Mini-Books: A Crafty Way to Review Grammar

June 6, 2019
Becky Zellen

A few years ago, while reading a Family Fun magazine in a doctor’s office, I came across a child’s craft called “magic books.” I thought that it would be fun to do with my own children, and then I immediately tried to think of ways to turn it into a useful tool in my high school Spanish classroom.

To create a mini-book, you need a sheet of 8.5 x 11-inch paper and a pair of scissors. When I make the mini-book with classes, I create a template for my students to follow.

We begin the process by folding on the lines and then cutting out the shaded area. With a little crafty folding, the sheet of paper magically turns into a book. For step-by-step instructions, check out this link on instructables.com.

The first time I used this in the classroom, I was reviewing informal commands in Spanish. For grammar topics that can be challenging, I usually do traditional guided notes and then I like to follow-up with a graphic organizer a couple days later. This allows students to review their grammar notes in a clear and concise manner. By creating a graphic organizer, students take what they have learned and reorganize it in a way that helps them remember. Instead of the typical reference sheet that looked like the following:

I decided to take the same information and organize it into the mini-book. The first two pages reviewed how to form regular affirmative and negative informal commands. Pages 3 and 4 reviewed the irregular affirmative and negative commands. Pages 5 and 6 explained direct object pronoun placement. Finally, there was space to add the lyrics to a song that I use to teach the irregular commands on the back cover.

I noticed that students referred to their mini-books as we continued to review and practice this lesson. Also, in the following years, I noticed my upper level students still in possession of their grammar mini-books from the previous year in their binders.   

I’ve used this technique to review reflexive verbs as well. The pages include:

  1. What is a Reflexive Verb?
  2. Reflexive Pronouns
  3. Reflexive Pronoun Placement with Conjugated Verbs
  4. Reflexive Pronoun Placement with Infinitive Verbs
  5. Reflexive Pronoun Placement with Gerunds
  6. Reflexive Pronoun Placement with Commands

Creating a mini-book in class provides students the opportunity to review and rewrite their notes with guidance from their teacher.  As a result, they are also learning an important study technique in addition to the curriculum.  

While making a mini-book with your class, encourage your students to brainstorm and share grammar examples that they create with their classmates in groups. By applying this new knowledge, sharing their examples with others, and reorganizing their original notes to a simpler form, learning is reinforced. 

You may use mini-books for more than reviewing grammar topics. You can make a mini-book out of a 12 x 18-inch sheet of white construction paper, to use with storybook projects. I have used these larger mini-books for reflexive verb storybooks and preterit and imperfect stories. The possibilities on how you can use this tool are endless. Most importantly, whenever I bring out paper, scissors, crayons, and/or colored pencils in my high school classroom, students tend to be engaged and ready to do the project at hand. It’s almost as if they are transformed to eager Kindergarteners who are excited about what they are going to do next.

Becky Zellen earned her BA in Spanish and teaching certificate from the University of Michigan, and her MA in Educational Leadership from Saginaw Valley State University.

She has been teaching Spanish for 20 years at Dakota High School in Macomb, Michigan, where she also serves as the World Language Department Chair. Becky has also contributed to other Teacher’s Discovery materials, including The Complete Spanish Teacher’s Handbook, and The Spy Rabbit World Language DVD series. Becky also enjoys spending time with her husband, daughters, and golden retriever.

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