Third-graders get lesson in publishing

November 09, 2007|By LISA PREJEAN

The salutation should have been my first clue to proceed with caution.

Any letter that begins with "Dear Innovative Educator" typically should be filed with all the other junk mail that clutters a teacher's inbox.

Yet there was something appealing about this packet, and I just couldn't quite put it down.

"Turn your students into published authors! Everything you need is provided free ... each student will create a contribution to your very own classroom publication ... A real hardbound book that includes original color illustrations."

The students write the text and draw the pictures. What a great experience.

What's the catch?

If the parents want a copy, they buy the book.

So my next question was, "How much?"

The company, Studentreasures, sells the classroom created books for $14.95, plus shipping and handling. I thought that was a reasonable price, especially because a purchase of the book would be optional.


Then I read that participating schools would be eligible for scholarships. Books would be judged for originality, story line and illustrations.

A contest that my students can enter?

Say no more.

It was August, and I was feeling fresh and energetic.

I fell, hook, line and sinker.

Before I knew it, we had a shipping deadline and a publication date.

Now we just had to write and illustrate a book.

The kit we received suggested writing a book about Thanksgiving. While we cover the Mayflower, the Pilgrims and the Plymouth Rock landing, I didn't think I could devote enough classroom time to developing that into a book.

What area do we focus on the most during the first marking period in third grade? It was a question that was unanswered until I began reading some of my students' Indian reports. Each child was assigned a North American tribe and completed a short report on that tribe.

The reports were entertaining and creative.

Why not select the best part of each report and weave the parts into a book?

And so the process began.

Each child refined certain sections of their reports and then, with the help of their art teacher, created beautiful pictures to illustrate what they had written.

Some of the students became so excited about doing extra pages that I had to tell them to stop volunteering for extra work. They had been assigned enough pages already.

Can you imagine? I wish every project proved to be as motivating.

The day before we needed to complete the book, my classroom was a beehive of activity. It seemed like every student had a question about the finishing touches that they were putting on their pages.

I should have had a pair of Heelys that day so I could have glided from desk to desk.

After the pages were complete, we took the original artwork to a local office supply store and had color copies made on the back of the pages of text. Keeping 52 pages straight was a challenge: Pictures on the left, text on the right. No Indians standing on their heads, please.

Questions came up along the way. (Are these pages in order? Who drew this picture?)

We hope that everything comes out the way we planned. Heaven knows we've checked and double-checked everything.

It was hard work, but the children seemed to enjoy the process. I think they've learned a little bit about publishing along the way.

(Just don't tell them that they were learning while having fun.)

For more information about Studentreasures, go to on the Web.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail. Send e-mail to her at

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