Last year I attempted our first lapbooking experience with grandiose visions of eager children with scissors and glue in hand, of creativity bursting from their seams. The final result left a bit to be desired, but did teach me a thing or two about lapbooking.
We are now mid-way through our second lapbook attempt and I thought, “I’m sure someone else out there has never done a lapbook and would love a step by step guide and some do’s or don’ts.” I will not go into some of the nitty gritty of putting the lapbook together, because there are already great sites to do that (check here, here or here for more free info on actually building the lapbook). Rather, I am going to give some helpful tips and process ideas for gathering and compiling the information, especially with four kids working on them at the same time.
Through our first attempt (covering the topic of Lewis and Clark) I learned the following sure fire ways to ruin (in other words, don't do it this way . . .) your lapbook experience:
- Give general instructions and offer vague expectations. I was so fired up after seeing so many beautiful examples online that I figured all I needed to do was light the fire and let them go! Well, they were also impressed, but it didn’t quite translate to their own creations. They needed a bit of direction aside from, “Isn’t this cool? Now you do it!”
- When a child asks for more information or graphics, just tell them to “Google it.” For future reference, there are a lot of people with tattoos of Hawaiian flowers (not quite what we were looking for). This is a general internet warning as well. Sometimes I trust my firewalls and filters too much. I need to remember that random searches can often head down a variety of rabbit trails that I don’t want my kids hopping down.
- Spend your whole weekend tracking down sites and potential information for your children to harvest from. While this might be helpful with young children, my older ones always take their projects a completely different direction than I had envisioned and my time spent "preparing" was really wasted. If you want to pull together a few sites that have clean and quality information for them to use that would help, but I found my research was either useless or limiting to their actual lapbook.
This time as I enter the lapbooking arena with one solid failure under my belt I have learned some wise "to do's" that I also thought I would share:
- Find some great books from the library, both picture books (great for reading aloud to build enthusiasm and a knowledge base) and books packed with facts. I have found that the graphics we find on the internet often do not compare to a great book. Better yet, if a classic novel has been written around the time period or topic you are covering have it on hand to enjoy together through the process. This was the one thing I did right the first time through -- we listened to Lewis's journals before and during out lapbook attempt, probably the only thing they really learned from.
- Break the project into bite size pieces. The first day we decorated the cover. The next day we added two small inserts of their choice. Some they drew or wrote about, some we cut, pasted, and printed from the Internet. I view this far different from writing a research paper. They are learning how to compile research, and will have a synopsis of what they have studied and learned, and could probably even write a paper from the information contained in their lapbook. The goal for me at this point is not necessarily to produce original work. Keeping it simple, tasteful, and giving them the freedom to take it their own direction and end with a product they love and will rush to show Dad when he gets home.
- Impose some parameters. I added this partly for ease of working with multiple children at the same time (it was easier to print four flag templates than do four separate ideas they might have chosen that day) and because some of my children if left to their own preferences would have nothing but flowers in every lapbook. So, I require at least two historical inserts and beyond that, the sky is the limit. This has worked well, and they generally fill it in with appropriate interests once I have broadened their horizons a bit.
Hope some of my lessons learned will make your lapbooking experience a bit more profitable.
Oh yeah, and one more don't -- Don't expect your kids to stop after a half hour. I tried slotting a half hour in the afternoon for the first few days of this project, and had to drag them to the dinner table two and a half hours later! I guess we must be doing something right this time.