the bookmaking process through a personalized book-figure. Okay, that’s not a real term, but I don’t know what else to call it.

Brianna's Flower

Brianna’s Flower

What I noticed was that once a child created an image for their book that they could sort of anthropomorphize they seemed to connect and care more about their subject matter and their book. For instance Brianna’s Flower (above) became a personal extension of herself, so her project became very much her very own, rather than just another assignment.

Charlie's Dinosaurs

Charlie’s Dinosaurs

This connection seemed to be made if it was a fantasy flower, an extinct animal….

Endangered Animals

Endangered Animals…black and white drawings downloaded from the Enchanted Learning website. To give the animals more personality the students enhanced the eyes by making them bigger and defining the area around the eyeball.

…or endangered animals. When I started to noticing how students made connections to their books through these figures I began to encourage them to feel free rein while enhancing them through color….which led to some extravagant and lovely results.

two women

Two women

I can’t remember who the ladies are in the photo above, but I like their taste in clothing.

Here’s the president and his wife, as created by the hands of second graders who were researching famous people.



By the time I worked with first graders on their chick project I had figured out that the first thing we should do is cut out a chick (everyone had the same chick pattern to cut out).  I knew enough to encourage each child to give their own chick a personality by making an expressive eye,  giving the beak some color and shape and considering the shape of the wing.  If a chick became temporarily misplaced before we attached it into the book, the student would look for it as if she were looking for a personal friend, and it was a sweet reunion once the chick was found. 

 When I worked with second graders on their flower and plant book I told them not to worry about making a particular flower, but , instead to create a flower according to their own ideas about what would attract the kind of bee they want to be visited upon.  I loved the flowers that these students came up with! The most interesting thing that happened, though, was that as these book-figures developed I realized that, through these book figures, even I was connecting to the students books in a more personalized way.  One day I had to make a stop at a school sometime after my residency ended.  The completed projects were on display, and I had time to take a look at them.  One of the books housed the lady in the pink pillbox hat,  shown in the first photo of this post. She was such a character that I had to go back again with my camera to make sure I had a record of her. Fortunately, by the time I caught up with the teacher, Mr. Terri -who also happened to be the teacher who came up the concept of this project- the pink hatted lady was still in the classroom.  I would have been truly despondent had she gone home without  my photographing her.  Just a couple of days ago I showed her image to my friend, Ed. I was absolutely delighted that he immediately and correctly guessed her identity.Jackie Kennedy in her Pink Pillbox Hat

Here she is again, my book-figure friend Jackie Kennedy saying good-bye for  me as I am about to sign off on classroom bookmaking for the 2011-2012 school year.


Dinosaur book and folder

There is generally one project that I am most smitten by each year. This year’s dinosaur project, which first grade teacher Mrs. Kaveny and I put together, is my star of the season.

Here's the Generic Dinosaur Sample Book that I Made to Show Students

Here's the Generic Dinosaur Sample Book that I Made to Show Students

We folded two 11″ x 17″ cover weight papers, a blue paper for the background, and a white paper for the foreground. Using pre-pressed score lines, students folded the sides of the white paper in 4.25″ on both sides, so that the paper closed like a set of french doors. We added a pop-up on the left  fold, and cut curvy mountain ranges on the top edge.  The blue paper was folded just a bit differently than the white so that the papers overlapped in an interesting way.

Jake's Dinosaurs

For me, the highlight of the project was bonding to our dinosaurs. Students were assigned a specific dinosaur. The librarian, Mrs. Fields, downloaded line drawings of dinosaurs from the Enchanted Learning website then students colored in their dinosaurs. Mrs. Kaveny and I both agreed that no one really knows what colors bedecked the dino’s bodies, so these  7-year old artists used colors at their own discretion. After the coloring was done, I took their drawings home, scanned them into my computer,  then copied the image three times, doing some shrinking and stretching, so that I was able to hand back three dinosaurs -a family!- to grace inside of the book.

Of course we needed to insert the research writing. There are two books within this book. On the right hand panel there’s a folded page which contained “fast facts.” In the center of the book there is a pocket which contains another book, which is filled with complete sentences and paragraphs.

Here’s what the pages for the writing looked like in my sample. After the part of the project that I facilitated was done, my time at the school was over, so I didn’t have a chance to see the project completed. Students did the writing and the rest of the landscape decoration with their teacher.

The finishing touch to the book was Mrs. Kaveny’s title for the book, Dino Details. We cut out the title in the shape of a dinosaur egg and made a crack. The students were talking about adding a baby dino on the cover too. Wish I had thought of that!

Royalty Check!

April 13, 2012


Nine years ago Kathy Pike, a seasoned Scholastic author of educational books, asked if I would like to be a co-author on a book that has been entitled 25 Totally Terrific Social Studies Activities: Step-by-Step Directions for Motivating Projects That Students Can Do Independently. I did my work, received an advance, and for years and years that was the last I heard of the book. It seemed  to have been shelved and forgotten.  A couple of years ago I discovered that it had been published. Scholastic sent me ten copies of the book. It was a thrill to have the book in my hands. Now I’ve unexpectedly received a few hundred dollars of royalty money in the mail. I guess the book is selling…as well it should .

25 Totally Terrific Social Studies Activities: Step-by-Step Directions for Motivating Projects That Students Can Do Independently

First, let me say there’s nothing fancy about this book. On the other hand, it’s only $9.00 and it’s full of really  accessible projects.  When I first saw the book I was sad that it wasn’t one of those full color glossy bookmaking books, but when I took the time to really look it I have to say that it’s diamond in the rough.  The title references social studies projects, which is just fine, but it’s really a great resource about making books in the classroom.

The picutes in the book are all in black and white, but I still have some of the orginal color photos from my old camera. Here’s a color photo of one of the projects.

I bribed my children into doing the writing and making the images for this sample book as I wanted it to look authentic.

No one asked me to look over the way that the publishers presented the directions in the book, so some of the directions are not quite on target.  Here’s a tip: if you buy the book and want to make the Origami Pamphlet you can print up a better set of Origami Pamphlet directions right here.

Here’s another page. I’m showing this because it describes a clever structure, submitted by one of the other authors Jean Mumper. I’ve never made it this one, but I keep meaning to try out.

At the time that we were working on the manuscript Kathy directed me to a group of students who had made this folded circle book. I took some photos which (hopefully) give a sense of the circular way that the pages of this book open.

Folded Circle Book, unfolding

This circle is about the size of a coffee can lid.

Folded Circle Book, folded

The title fully shows only when the book is fully closed.

The first quarter revealed

When each quarter of the book is opened, a picture is revealed, and, as an added bonus, there is room on the folded piece to write a caption. The books that I saw were made with layers of  circles so that there are more than  four quarter pages to the book.

Folding Circle Book, with pages unfolding more

These folding circle books had some fun sculptural possibilities.

 It was a good experience to write my part of this book. It was a real pleasure to get a surprise check many years later. I want to say, though, that the best part of putting a book into the world is that I was able to write a dedication. While my children were young their nursery school teacher and day care provider, Becky Potter, was an angel in my life. There is no way I could adequately ever thank her for the support and care and wisdom my family found in her generous spirit. I was so happy to dedicate my part of the book to her.


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