Thursday, December 1, 2011

Learning through Lapbooks -- Scrapbooking Meets Education

     When my oldest was younger, I struggled with making certain subjects more hands-on and creative.  One day, a dear friend of mine pulled out her twins' lapbooks on the solar system.  After a quick scan through the pages of these fun, fold-out books, I knew I had found the answer that I was looking for.
     What is a lapbook?  A lapbook (or lap book)  is basically a cumulative project from a unit of study made out of a file folder, card stock, and imagination.  They include many different folds of paper and cut-outs fastened to the inside of the book.  When finished, the child has a record of work studied and an impressive, colorful, project to share with others.  Lap books are almost like scrapbooking with an educational bent.
     Our family has used lapbooks for science.  However, they can easily be used in all areas of study such as history, a book study (such as the Little House on the Prairie), or a country or state study.
     When complete, the student has a creative lapbook on a subject that he or she can be proud of.  I encourage my children to share them with as many people as possible -- friends, neighbors, relatives.  Each time they share their lapbook, they are reviewing the subject matter.  Like a photo album or scrapbook, children love to look back through their lapbooks, again reviewing the content. 

Websites and Books
     If you would like some guidance on how to begin lapbooking, the Big Book of Books and Activities by Dinah Zike is a good place to start.  Dinah Zike was a pioneer in this new concept of cumulative mini-"books" and foldables that later became known as the "lapbook."  She has since come out with a variety of lapbook courses.  We have used Great Science Adventures:  The World of Space by Dinah Zike and Susan Simpson in which she uses "3D graphic organizers" that she calls "books" -- half books, 3 tab books, pocket books, vocabulary books, layered look books, 4 door books, trifold books, accordian books, 10 top tab books, etc.  The Ultimate Lap Book Handbook by Cyndy Regeling and Tammy Duby is another source, although I have not used this one.  
     Fortunately, there are enough resources online that you do not have to buy anything to figure out how to incorporate lapbooking into a school project .

For lapbook templates try: or
Other sites with ideas or free lapbooks:
Free animal studies lapbooks  (these are favorites -- we've done Backyard Birds, Antarctica, and Chipmunks)


This is a lapbook that Darius did on the Deep Sea in 6th grade.  He chose the topic, and we used the free templates and ideas to make the "books" on the inside.  We used several library books and the internet for our research.

You use a file folder as your starting point.  I taped in two 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of cardstock on top and on the bottom (gray and orange.)  Then I added a green flip up piece on the right.  On each of these, front and back,  are vocabulary words, animals, information about underwater submarines used for exploration, etc.  Everything in the book opens or turns to reveal information (sort of like a pop-up book).  When you are finished, you fold everything back into the lapbook.

This is a lapbook that Titus did on Antarctica last year as a 2nd grader.  We used Mary Pope Osborne's Penguins and Antarctica (Magic Tree House Research Guide) as our main source of information.  Everything in this lapbook is from  I printed out their free lapbook pages from their animal studies section which correlated with the Osborne book chapter by chapter.  We also checked out several books from the library about penguins.
 When you first open the lapbook, this is what you see.  Then the gray pages open up to reveal more information.

This picture shows how the mini-books on the inside of the lapbook open out to reveal information.

My oldest made this Earth Science lapbook in the 2nd grade.  He's in the 7th grade now, but he still likes to look through it.
This lapbook was our first one.  I made all the folds and little books myself using the patterns in Dinah Zike's Big Book of Books and Activities.

      After we finish with the lapbooks, we take them to the Houston Zoo's Naturally Wild Swap Shop to share them with the naturalists there (if they are nature related).  I also encourage the boys to share them with Daddy, grandparents, and others.  
     Lapbooking allows my kids to be creative, enjoy a cumulative final project, share what they have learned with others, and review subject matter again and again.  It's a great way to learn!

Thanks to Sherri A. for introducing me to the wonderful world of lapbooking.