(This is actually I post I wrote back in the spring on my personal blog, but it only made sense to post it here too!)
Last year, I was searching for an exciting way to teach my April unit on the Middle Ages. When I was in elementary school, I would have considered this an extremely boring topic, and I didn’t want my students to feel the same way. After much research, I came across the site http://www.homeschoolshare.com/ where I discovered lapbooking.
Lapbooks are often used in homeschooling. They focus on one broad topic (such as the Civil War), and all of the information learned while studying that topic is made into mini books (such as generals of the war, a map of the battles, a timeline, etc.). Lapbooks are made by putting all of the mini books into two (or more) file folders taped together.
I decided that this would be the perfect time for incorporating lapbooking into my classroom. I was able to find a few templates for premade “medieval” mini books, but the rest I came up with on my own. Each day, I taught my students about a different aspect of the Middle Ages by showing a self-made PowerPoint. The students then went back to their seats and I introduced the mini book of the day. We worked on creating the book and then filling it out with the information learned during the PowerPoint.
I was curious to see how the students would do on their unit test at the end of the month, as some students had struggled with unit tests in the past. They used their lapbook to study for the test, and I was so incredibly pleased by the results – the lowest score was a 93%! They were the best grades I had seen all year! This really proved to me what a useful tool lapbooking can be in the classroom.
This is the cover of our lapbook. I found a picture of a castle on the internet which we printed off, colored, and glued on the front of our lapbook.
This is our lapbooks opened up most of the way…
…and all the way!
The pocket book is for the steps to become a knight. The one on the right is the self-explanatory – parts of the armor.
The book in the top left is an accordion book which opens out to reveal a timeline of the Middle Ages. The top right book is an acrostic about the life of Charlemagne – each of the flaps opens up to reveal a different fact about Charlemagne that starts with that letter in his name. It also has a map of his empire on the front and how his empire changed when his sons took over. The wheel book in the bottom left is all about architecture – Gothic vs. Romanesque cathedrals. The cover of the wheel is made to look like a stained glass window. The last book in the bottom right is all about the Medieval Manor. The four flaps open up to reveal different facts about the manor, as well as a map of what a manor might have looked like.
Here you can see those four books opened up.
The next two books were about castles and guilds. The top book opens up to reveal three smaller books about castles – why they were built, defenses used in castles, and people in castles. For the bottom book, the kids each designed their own guild sign and wrote facts about guilds underneath.
Here you can see the castle book and guilds book opened up.
The last flap that opens up has the Feudal Pyramid flap book underneath. This topic was pretty much made to be a mini book, being that it’s called a pyramid!
Here you can see the first level, the King, opened up.
This is the flap that covers the castle and guild books. The kids each designed their own coats of arms using meaningful colors and symbols we had discussed. They wrote some facts about coats of arms underneath.
This is the flap that covers the “Becoming a Knight” and labeling the armor books. We talked about a knight’s code of chivalry and the different aspects that were included.
So that’s about it! I pretty much created the mini books as I went, so I wasn’t sure what it would look like when they were finished. However, the final product turned out better than I expected! I did give the kids a grade for their lapbook, based on how well they followed directions and neatness. They were so proud of their hard work and I still have some of my students from previous years telling me how much they loved this unit!
This type of activity proves to me that, while sometimes it takes quite a bit of extra work in teaching to make a difference and help the kids have fun while learning, it is 100% worth every minute!