Tessa ng literacy section 5: Turning oral stories, poems and games into books

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Section 5: Turning oral stories, poems and games into books

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  • Section 5: Turning oral stories, poems and games into books

    • 1.     Showing that you value home languages

    • 2.     Turning stories into books

    • 3.     Working in groups on book design

    • Resource 1: How stories are made into books

    • Resource 2: A checklist for pupils – to use when editing their work for a book

    • Resource 3: Turning pupils’ stories into a ‘Big Book’

    • Resource 4: Features of good cover design

Section 5: Turning oral stories, poems and games into books

Key Focus Question: How can you support language learning by making and designing books?

Keywords: writing; illustrating; designing; book; cover

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Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will have:

  • used discussion to help pupils understand the similarities and differences between oral and written texts;

  • developed ways pupils can turn oral stories, poems, songs or games into written and illustrated forms;

  • explored how to produce books of stories, poems, games and songs for a class library.

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One important aspect of teaching is that your pupils see a real purpose to the tasks you set them. By helping pupils to make books for the class library, you will be giving them a reason for taking care with their writing and drawing. This will also encourage them to value their home languages and the classroom lingua franca or additional language. The books can be written in the pupils’ home language(s), a classroom lingua franca or an additional language. More than one language can be used in the same book. The books pupils make, with your help, will also give you extra materials for reading activities.

1.     Showing that you value home languages

Pupils who speak a language at home that is different from the language of the classroom need to know that you value their home language. This is important because a home language is part of who a person is. One way of demonstrating this is to encourage your pupils to tell stories and riddles, recite poems, sing songs and explain games in their home languages and then to write these down, either in their home languages or in another language.

In Activity 1, you help pupils explore the similarities and differences between oral and written texts. You will encourage them to think about what is valuable about the oral tradition, why people write things down and which languages are used in speech and writing.

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Case Study 1: Telling stories in home languages; writing them in a lingua franca

Mr Okitikpi, a Yoruba-speaking teacher, has recently been transferred to a community in Northern Nigeria that has Hausa as a common language, but a number of pupils speak three Nigerian languages. A few parents and young adults have agreed to act as teaching ‘aides’. They know Hausa and some English and are helping Mr Okitikpi to learn Hausa so he can communicate with his pupils better. As some of his pupils can speak three Nigerian languages, Mr Okitikpi has involved these aides in storytelling activities to build pupils’ confidence in speaking and to show that their home languages are valued.

He wants pupils to write some stories down, ideally in their home languages. However, a number of the languages do not have a written form, so he decides they should write the stories in Hausa.

One of his aides discusses with pupils why people write stories down. Next, they write down their favourite story, in Hausa, so that they can put it into a book for the class library. Mr Okitikpi puts the pupils into groups for this writing activity, making sure that at least one group member is fairly fluent in Hausa and can support the others. He also asks his aide to help him monitor the writing process.

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Activity 1: Writing down oral literature and games

First, read Resource 1: How stories are made into books, and think about the answers to the five questions for pupils.

  • Ask pupils for the titles of home language stories, poems, songs and games they know. Write these on the chalkboard.

  • Discuss these questions with pupils:

  • Are these home language texts written in books?

  • Why do people write down stories, poems, songs and games in books?

  • Would you like your home language stories, poems, songs and games to be written in books? Why, or why not?

  • In which language or languages would you write poems, stories and games for a book? Why?

  • How do books get written and produced? Tell pupils they will be making books for a class library.

  • Ask pupils to each choose a favourite story and to write the first draft in the language of their choice.

  • Were you pleased with the discussion?

How did pupils respond to this activity?

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2.     Turning stories into books

Some kinds of learning, such as learning to play a musical instrument, use a computer or drive a car, require a great deal of practice. As a teacher, you need to give pupils opportunities to repeat and practise what they have tried before so that they can improve on their first efforts. While Activity 2 in this section is similar to the Key Activity in Section 4, the repetition is important. Pupils will learn that writing is a process and that their written stories, poems and instructions for games will give more pleasure to others if they craft them carefully.

Writing, illustrating and reading these books may take several lessons, but as these activities provide many opportunities for language work, the time will be well spent. You can use Resource 2: A checklist for pupils to help pupils assess their work. Case Study 2 suggests how teachers can make books with pupils who are not yet very skilled as writers.

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Case Study 2: Helping beginner readers and writers to make a storybook

Mallam Aliyu Mongunu teaches 60 Primary 1 and 2 pupils, in a combined class, at a nomadic school near Maiduguri in Borno State. One of Mallam Aliyu’s colleagues teaches 48 Primary 3 and 4 pupils. Both teachers regularly invite parents into school to tell stories in Kanuri to their pupils.

Mallam Aliyu asked his pupils to help him turn a favourite story, which they had helped create, into a book. First he made a big blank book (see Resource 3: Turning pupils’ stories into a ‘Big Book’).

He wrote out the story, using short phrases and sentences. Then he decided where each phrase or sentence should go in the blank book. He used a black wax crayon to write the story in large neat letters, leaving space for drawings.

In class, he held the book up for pupils to see, and read the story with them. He discussed what kind of picture was needed on each page. He gave pieces of paper to each pair of pupils, and two pairs of pupils illustrated each of the 15 pages.

He asked pupils to find the right page for each picture, and helped them paste the pictures in

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Activity 2: Crafting first drafts and planning the books

  • Ask pupils in groups of four to read the first drafts of their stories (from Activity 1) to each other.

  • Ask them to choose two drafts (from the four) to work on in pairs to improve them. They should use the checklist in Resource 2 to guide their work. Remind them ‘real’ authors revise their work many times.

  • Next, ask them to show it to the other pair in their group for further improvements.

  • Now collect their work and write on it corrections to spelling, grammar and punctuation.

  • Next lesson, give the groups their blank book (see Resource 3) and ask them to do the following:

    • plan which sentences go on each page and where illustrations will be;

    • decide how to divide the writing and drawing tasks, so that each group member participates.

  • Ask them to show you their plan; discuss this and then ask them to carry out their plan.

With younger pupils, you could write a story together in a big book and then the pupils can do drawings for each page.

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3.     Working in groups on book design

Communication is not just about words. Today’s newspapers carry far more photographs than in the past and modern textbooks include many more illustrations than older ones. Advertisers use images on billboards, in magazines and on television to sell products. Computer screens combine words and images in exciting ways. Pupils need to be able to create and read texts that combine the verbal (words) and the visual (pictures). As the teacher, your responsibilities include:

  • keeping up to date with what interests pupils;
  • including design activities (for example, designing grocery packages, posters, advertisements) in language and literacy lessons.

This part focuses on designing a cover for the pupils’ books of stories, poems, songs and games.

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Case Study 3: Discussing and designing book covers

Mr Okon encourages his Primary 6 English pupils to ask questions in their reading lessons about words and expressions that they hear or read but don’t understand. One morning, a pupil told the class he had heard one character in a TV drama say to another, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’ Mr Okon asked his pupils for ideas about what this expression means and why it might have been used in the drama. After a few minutes of discussion, pupils understood that the design of a book cover may or may not give a good idea of what a book will be about. In a similar way, how a person looks or what he or she says may not be a reliable guide to what that person is like ‘on the inside’.

Mr Okon decided to take the discussion further. He asked the class to think about the purpose of book covers and then to look at the cover of a storybook he had brought in. Can they tell from the cover what the story is about? What did they like or not like about the cover? Could it be improved and if so, how? After a lively discussion and reading the story to the pupils, he asked them to work in groups of four to make a new cover design for this book and gave them loose sheets of paper to work on. When they had finished, one pupil from each group explained to the class why they had chosen their design. Mr Okon displayed the covers on the classroom wall.

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Key Activity: Writing books, designing covers

Having finished the writing and drawings for their storybooks, your pupils are now ready to design their book covers. You could use the backs of posters, cardboard boxes and other ‘throwaway’ materials, especially if resources are limited in your school. See Key Resource: Being a resourceful teacher in challenging conditions for further ideas.

  • Show pupils some book covers and ask them what they think are good features (see Resource 4: Features of good cover design).

  • Ask each group to design a cover for their book. They need to agree on the words, drawings and the position of each and decide who will write or draw each part of the cover.

  • Move around the groups to discuss their designs with them and provide support and guidance as they make their book cover.

  • Allow time for the groups to assemble their books.

  • Ask one pupil from each group to display the book and encourage other groups to read it.

  • Put the books into the class library.

What do you think your pupils learned from this activity?

Were the books read by other pupils once they were in the library?

With young children, you could read the story or poems and ask them to draw a picture for the cover or inside.

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Resource 1: How stories are made into books

   Background information / subject knowledge for teacher

Making a book for your class alongside their normal reading and writing activities gives pupils an understanding of the importance of being able to read to access information and new stories. This process might encourage your pupils to want to read more by making a book for the class using their pictures and their own words as they become more competent writers.

Stage 1: Books begin with a great idea.

The author writes down a story. Probably, the author will write a few drafts of the story, trying to improve it each time. Authors often do research for their stories to make sure that they spell words right and get their facts straight. Sometimes it takes many weeks for the author to find the right way to tell the story. When the author is satisfied, she’ll type up or write her words into a manuscript, which she will send to her editor at the publishing house.

Stage 2: Editors are very busy people, and they have to read a LOT!

Manuscripts come in every day from authors all over the world. Editors have to sort through all of the manuscripts and decide which stories they think should be published. Editors love being able to tell authors that they want to publish the author’s story. And, of course, the author is thrilled! The editor also decides who should illustrate the manuscript. It’s very odd to think that for some books the author and illustrator never meet each other! Sometimes, the editor helps them communicate back and forth.

Stage 3: The artist's work begins.

Before an artist sits down to illustrate a story, she finds out the size the book is to be, and then she plans out the pages. She makes a ‘dummy’ book, with rough sketches, to show to her editor and the book designer. At this point, the editor might make some changes in the text of the story. Editors are good at helping writers find clearer ways of saying things.

Stage 4: The book designer gets involved.

The designer takes a look at the artist’s dummy book, and he makes suggestions for the art. He also finds the right typeface to use in the book. The style and size of the letters can make a big difference in how the book looks in the end. The designer can also help the artist decide how the words of the story will fit in with the art. Next, the story is sent to a copyeditor so that spelling, grammar, and punctuation can be checked. Then the author has another chance to change any part of the story.


Stage 5: The artist gets busy creating the finished artwork!

She uses her dummy book as a guide. The pages must be measured exactly so that she draws the art in the right place. She makes marks in the gutter where the pages will be sewn into the binding, and she marks the trim lines where the pages will be cut.

It’s not easy! She needs to create the art the way it will look in the printed book. It needs to be wonderful. Lines need to be straight, and there needs to be space for the words of the story.

When this is finished, she delivers the art to her editor at the publishing house.

There, the art is checked for mistakes, and the production director estimates how much it will cost to make the book. He determines the printing schedule for the book and orders paper.

Stage 6: The book goes into production!

The designer shows how the words and art will be placed. Then colour proofs are made, and everyone checks to make sure the printed colours match the colours of the artist’s illustrations. That is what everyone is looking at in this picture.

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Once everyone is satisfied with how the art looks on the pages, final printing plates are made. The plates will be used on the printing press to print the pages.

Stage 7: Finally! It’s time to print the book!

After months of preparation, the printing takes only a day.

The thin plates (with impressions of the book on them) are wrapped around large cylinders that go in the printing press. Each cylinder prints one of the four colours of the book – first yellow, then blue, then red, then black. The other colours are made from combinations of these four colours.

Special grippers and conveyer belts help move the sheets of paper through the press. It’s VERY noisy in a printing plant!

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Stage 8: Hooray! The moment everyone has been waiting for is here!

The book is printed, and it looks wonderful!

Did you know that all of the pages of a book are printed on one BIG sheet of paper? Half of the pages are printed on one side of the press sheet and the other half are printed on the opposite side. After these sheets are printed, they are folded, cut and then bound into a book.

Stage 9: The new books are distributed!

Bound books are taken to the book warehouse, where they stay until they are sold to libraries and bookshops.

How do librarians and booksellers know that a great new book has been published? Other people at the publishing house sell and publicise the book. Sometimes posters and special displays are made. Publicists send out review copies of the book to people in the media. Authors often are interviewed by reporters in the newspaper and on TV.

Lots of people work hard to make sure that one day…

Stage 10: …you read the book!

All of the people you’ve met are thinking about you and whether or not you will like the book. The author and artist think about you when they create the story and illustrations. The editor and designer think about you, too, when they put the book together. And YOU are the reason the big noisy printing press prints the books for you to read.

Happy reading!

Taken from: How a book is made – http://www.harperchildrens.com

Other websites on this topic includehttp://library.thinkquest.org and http://www.factmonster.com

Resource 2: A checklist for pupils – to use when editing their work for a book

   Pupil use

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Checklist for stories

Does the story have a title?

Will this title make readers interested in the story?

Will readers be able to follow the sequence of events in the story (what happens first, what happens next...)?

Have characters and places in the story been carefully described so that readers can picture them?

Does the story come to a climax/conclusion?

Checklist for poems or songs

Does the poem or song have a title?

Will this title make readers interested in the poem or song?

Does the poem or song have a rhythm or rhyme (or both) that readers are likely to enjoy?

Have the words been carefully chosen to describe people, animals, objects, actions or feelings?

Checklist for games

Does the game have a name?

Are the instructions in the correct sequence? (first do this…)

Are the instructions clear?

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Resource 3: Turning pupils’ stories into a ‘Big Book’

   Teacher resource for planning or adapting to use with pupils

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What you will need

Some large sheets of ‘newsprint’ (approx 60 cm x 85 cm)


Some fat wax crayons


A pencil


Thick felt tip pens


A fat sewing (or embroidery) needle


Some thin string


A glue stick


Some smaller pieces of plain white paper


A large sheet of card, or poster paper, or a ‘chart’


The beginning of the story that you told your pupils


The rest of the story, which your pupils have dictated to you


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How to make a Big Book

Making books can really motivate children to want to read and write more for themselves. With younger pupils, you may want to do more preparation beforehand, limiting the tasks they are involved with to specific aspects (see below). Older pupils, depending on their experience, will be able to undertake many more of the tasks themselves (as in Activity 2).

  1. First of all, read through the whole story carefully and make sure it is complete and properly punctuated.

  2. Decide how much text (writing) you want to put on each double-page spread. If you have Primary 1s and it is the beginning of the school year, you may want to make sure that there are no more than two or three sentences on a double-page spread. In some parts of the story you may only want to write a phrase. If you are working with older pupils, you can write more.

  3. Think about what illustrations or drawings you need to accompany the text. This will help you to decide how long you think the book will be, and how many pages it will have.

  4. Take your sheet of thin card, and fold it in half. This will be the cover of your book. If a book made of newsprint pages has a card cover, it lasts much longer.

  5. Write out the whole story on an A4 sheet of lined paper and put the text for each double-page spread on a new line. This will be really helpful when you write out the text on the actual pages.

  6. Fold each sheet of newsprint in half. Slip the sheets together and make sure that they are neat, and fit nicely. Don’t fasten the sheets together yet.

  7. Now decide where you are going to put the text. Will you put it on the left-hand page of each double-page spread? Or will you write on the right-hand pages? Will you write at the top of the pages? Or will you write at the bottom? Will each double-page spread look a little different? Perhaps you will choose to write right across the double-page spread sometimes? You will have to make decisions about this.

  8. Now take the folded newsprint pages. Work at a large table. Use the fat black wax crayon and write neatly the title of the story on the outside of the first sheet. Write the title just as it would look on the very first page in a book that you would buy in a shop. You want your book to look professional.

  9. Underneath, in smaller letters, write the names of all the pupils who created the story, or your class. (If this is the whole class, it will be very difficult to fit in 50+ names, so just name the class if you can’t fit in all of the names!)

  10. Next, open the first sheet of newsprint. This will be your first double-page spread. Write the first sentence(s) or phrase(s) on this double-page spread, using the fat black wax crayon. You must leave enough space for the illustrations or drawings.
  11. When you have written the text for this double-page spread, turn over to the next double-page spread, and write the next sentence(s), or phrase(s), with the black wax crayon. Carry on in this way, until you have written out the whole story.

  12. Take the ‘cover’ of your book. You need to decide where you want the title. It’s a good idea to leave space for an illustration. Will you write the title at the top, or at the bottom? When you have decided, write the title lightly in pencil. When you are happy with the way it looks, write over the pencilled words with a felt tip pen.

  13. Slip the newsprint pages neatly inside the ‘cover’.

  14. Now sew the pages and cover together. There are several ways that you can do this, but the following way works very well:

  15. Open out your book so that the cover is at the bottom, and the middle double-page spread is on top. With a big book, it is a good idea to mark two places on the crease in the middle, where you can sew. Mark one place in the top half of the crease, and mark another one in the bottom half. In each place, make three spots. These spots should be about 4 cm apart.

  16. Thread your needle with a piece of thin string about 50 cm long. Push the point of the needle through the middle of one of the sets of three spots, right through all the newsprint pages and the cover. Pull the string through firmly, but leave a piece of string about 7 cm hanging and follow the chart.

  17. Cut the string attached to the needle, about 7 cm from where it has come through the pages. Now tie the two 7-cm ends together firmly.

  18. Repeat the process at the opposite end of the crease.

  19. Make a list of the illustrations that you need. Decide if you are going to ask specific children to make the illustrations, or whether you want your whole class to be involved. Pupils can work well in pairs to create the pictures. Plan how to organise the drawings.
  20. Choosing the pictures. Read through the whole text with your pupils. Hold the pages open, and read the story aloud. Read the story so that it sounds interesting.

  21. Tell your pupils that you want them to make the pictures. As you read through the text a second time, pause on each double-page spread and discuss the picture that it needs. As you and your class decide what is needed on each page, assign each illustration to a specific pupil, or pair of pupils.

  22. Give them time to make the pictures carefully. Involve the pupils in sticking them in the book.

  23. Even beginner readers can memorise the story, and have a sense of where each picture goes. Underneath each picture, write the name(s) of the pupils who made the picture. Continue in this way until all the pictures have been glued in and labelled.

  24. When all the illustrations have been glued in, read the book with your pupils. We are sure that both you and your pupils will feel very proud of their efforts.

Adapted from: Umthamo 2, University of Fort Hare Distance Education Project

Resource 4: Features of good cover design

   Background information / subject knowledge for teacher

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  1. Eye-catching – a potential reader is attracted to the ‘look’ of the cover.

  2. The title is carefully positioned on the page and stands out clearly.

  3. The title encourages readers to open the book.

  4. The words of the title and the name(s) of the author(s) are easy to read.

  5. The use of colours attracts the reader.
  6. The use and position of images (drawings or photographs) on the page attracts the reader and these images are ‘connected’ with the book.

  7. There is some ‘open space’ on the cover so that the design is not too ‘crowded’.

Adapted from original source: http://www.twbookmark.com/

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