Hi friends! I hope y’all are having a fabulous weekend. I’m sure you are getting your wish lists ready for an awesome TpT sale tomorrow! I love back to school, don’t you?
Well with the idea of going back to school in mind, I wanted to share something I am really passionate about. I taught kindergarten for three years and I absolutely couldn’t live without my big books. I am a big fan of the balanced literacy model and I feel that shared reading is an extremely important part of the kindergarten literacy block.
When I first began teaching kinder, I realized my school’s big book collection was not the best. I found that most of the big books were really just enlarged trade books that had way too much text on a page and would easily fall apart. I wanted something that I could use as a developmentally appropriate shared reading experience for my whole class of kinder babies and something that they could get their hands on during daily five time.
So I began searching the internet for ideas. I came across Shari Sloane’s website www.kidscount1234.com and I was blown away by the way she incorporated music and literacy. I quickly began making several musical big books that accompanied Dr. Jean and Jack Hartmann songs. Then I thought, “Hello, duh! Make my own shared reading big books!!” I was already making my own big books for music, why not make my own big books for shared reading?!
This was back in 2009, way before TpT really took off, so the clip art choices were slim pickings! I don’t even have pictures on hand of my first big books because I gave them all to my friend Hannah. But they were ok, nothing like the ones I can create now with all of the amazing clip art you can find on TpT and Etsy.
So now I started making these DIY big books that were much more developmentally appropriate than the big books my grade level had. I was also able to incorporate any themes or seasonal activities that were going on in my classroom, which my kids LOVED by the way. My favorite part of creating my own big books was that laminating them made them super durable. I didn’t have to worry about the kids tearing pages out. Let’s keep it real y’all, five year olds are a little clumsy. There fine and gross motor skills are just not developed yet. They tear stuff accidentally all the time. Laminating these books helped my kids have access to a text that was on their level and gave me peace of mind that I would still have that text too! J
Creating my own big books also helped me to reinforce concepts of print: left to right, one to one correspondence, matching pictures to words, etc. The kids loved the opportunity to come up and “be the teacher” by using the pointer to point to each word as we read it. They weren’t afraid either because these big books were on their level, they were read every day and the kids were confident that they could read them on their own. I would use wiki stix, highlighter tape and counters to find words, count words and highlight certain letters or word parts. I didn’t have to worry about making marks in the book or tearing anything, which is always nice!
One of the best parts was that I could write my own text. So I could match the theme of the book I wanted with the popcorn word of the week, which was really awesome! As we went through the 5 day cycle of shared reading, I would have them do something different with the text every day to provide the scaffolding they needed. Sometimes I would use sticky notes and do guess the covered word activities, sometimes I would use wiki stix and have them find beginning sounds, sight words or punctuation, whatever skill I knew they needed.
In addition I would make student copies of the big books. These ROCKED y’all. I made a general book that matched the big book exactly and then I would make a supported version and a challenge version. I was the inclusion teacher so the abilities in my classroom ranged quite a bit. For the supported version I would add circles under each word to reinforce pointing to words as we read. For the challenge version I might add a line of text or a writing piece. On Fridays I would give my students their own paper copy of the big book, the pictures were the same for everyone but the text was differentiated. They had the opportunity to color the pictures, highlight popcorn words with highlighters, and read these books again and again during daily five time.
Now, I will say that it did take prep. It would take me about 20 minutes to assemble a book once I had the pieces in front of me (not including laminating time). Is that somewhat of an investment of time? Absolutely. Is this investment of time worth it? Oh my gosh YES!! Once I had the books, they were mine forever. I made them all one year and used them every year after. I even gave them to my friend who teaches kinder now and they are still being used. I promise this small investment of time will pay off in the long run. If you choose to create your own big books, your kids will read them over and over and over.
Assembly is pretty simple. Print out the pages you want and trim them down to fit onto your large sheet of construction paper or tag board. I purchased tag board from a teacher supply store in several different colors. You may choose to mount the pictures on colored paper and then glue it down but that’s not necessary.
When I cut out the text I would cut out each word. Why? Because it reinforced the concept of spaces between words. When I glued them to the colored paper the kids could literally see the space between the words. This was an awesome way to reinforce spacing between words and really helped out when I was teaching writing. I could use the big book as a model for spaces between words, two birds y’all! J
Once all the pages were assembled, they went to the laminator, got hole punched and book rings were added. Voila! Big book that is not only appropriate for your kids but will last forever!
Last year I created several big books for my friend Hannah’s classroom. I loved going to her room because her kids knew me as the author of their books…I was kind of a big deal, just saying…
I have posted some of the big books I made for her to my TpT store if you want to see them. I have several more on my computer that aren’t quite TpT ready but if you’re interested in them send me an email at email@example.com and I can give you a date for when they will be posted. (I have posted some big book files to my blog in the past year...look for posts labeled "freebies".)
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post! If you’re a kinder teacher I HIGHLY recommend trying this out, you won’t regret it! Do you use big books in your classroom? Have you ever made your own?? I’d love to hear how y’all use them in your rooms!