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Fifth Grade: Plot. Characters. Pictures…Book It!

Fifth grade authors, editors, and art directors as well as their teachers waded together through an eye-opening experience of conceiving, writing, and illustrating unbound picture books. The unit launched in the library as English teacher Ben Bacon and librarian Laurie Prothro introduced a variety of picture book styles and formats, as well as provided a structure so that students could successfully craft stories by moving through the essential processes of outlining, developing characters and plot, and writing text.

“Laurie took students on an amazing journey through picture books,” said Mr. Bacon. “She helped them notice the finest details of stories and to emulate those details in their writing. She helped every student know that their voice as an author was important and precious and this shows in their confidence in the books they wrote.”

Once their stories were finalized, authors headed to art class and teacher Wendy Kaczala Gahagan helped them create engraved and Styrofoam prints to illustrate unbound picture book stories. The colorful works of art and literature were shown at our annual student Fine Arts Fair. “Wendy gave students the space to problem solve, fail, persevere, and creatively illustrate their books through printmaking. The results are truly amazing and the depth of learning is incredible. Every print is a true work of art and there are hundreds of them,” said Mr. Bacon.

After completing the project, students reflected on lessons they had learned and how they might support other students be successful as picture book authors. One student summed up her personal growth as a published author by advising, “Figure out something that means a lot to you (family, friendship, love), then make a plot out of that. After that, make characters and write a beginning, middle, and end. Then, build the story around the plot and edit it!”

Does your school do something similar?

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