Written by contributor Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.
ABC books are just for young children learning to recognize their letters, right? Wrong! Homemade ABC books can be a great learning tool for elementary and beyond.
ABC books are a versatile tool that provide a simple formula for students to follow in organizing their thoughts and ideas, an easy outline for sharing them, and room for creativity in expressing them. It’s easy to vary the level of difficulty to cover a wide span of ages and abilities.
The ABC format is also open-ended enough to allow for creation of books on just about any subject, including math, science, history, geography, and literature. They’re also a wonderful choice for a variety of learning styles – kids who enjoy expressing themselves with words can focus on the writing, while those who prefer drawing or painting can immerse themselves in the illustrations.
My kids made ABC books a few years ago when we studied the Middle Ages (and they’ve been on my to-do list many times since then ). My youngest two were elementary age and my oldest was in middle or high school. They all worked on the same project, but with different levels of expectation.
We like to use hardback blank books (available on Amazon or many office/school supply retailers). There are enough pages to use one page for the alphabet letter and text and the facing page for an illustration.
Elementary-aged students can write one or two sentences, using correct capitalization and punctuation, for each letter and draw an illustration. Some examples might include:
“B is for Bastille, a prison in France.”
“X is a symbol in math that tells you to multiply two numbers.”
“T is for tiger. There are several types of tigers, such as Bengal and Siberian.”
Late-Elementary and Middle School
An older student can write several sentences for each letter, giving more information, and add a more detailed illustration.
“J is for joust. In the Middle Ages, knights would compete in contests called jousts where they would try to knock an opponent off his horse with a long weapon called a lance. Jousts were often a big form of entertainment at an event called a tournament.”
“V is for Van Gogh, a famous artist who was born in the Netherlands and later moved to Paris. Some of his famous paintings include: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers and The Starry Night.”
You may think that an alphabet book is too immature or easy for a high school student, but they can really go into a lot of depth. If you can, I suggest taking a look at the Alphabet Series of state book (includes titles such at P is for Peach: A Georgia Alphabet and L is for Lone Star: A Texas Alphabet).
This series offers a simple sing-song rhyme for each letter of the alphabet, but the sidebar on each page goes into much more detail. For an older student doing an alphabet book, the letter along with some text and the illustration could go on one page, leaving the facing page open for more in-depth text.
Students could even be required to include a bibliography at the end so that they could practice properly crediting sources. Used this way, the ABC book could almost be mini research paper.
About the Author
Finally, don’t forget the About the Author section to really personalize the book for your child. You can include a photo and a brief biography. An easy way to do this is type it up and lay out the photo in a word processing program. Then, print it out and let the author glue it onto the back page of the book.
What subjects would your students enjoy covering in an ABC book?