Making Big Books with Children

I have been writing about Making Big Books for a very long time – since a first short article for a local teachers’ association newsheet in the late 90’s.  Later, a slightly different version, addressed to ELL teachers and pre-school and primary school teachers in the US, appeared as a guest post in Deborah Singer’s excellent blog, Excellence in Early Childhood . This updated version included digital resources as well as non-digital materials.

Big Books are very popular in English speaking countries as a way to introduce children to reading, with the teacher in the middle of a circle of children reading them from the pages of an oversized book which allows more children in a class to interact with the images, the story and the telling of the story. 

I have decided to update my original and more recent posts so that the activities might be more directly appealing to the EFL teacher in Greece and other countries where English is taught as a Foreign Language or where a CLIL approach to teaching children is in use.

Making big or small books with children is not a novel idea; in fact, all you need to know about this is included in the wonderful series of books listed at the end of this short post, with some new ideas which include digital storybooks.

Children will love making various types of books whether they can write or are still at the pre-writing stage.  Some objectives:

  • To retell and illustrate a favourite story or fairy tale, e.g. Cinderella, or other favourite
  • To share information from a science lesson or series of lessons – for example, a book about snow, a book about saving water
  • To copy and illustrate the lines of a poem and chant or song they learnt recently
  • To showcase their own imaginative stories, dialogues and poems or rhymes

Even if they cannot write yet, they can always dictate their story to their teacher and by the process of watching the written word emerge on the page or by looking at it afterwards, they begin their road to reading.

The children will be using their fine motor skills for cutting round shapes, colouring in pictures, gluing shapes in place, as well as their artistic abilities and imaginative, creative thinking;  there is value across many levels, language development and literacy being of prime importance.

How to get started

1. Decide on the type of book; this can be…

    • A simple shape book (e.g. an elephant)  
    • pop up books
    • A three-folded book
    • An accordion shaped book
    • A flap book
    • A wheel book

2. Decide whether your pupils will be making

    • one big size book for the whole class
    • smaller group versions
    • an individual book which they can take home

3. Find and bring materials to class

    • coloured thick paper or cardboard
    • glue
    • colouring materials
    • magazine pictures
    • stickers
    • glitter
    • rounded scissors
    • other materials, e.g. pieces of fabric, dried flowers, very small objects, etc..

How much writing?

With children who are still at the pre-writing stage

  • you can ask them to tell you their story and you can write it for them
  • you can give them the words written on card or paper slips and guide them to glue them in the right place and order

With early writers, you can help them by asking them to

  • trace words or even whole phrases
  • fill in some words or phrases in gaps you have created and later copy them into their book
  • copy a familiar story or fairy tale into a book they have made

More independent writers can

  • write their own stories in rough first and then copy onto the book after the teacher has helped ‘fix’ any mistakes
  • write their own poems or other type of text – song lyrics, rap or short descriptive paragraphs

Digital Story books

Online tools like Storybird can make the children’s efforts look very smart and professional and  I am very fond of those as well, but I also believe that making their own hand made versions has got great educational value for the children.

After the children have finished,  you can leave their book on the server, go for the paid version if you want to print their book, or if you want to do it for free, you screen capture all the pages and print them as images.

Here are some examples of Storybirds….

Nana Can I Have A… on Storybird

My Heart Hurts When on Storybird

Mixbook is another great site which I learned from Natasa Bozic Grojic’ s blogpost and here is the story she made with her son, “The Boy who listened”

Mixbook - Create Beautiful Photo Books and Scrapbooks! | View Sample Photo Books | Create your own Photo Book

But even a simple powerpoint slide show story can be great! Here is one I made with my nephew when he was about 5 years old using summer snapshots on the beach.


Picture this:  A teacher is holding up a big book.

A group of children is gathered round her looking at the illustrations, listening to a story, acting out parts of it, involved  in the telling and retelling, noticing small details, repeating new words, learning new concepts.

Getting children to develop a love for books means spending time with books, reading them and making them. Whether you are teaching children in their mother tongue or in a foreign language, you will notice the great boost to language acquisition in the children.

Making their own books is the next logical step and early literacy teachers can apply everything they know to these enjoyable and memorable to children reading and early (or later) writing activities.


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