Exploring the theme of community, my 1st grade students wrote and designed an ABC book wherein each letter in the alphabet relates to a noun about our school. Encouraging students to explore our school in this way reinforces both a sense of community as well as self-expression. In all, we spent six 40-minute sessions practicing writing, finding nouns, and developing fluency with the Camera and Book Creator apps for iPad.
Exploring a New Genre: What Are the Features of an ABC Book?
To begin, my 1st grade students explored two ABC exemplar texts: Israel ABCs: A Book About the People and Places of Israel by Holly Schroeder and Claudia Wolf and S is for Sunshine: A Florida Alphabet by Carol Crane. The ABC book, or alphabet book, genre presents the letters of the alphabet with corresponding text and images. In the exemplars above, they are used to categorize information about specific topics (Israel and Florida).
Since we were creating a book highlighting our school, we then identified all the things that make our school unique and important.
Collaboration Skills: How Do I Work With a Partner?
Next, I divided the class into pairs. Using an organizer, students discussed with their partner key concepts about our school in the form of nouns for each letter of the alphabet. Since some of the key concepts were much harder to figure out than others, we came together as a group, entered all of our nouns in a master organizer in Google docs, and brainstormed any missing letters. We were able to match most letters with several nouns. For example, students suggested books, blogs, and backpacks for the letter B. For other letters, it was harder to find a good match.
Since we are a Jewish day school where students divide their school day between General and Jewish studies, one component of the Jewish studies curriculum is Hebrew language acquisition. Luckily for us, it provided the opportunity to also include Hebrew nouns in our ABC book.
Writing Skills: What are the Facts About My Topic?
The next step was to write the text to supply facts about our school. How do we define those concepts we brainstormed? Putting coherent thoughts into words and then those words into informative sentences was a challenge for some. Each student was assigned a random letter, chose one of our brainstormed nouns that matched their letter, and then drafted the description using a writing organizer.
Visual Literacy Skills: What is a Quality Image?
We needed quality images from our school for our ABC book. Armed with our school iPads, students took pictures using the Camera app of whatever they were contributing to the ABC book. This seems simple enough for us adults, but these six-year olds needed to take the time to think critically about
- the subject of their photos (what image describes my key concept?)
- interesting and sharp image compositions
- choosing “the best” image from multiple images taken
Technology Skills: What Does a Quality Page Look Like?
For each letter of our ABC book, students created a separate page in the Book Creator app for iPad. I’ve been using this user-friendly app with my students for the last two years and it is one of my favorite tech tools in the classroom. Students pulled their selected images into the app, typed their pre-written texts, and audio recorded themselves reading their texts. The final design regarding font style and color choices were up to them.
Lastly, students shared all completed pages as ePub files with me via email (option is provided by app). I opened the shared files in Book Creator on my iPad, combined all the final images into our ABC Book, and then exported the book as a video.
The ABC Book is now available for download in Apple’s iBookstore.