Using Book Creator for Writing Workshop

Catherine CappielloCase study, Creative Arts, English / Language Arts, Special Education

Book Creator can be used in every stage of a Writing Workshop. Let us show you how.

Readers & Writers Workshops are a commonly used practice for helping students to learn to love writing. It gives students the time and space to engage with the whole writing process.

There are popular frameworks out there like Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study or the Collins Writing Program which scaffold the whole process for the teacher. These are focused on empowering students to learn to communicate in writing no matter what the genre - be it fiction, poetry, essays, summaries.

Book Creator can be the perfect complement to a Writing Workshop. Students can potentially navigate through the entire writing process within Book Creator: pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing and publishing. It allows students to deliver a fantastic product to demonstrate their learning at the end of their Writing Workshop.

Students can choose multiple means of expression when writing. Teachers and classmates can provide feedback while everything is kept organized and in one virtual place. Imagine having all the students’ published work in one library that you can showcase on a class or school website. This would be a great way to track student progress towards goals and share during parent conferences.

“During remote learning, my students created ‘How-To’ projects to finish our non-fiction unit.”
Kristi Luo, Grade 4 teacher
Gordon J. Lau Elementary School
San Francisco Unified School District

Two bookshelves showing Kristi Luo's student work

Book Creator in the pre-lesson

Writing Workshop starts with a mini lesson where the project is introduced by the teacher. Traditionally this would be in the classroom, but in a scenario where we have to adapt to remote learning, why not consider preparing this material in Book Creator? The teacher can model good use of Book Creator whilst introducing the concepts that students will need to learn, and deliver it to them in a format that they can consume at their own pace from home.

Notebook template

What’s more, the actual brainstorming, research and pre-writing can take place in Book Creator too. Think of Book Creator as a virtual writer’s notebook. You could even scaffold that by creating your own class or grade level notebook template.

“The mentor text we started with was ‘Dear Peter Rabbit’ by Alma Flor Ada. We reviewed the format and purpose of a letter and how the author mashed up the different fairy tales. Then we made a list of fairy tales we knew, and students started working on a new storyline that could include characters from different fairy tales, just as the mentor text had done. Their task was then to do as the mentor text did, and tell their newly written story using only letters written by characters to other characters. This was the result!”
Nicole Brooks, Grade 6
St. Emily Catholic School, Ottawa Ontario

Checking progress with Book Creator

Once students are in the drafting phase or have even begun their writing, Book Creator allows the teacher to see work in progress in real time - the books literally appear on the teacher’s bookshelves! Not only that, all the work is saved automatically so students won’t accidentally lose work.

Knowing that teachers can access their work at any time will provide an extra layer of accountability for the student to stay on track. Teachers can also add co-teachers to their library for extra student support if needed.

Teacher and students gathered round a desk
Jen Hartvickson has been using Book Creator in her Adventures in Writing Camp since 2014

Book Creator for the writing process

“Some students have great ideas but are poor writers, Book Creator allows them to participate in a writer’s workshop on an even footing with other students. The great writers can REALLY flourish as they communicate their ideas in a variety of media.”
Jenny Mitchell, Middle School Teacher
Hull Prairie Intermediate School
Perrysburg, Ohio

Media options in Book CreatorThe accessibility tools in Book Creator are second to none. This is a real leveller for students, as they can choose the media they are most comfortable with and every student can participate in the Writing Workshop.

Jenny Mitchell’s advice is to run smaller projects to introduce Book Creator in the first quarter of the school year, so they are completely confident to use the app once they start their Writing Workshop.

If a student is happy to type their text in Book Creator, they can do so and then focus on their book design by formatting styles and colour, choosing the right font and thinking about the appropriate text size for legibility. You might direct them to the ‘Open Dyslexic’ typeface in Book Creator, which is specifically designed to help with reading for dyslexic students.

If they aren’t so comfortable with typing, they could turn on predictive text for help with spelling, or even dictate their voice using speech to text (available in 120 different languages).

Some students could turn to recording audio or video directly onto the page to communicate their ideas (with added captions/transcripts if required). Where appropriate, they could use comic templates to tell their story, adding their own drawings, photos or other images to communicate with multimedia. The possibilities are endless!

VIDEO: Students from Jenny Mitchell's class collaborating in Book Creator

“I have used Book Creator with 2nd and 4th graders to support our non-fiction research writing that aligns with the writer's workshop. We completed them on the iPads and our youngest students utilized the built-in iOS dictation tools to produce their writing and the built-in Text-to-Speech in Book Creator for the editing process.”
Leslie DiChiara
Assistive Technology & Instructional Technology Specialist
North Bellmore UFSD, New York

Pages from a book containing text and video
Kenna Hire combined text and embedded video made with a green screen to bring her book to life

Feedback and collaboration with Book Creator

If you usually get your students to work together in a Writing Workshop, you’ll be pleased to know that Book Creator has the capacity to allow for real-time collaboration within the app. Again, this is another important consideration for remote learning, but is useful inside the classroom too. The teacher can observe students working together on a book as it happens.

“At our school the buildings are split K-2 and 3-5. I wanted a way to connect my current grade 5 students back to the other school. We decided that grade 1 students LOVE non- fiction text. We surveyed the teachers/students to see what topics they like to read about and my students wrote their own non-fiction books for them.”
Dina Santos O'Brien, Grade 5 teacher
James Madison Intermediate School
Edison, New Jersey

You could also use this feature to allow students to review and comment on each others’ books. Making the most of the multimedia features of Book Creator, there are multiple ways that students (or teachers) can leave feedback in a book. By sharing their voices, students are empowered to inform and inspire each other. In Book Creator, you can view each other’s books all on one library shelf.

Another great feature that could be useful for many students is the ability to have your book read back to you in Book Creator. You can easily switch between edit and read mode to hear how your book sounds when read - you can even turn on word highlighting to follow the text. This feature is available in multiple languages.

VIDEO: Read to Me in action - you can choose to highlight the words as the book is read to you

“Our Writing Workshop took place during the Covid lockdown. After reading parts of Dante and Boccaccio's books, students were asked to imagine the way modern sinners could be punished in hell. Unlike Dante's trip to hell, students imagined they were back at school after the lockdown, and they relayed to the teacher the nightmares they had during their time away from the classroom. Each nightmare describes a modern sin like pollution, racism, the exploitation of child labour…”
Daniela Chiarandini & Laura Cappellari, Teachers
E. Feruglio, Comune di Tavagnacco
Udine, Italy

Publishing with Book Creator

The simple act of becoming a published author will no doubt be a motivating factor for many students in a Writing Workshop. And if you’re using Book Creator, you really are creating a book, as opposed to a Google or Word doc!

What we’ve also learned is that students are even more engaged and motivated when they know they are publishing an artifact that will be read by someone other than just their teacher. Publishing books for an audience beyond the classroom is where the power of Book Creator comes in.

For example, with Book Creator, you can combine student works into one book and securely publish that online with a couple of clicks. Or you can even showcase a whole library of books by embedding it on a class blog.

“For a poetry unit during remote learning, my class participated in a collaborative book to share their feelings about the pandemic through poetry.”
Rosita Darden, Innovation Coordinator & Middle-School ELA Teacher
Grandview Preparatory School
Boca Raton, Florida

Rosita Darden's blog post
Rosita Darden published her students' collaborative book and shared it on her blog

Reflection in Book Creator

Writing Workshops often contain an element of reflection at some point. Encourage students to include an About the Author page at the end of their book where they introduce themselves, why they have written what they did and their reflection on how it could have been improved, what they would do differently next time and any other learning points. Perhaps you could challenge them to present their reflections in a medium they wouldn’t normally use - for example recording a short video reflection to camera.

Thank you to those teachers who contributed ideas and examples for use in this blog post. Below are just a sample of the amazing books shared. Writing Workshop example books.

Check out this Writing Course for Teachers, compiled (in Book Creator) by Pedro Santana for his Master’s dissertation.

What do you think? Are their other ways that Book Creator could be used for a Readers & Writers Workshop? Do you have any examples you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below.

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6 Comments on “Using Book Creator for Writing Workshop”

  1. Hi Dan,
    I attended a 3 day webinar with Jon Smith 2 weeks ago and I cannot get enough of Book Creator. The class was amazing and he is a great instructor. I am in graduate school getting an add on license to support Academically and Intellectually Gifted students. I decided to do my end of course project using Book Creator and it turned out great. I think Book Creator should also be marketed as a resource for teachers to show how they could use it for Professional Development classes instead of using PowerPoint in addition to other ways it could be implemented. I have included a link to my project and this was done 3 days after completing the course with Jon Smith. I had never really used it before, but some of my students last year encouraged me to use it because they enjoyed it. I cannot wait to use it with my students this year during remote learning. Thank you for providing this resource to teachers.

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