Learning About Spain, Easy As ABC

I can’t believe in less than a week I will traveling around Spain! It feels like I have been talking about and planning for this trip forever, I can’t wait to get there!

With a bonus snow day today, I decided to take time to map out a few Spain activities students will do to show off all they have learned about this European country. They have already done a little bit of research and blogged about new things they have learned, but now it’s time to get down to business.


Before Leaving For Spain

I already have mini research books ready for them, where they will be able to collect and organize information. These will come in handy for our big Spain project where as a class, students will create an alphabet book about facts they have learned this year about Spain. Next week while I am away, before break officially begins, students will each receive their own copy of a basic fact book about Spain (found of course online, what would I do without teacherspayteachers.com!?). With the substitute in my classroom, students will read, discuss and write about the information found in the mini book. Pair that with time in the computer lab to conduct a little more research, and students will begin the process of gathering and organizing information into their own research books. If everything works out I might even be able to Skype with them from Spain on Thursday or Friday while they are still in school, how cool would that be?!


While I’m Away 

While I am away I will blog each day through our classroom blog. This will allow students to follow my trip in real time and blog with me. Fingers crossed some actually do this outside the time I set for them to go to the computer lab at school! Even if they don’t get a chance to blog, I will be sure to schedule computer lab time for when we all return from break so they can read about my experience. In past years I usually have a faithful few followers from class, which is pretty amazing since they are on vacation. What an amazing way to reach students and open their eyes to a global world.


Return From Spain

When I return from Spain students will get the chance to learn more from blog posts, videos, pictures and a mini presentation I will put together. This year I am planning to create an iMovie of some of the trip highlights. The real writing will then begin to put together our classroom book. As a group we will have to decide what words to use for each letter of the alphabet, draw names for each one, research topics in depth, and then actually write.


Do’s and Don’ts of Student Publishing 

The books created in past years by my class always exceed my expectations. It’s a learning process and with each book and I have learned a few things with each one. The publishing process reveals plenty of Do’s and Don’ts. Like don’t let students write with the sharpie unless they are happy with their final copy, or don’t let students do the illustration first, get marker all over their hands and then before you have a chance to tell them to wash their hands have them do their writing portion with the sharpie, because that only leads to lots and lots of whiteout to clean up the page. And the best lesson to date, count how many pages for student writing and illustrations, then count the number of pages students have written, and then count again, because if you don’t double check you are going to end up with a student who doesn’t have a writing page to write on and you will have to create your own lines on an illustration page to give them a page to write on (oops!). What a wonderful learning curve it has been over the years.

There have also been plenty of Do’s I have taken away from our classroom book writing experiences. Like always hold a cover and title page contest for student artwork. It brings out creativity and allows students to recognize each other’s talents. Give guidance for a writing topic, but then step back and let students take the reigns. This lets them take ownership and pride over their work. Do plenty of research beforehand with students because this sets them up for success when they are thinking about what to write about. Give lots of time for writing and revision with both peer and teacher conferences. It has fostered some great discussions and even better collaboration among students. And the biggest Do: Always throw an author’s party to celebrate student writing. The book they create is a labor of love and students are excited to share it with anyone who will listen!


Student Published Books

This year we will try something new and create an ABC book. I have tried out some different formats in the past, writing about favorite things, writing chapters on topics, but based on student feedback I knew we needed to try something different this year. Who knows maybe we will find the perfect fit?

A few years ago the aide working in my classroom told me about Student Treasures. It is a publishing company that publishes student work and it doesn’t cost a thing! Students, or rather their parents, have the option to purchase the book for a small fee, but there is no obligation. Teachers also can purchase the book and get a discount on up for four books. After working so hard to put together the book, students are excited to share their book, and most times parents are eager to purchase one. What a great keepsake from 3rd grade!


Are We There Yet?

I can’t wait to get on our overnight flight and finally be in Spain. Armed with student question and my own curiosity, I think I am ready for everything Spain has to offer. I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever created student books in your classroom? Do you have any tips or tricks to create the best student book possible?



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