Everything I’ll be talking about today can be found on my blog on this page
Objectives: Reading and writing are often the poor relations of speaking and listening. I’m going to show you how you can use mini-books to encourage reading, independent writing and dictionary skills. I’m going to show you the basics and tell you how I’ve used them, and I hope I will give you lots of ideas that you can use in your next lesson.
Many of the CPD sessions that are available to teachers these days focus on the use of new technologies and social media. There are times when you think that technology is fundamental to a successful lesson. But we have to remember that it’s all about TEACH not TECH. Judicious and appropriate use of technology can magically enhance MFL teaching, but a series of "sit down and make a PowerPoint" lessons conceived merely to tick a box on a scheme of learning will ultimately do more harm than good. It's all about using new things appropriately and keeping a careful eye on the long term. We shouldn't just use it because it's there, but because it is the right solution to a given problem. There was a time, of course, around the middle ages, when books were new technology. They were given a real boost in 1450 by Gutenberg and his printing press. Books may be considered old-hat by some now, but for me they will always be magic. Their feel, their smell and of course their words will always take me to another place. I often read children a book in English to set the scene for an activity, to put it in context. Here’s a book I particularly like, and I’ll read it to you now to illustrate the magic of books, whether mini or large.
Reading and writing are built into the KS2 Framework for Languages right from the beginning. These are the objectives for Y3
And for Y4.
These KS2 objectives are built on in KS3
Mini-books are a “way in” to this writing and to providing models of good writing.
Despite these objectives being in the frameworks, reading and especially writing are the poor relations and tend not to be taught as well at KS2 “Writing was the least developed skill in most of the primary schools visited; it was generally not planned for until at least the later stages, if at all, and where it was, pupils were often limited to copy writing and filling in gaps on worksheets.”
So all this talk about mini-books and how they can help with reading and writing. But what are they?
Rather than me tell you why they are a good thing, I’ll hand over to some of the #MFLTwitterati
So now let’s have a look at the different kind of mini-books that you can make, and some ideas for what you can do with them.
The basic mini-book! Here’s how to make it.
This is the first mini-book I used. Exploring gender and articles and introducing dictionary use to Y3. I got the idea from this book (American bilingual mini-book series). We read it together and then they produced their own versions, each page showing something they had found in the dictionary.
Here’s an example of the output of one Y3 girl
This is an example of a Y4 French mini-book. We had been working on free time activities and saying how well you do them. We had played Battleships to practise making the sentences and then they chose some of those sentences to illustrate in their mini-book.
Example of a mini-book used for reading and understanding. Colouring.
Example of a mini-book being used for reading and understanding, with a response required by chn to demonstrate understanding. They could make their own version, either with completed pictures or blank faces to test a friend.
At the beginning of Y4, we do days of the week and The Hungry Caterpillar. We concentrate on the repeated elements of the story (the small pages!). Then we switch to the Hungry Monster, whose diet is probably a lot more varied than the caterpillars! Each pair of children gets a different day of the week to write about, and they use the structure of the little pages to write about what the monster ate on that day. They use the dictionaries to find the vocabulary. They write the sentences on mini-whiteboards, I photograph them and then type them into this template. The following week each child gets a copy of the class’s work on A3, we fold it into a mini-book and illustrate it. The children use the dictionaries the other way round to find out what everyone else has written.
The possibilities for mini-books are endless. They can even be non-fiction, like this one that I made for the last football World Cup.
Pocket books are an enhanced version of the original mini-book. They have eight pocketed pages and a front and back cover. Can also put a decorative cover on if it’s made of paper. This is just one example. Just think of the different things that you can put in the pockets. Children can make them as a writing exercise, or could, of course make some to swap with friends as a reading exercise.
One piece of A4 paper cut in half and then stuck together in a long strip. Can be used to practise writing single words and therefore good for beginner learners, SEN and KS1. And children seem to love making fans!
The concertina is made of half a sheet of A4 folded into half, half again and half again and then concertina-ed. You can then write and draw on all the sections except the top and bottom one, to which you stick the pictures or cut-outs. These mini-books are ideal for anything that requires a sequence, as they provide ready-made 'steps' on which to write. So you could use them for recipes, and have foodstuffs or utensils at the top and bottom, or even for a more formal piece of writing which requires the use of time sequencing phrases. Rabbit Boy Present Arca de Noe
A variation on the theme of the concertina book. The cover and pages are integral and can be shaped like this one.
This is another variation on the concertina or accordeon, and starts life as a paper zig-zag. It’s then shaped into houses and doors are cut in. As long as the doors are made big enough, there is plenty of scope for writing inside the doors. I’d recommend using card for these, as with paper the doors go curly, especially if they have been heavily felt-tipped!
This works along similar lines to the line-of-building book, but the cutting is a little more complex. I’ve made a template for this one as Y3s found it tricky. Imagine all the different areas of personal information that you could use this for. The people can also be decorated with stuck-on hair and so on.
An Aztec Codex is essentially a concertina-style book. The Aztecs filled them with glyphs painted in red, blue, yellow and green. Many were destroyed by the Spaniards when they conquered the area now known as Mexico in the early 16th century, and therefore not many remain. The good thing about this paper version is that it is fun to make
A group of identical shapes fixed together with a butterfly clip. Could be used for rooms in the house – use house shapes and each one is a different room in the house. Or perhaps an aeroplane and each shape is a different day of the holiday.
A 3D scene made of a square of paper. Good for writing about something that can be drawn in a long line, like people, animals, places in town, foods on a supermarket shelf….
A complicated fold, but this can be part of the challenge! Works the same way as the little pocket tourist maps you can buy. We used them in Y6 to practise the names of places in town, saying what there is and what there isn’t. Some of the girls made the outside of their map into a house, saying the map was what you could see outside the house. So you could use it to make a plan of a house inside.
Good for question and answer language, or pairs of words, of words and pictures. There are lots of different ways that you can do them, and different ways that you can cut the doors.
Now mini-books don’t just have to be made of one piece of paper. There are ways of making your own small books to have at hand for children who finish work early or who fancy doing some reading in their own time. I got these small photo books in the Staples sale. The stories inside are print outs of PowerPoint stories that I have done and also stories that I have written using Storybird and Storyjumper.
Online mini-book makers. I made this one with the ReadWriteThink Stapleless Book Maker. Does it using the basic mini-book format but one of the 8 pages is taken up with the company’s information. It doesn’t accept accented characters so you would have to write those in yourself. Might be one to give children for homework, to have a go at making one themselves and illustrating it.
Another site, Fuel the Brain, enables you to make a mini-book with as many pages as you want, and with illustrations. I made this one with just 4 pages to try it out. When you print and cut it out, the pages are slightly smaller than A5, and you staple them together along the left hand edge. This one supports accented characters.
While researching the different kinds of mini-book, I came across lapbooks on American websites aimed at the parents of children who are homeschooled. A lapbook is a project folder filled with information about a topic. This is one that I have been making with Y6. It has reminders of the language that we have covered, so that they have a point of reference, and there are also some completed pieces of work in the form of mini-books. This lapbook is made of a cardboard folder, but you could just as easily use an A3 piece of card. They can also be extended using A4 pieces of card sellotaped to the top or side edge to create a flap. Something worth bearing in mind as a record of a certain unit of work, perhaps a stand-alone intercultural one.
I hope I’ve showed you how you can use lots of different kinds of mini-books to encourage reading, independent writing and dictionary skills. Enjoy experimenting and creating!
make it withmini-books
Achievement was good or outstanding injust under six out of ten of the primaryschools visited. Pupils made most progressin speaking and listening because thiswas where most emphasis was placed inlessons. Although there were goodexamples of systematically plannedreading, these were rare and even moreso for writing.Ofsted, Modern Languages: Achievement and Challenge 2007-2010 KS2
However, students’ written work in KeyStage 3 was often too short, with singlewords, filling gaps in worksheets, and verylittle extended creative writing becausestudents did not know, or could not apply,grammatical rules. In many of the classesobserved, inspectors did not see studentsprogressing from writing words, thensentences and then paragraphs, andwritten work did not underpin the spokenword.Ofsted, Modern Languages: Achievement and Challenge 2007-2010 KS3
mini-book n. a short piece ofwriting, in the form of abook or in another formatthat lends itself to beingopened and read. It can beprinted or handwritten.