How to Use Hands-on Project to Extend Reading and Writing

This image shows hands-on paper bag books for reading skills.

Hands-on projects mean lots of fun for your students, but they aren’t limited to just the content areas. You can add pizzazz to any literacy skill you are teaching or book you’re using with a little imagination. In this post, I’d like to share a collection of projects I’ve used that I know your students will enjoy and learn from.

To begin, let’s imagine using your favorite picture book, favorite science topic, or your favorite point in history to base your project content on. You can include art, writing, and research with most any project. The possibilities are nearly unlimited!

Hands-on Project Ideas for Literacy

This image shows three dimensional projects displaying book titles.

Dioramas and Trifold Displays

The first idea I’d like to share are three dimensional projects. There are definitely project ideas that have been around for a long time. I recall having my students make dioramas, cereal box projects, and posters many many years, but a newer idea you might also consider is making trifold displaysI Trifold displays are often used for science fairs, but they also work well for highlighting elements of great books too. When we had our annual book celebration, these were a few of the projects that were brought in. Seeing student creativity really is good for the soul, and the pride on their faces sure makes these events worthwhile too.

Books on Parade

Another idea I’d like to share are these float projects. Last week, my teammate in fourth grade had our fourth grade students bring in their end of unit projects for Virginia Studies. I was thoroughly impressed with how they turned out, and I just had to share her idea. Even though they were not “literacy” projects, I have a derivation you might try.  I think the concept could be easily modified to “Books on Parade” or “A Parade of Science Fun”.  Of course, each child was required to research the destination that they selected which brings in reading and writing skills too. No matter which parade you focus, these are literacy projects..

This image shows projects made for Virginia Studies.

Research and Writing Extension Ideas

This image shows projects for Virginia Studies.

On the sharing day, the children were just bubbling with enthusiasm about their projects. In addition to the project, each was asked to make a presentation about their tourism site. This task integrates writing and speech to the full project. Students made the visual models using a tissue box as the base of the “float” with wheels formed from cardboard and pencils for the axels. A one page report about the destination accompanied the projects as well.

If you’ d like to see examples, check them out the photos below. You are welcome to take the idea and give it your personal flare. Who knows. You might even recognize these locations and want to add them as places to visit.

This image shows Virginia Studies projects.

Skill Based Paper Bag Books

Recently, my third grade colleague was looking for a hands-on project idea for her students to do focused on her standards. To help her out, I came up with the idea of making skill based paper bag books. The first one I designed focused on the narrative elements. I figured the flexibility would mean that she could use it with multiple times without the idea getting stale. Students basically wrote about the characters, setting, and plot, and my colleague loved that she could have the students work on them as one of their literacy stations while she ran small groups. Here is photo of one of the completed books.

This image shows a sample project for narrative elements.

Finally, if you’re interested in checking out the rest of the paper bag book options, there are THIRTEEN projects included. Students love making them and have the finished projects for reference later. These projects are great for independent work, for intervention, and can even be used in interactive notebooks too.

In conclusion, I’ll leave you with a few links to other extension ideas you might consider. We need students to show creativity and deep thinking, and projects provide just that.

If you have creative ways for students to show their learning, I would LOVE to hear them.  We’re getting ready for our annual Book Fair for National Education Week, and I can’t wait to see how our book projects turn out. Both the book projects and tourism projects will be on display.

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