One project I like to do with my students while we are reading the book David Livingstone: Africa’s Trailbalzer is to have them create their own African-themed alphabet books.To get them inspired, I show them numerous examples of books that lower grade teachers use to teach their younger students the ABCs. Some books, I point out, merely show the letter and a word that begins with it. Others may use a rhyming phrase to go with each letter. And then, there are even some that have a story run through the entire book.

We talk about where the letters are placed on the pages and how to make them stand out in ways that will be interesting to young readers. I show them illustrated books with pop-ups, parts that move, and even pockets with things inside. Then, I challenge my students to create their own African-themed alphabet book.

They can make it almost any way they want: electronically, by drawing or tracing pictures, cutting things from magazines, etc. There is really no limit, but it must be their own creation.

My student Ruth created this lovely book using watercolors and layered paper. She hand-wrote the story, then bound the book with a leather-looking cover that she created with cardboard. Her book, like many of the others, was amazing!

I just love to see the creativity of students when I leave a project open-ended, but also with enough guidelines that they’ll have a framework to build on.

For this project, I give the students eight weeks. Along the way, there are different check-in times when they must bring their project in and show me how they are doing so I can help them with the process.

When the projects are complete, each student shares his or her book with our class, and then with the students in kindergarten through second grade.

View More Student-Made Alphabet Books