The first time I was introduced to mini-books for language teaching, I remember being amazed that you could make a book from a single piece of paper. That’s exactly how kids feel when they make one for the first time!
In this article, I’m going to share with you some practical ideas for how you can make your own mini-books with preschool and primary age children. I’ll also give you plenty of ideas for how to vary the level of difficulty according to different ages and abilities. I hope to show you how you can maximise the opportunities to practise and learn English.
There are so many ways you can use mini-books to support learning. I use them in my lessons to:
- Activate English from a story or topic
- Create more opportunities for communication
- Work on listening comprehension, oral production and literacy skills
- Create a record that can be shared with families for further English practice at home.
How to make an 8 page mini-book
All you need is a sheet of A4 paper and some scissors. You can do without the scissors if you’re good at ripping along a fold, but I don’t trust myself! The mini-books I use are printed for the language and skills I want to practise, but you could make the book from blank paper and complete the blank pages later too.
For very young learners (3-5 years), I usually make the books before class. In class I work more on completing the pages and letting them play with unfolding and refolding. It all depends on how many kids you have in your group and how able you are to support them. When I make them with the children, I usually prefold them roughly, then unfold them. This makes it easier for them to see where they have to fold when they make it themselves.
How to make a 16 page mini-book
You still only need one piece of paper! This means the books are smaller and are a little bit more fiddly to make, but still easy when you know how. It makes a nice learning activity to consolidate numbers, counting and shapes too. Again, with very young learners, I usually make the books for them first, but I let them unfold them and we remake them together.
How to make learning active with mini-books
My classes focus mainly on speaking and listening skills, so I am always looking for ways to create opportunities for the students to listen or speak in English in order to create their craft. In a way, this means creating little challenges or obstacles that they have to overcome. They might have to listen to an instruction from you, before they can identify then colour, collect or stick something in their book. They might have to ask you or another student for materials they need for their book. The learning shouldn’t finish once the book is made either. They can play games with it, tell the story, compare with their friends and then share with their families. Below are some examples from my classes and the activities I typically do to teach English with mini-books.
Activities to do while making mini-books
- Retell the story in order – Retell key parts of the story, pausing at appropriate points. You may be able to elicit a phrase from the story with the target vocabulary. The children can collect a picture or piece of text to stick onto the first page. Continue in stages until they have completed their book. You can use the story book to support the learners too.
- Retell the story out of order – Choose a part of the story for the kids to identify. You can elicit the target language here too. For example, with One Duck Stuck you could have the children chant, “Help, help! Who can help?” (from the story), then you say, “We can! We can! Three….”. The children recall that it was three moose in the story. They can then find and colour the moose, collect the moose picture to stick, or trace the text (depending on which version of the mini-book you use).
This activity works for mini-books where the children have to find and stick items or text inside. It’s a good option to choose when you are trying to give kids more exposure to hearing the target language.
Cut up the items for the children to stick before the lesson, then place them around the room. You can also mix them all up and place them spread out on a table or the floor. When the children are ready with their mini-books and glue, you help them identify the first item. You can choose different ways to do this: through a song, a chant, including a specific structure in the way you tell them. See the dictation techniques in our article on How to teach English through arts and crafts for more ideas.
Ask and complete
This is another activity that requires the children to stick items into their mini-books. If your learners are starting to experiment with using the new target language, they can ask you for those items. Place all the items in a place near you. The kids ask for what they need. If they don’t know how to say it, you simply tell them what it is and encourage them to say it too.
Put in sequence
You can combine sequencing with the activities described above, but in this case they don’t glue the items in place immediately. Alternatively, you can give each learner a group of pictures or text to cut and let them work individually. They then need to recall the story or order of events in order to glue the pictures or text in the right order. Recall activities like this are good for helping children relive the language in their heads. Some of them will be recalling your voice as you told the story or sang the song. It’s a more settled way to conduct the activity, but remember to monitor actively so that you can still include more English practice.
Play and complete
Why not turn it into a game? If the mini-book features animals, why not let them play a miming game in groups. One child mimes an animal for the others to guess. Once identified, the children can colour or collect that animal. You could also combine making mini-books with playing other mini-card games. They could play a memory pair game (pelmanism), and when they find a pair, they get to colour or collect that item.
Activities to do after making mini-books
Get together in a circle and retell the story with the mini-books. This time, it’s not just you who has the book. Everybody has one! You can take turns or read it chorally.
Play and find
Play guessing games with the pages. One student chooses a page and their partner has to ask questions to guess the page or associated phrase. They could try to guess the colours that their partner used for certain things too. You can listen and feed in the language that they’re missing.
Spot the similarities / differences
Give the children time to look through each other’s books and see what is the same or different. As a whole class get feedback on what they noticed. This is a great chance to teach comparison language early on. It can also be a nice moment to offer praise and encourage appreciation of others.
Take home and tell
It’s such a wonderful achievement for a child to be able to tell a whole story in English, and if you are making the mini-books at the end of a unit then they will probably be able to! Sometimes I choose to do mini-books early on though, precisely because they provide plenty of opportunities to recycle the language I’m trying to teach. Even if they can’t tell the whole story or remember every item in the book, that’s ok. They will be able to show their families, who will appreciate knowing what their child is learning. Families can participate in their child’s English learning and some will be able to help them recall the words and phrases. English outside the classroom!
Final thoughts and top tips
- If you are conducting the making of the mini-book as a dictation-type activity, tell the kids how to tell you they’ve finished. They could put their hands on their head and say ‘I’m finished’, for example. If they are finishing at very different times, that’s ok. It simply means, you will be telling each child or group of children what their next stage is.
- If you are going to have the children make the mini-books themselves, try to have them sitting in a circle, so that you are able to notice and help the ones who are struggling easily.
- If you are pre-folding before the lesson to support the kids, you can fold around 3 or 4 pages at a time. Much faster!
- Don’t forget to make a model of the mini-book first. Get them excited and they’ll want to make one too. It can also come in really handy for kids that need a little bit of support – simply show them yours (while speaking English, of course!)