It’s a Book, It’s a Portfolio, It’s a Year-End Project!

Here’s a great structure for young writers and artists that works equally well as a project to celebrate the end of the school year or to kick off the start of summer.


Part book, part portfolio, it can hold completed work from the past school year or blank pages for the months ahead. As a year-end project, the idea is for kids to rewrite their best work (or write a final draft) into the blank pages, creating a showcase … or a keepsake … or a presentation folder … for their writing and artwork. Make it with blank pages, and kids can take home an inventive, personalized journal to use over the summer whenever they feel to urge to write or draw.

I recently taught this project in a marathon three-hour session during a school-wide enrichment day. But I don’t recommend that approach for everyone! It’s easier broken into three sessions, one for making the artwork, one for making the portfolio and one for sewing the textblock into the portfolio.

Outside, the structure looks like a folder, but one that’s specially-sized and hand-cut, with a windowed pocket folded into the inside back cover. This pocket holds a pull-out “About the Author” panel and also has plenty of room for drafts, notes, etc. Apart from the pocket, the structure is basically a large, pamphlet-stitched booklet.

Inside, the textblock is a single signature made from 5-7 tabloid (11×17) sheets folded in half, yielding 20-28 pages for text and/or artwork. This signature is sewn into the cover fold with a five-hole pamphlet stitch. Before sewing, an additional 11×17 sheet is folded around the textblock, creating pages, front and back, for artwork. You can download an instruction sheet for sewing pamphlets by clicking here.

In my workshop we sponge-painted Tyvek on both sides of this wraparound sheet, as well as painting an extra piece to paste onto the front cover. But any artwork would do just fine. Click here and here to read about painting Tyvek in the classroom.

There’s no downloadable template for making this project (any template would be too big to print). But you can easily make a template (out of something sturdy like oaktag) for kids to trace onto their portfolio material, which they would then cut and fold. It would look like this:


The solid lines are cut lines; the dashed lines are fold lines. The leftmost and middle squares are a little bit larger than 8-1/2×11; the fold between them is where kids sew their textblock. The rightmost rectangle is about 5 inches wide and features tabs that are about 3/4 of an inch tall. The tabs are folded and then secured to the facing page with double-stick tape, creating a pocket for loose papers. My students cut a window into their pocket pages before folding and adhering the page into place.

If you decide to try this project, please send me some pictures. My congratulations to the 4th–8th grade writing students at North Star for their enthusiasm and skill in making this project, and my thanks to their teacher Ruth for inviting me into the classroom!

posted June 3rd, 2013 by Cathy, CATEGORIES: Summer, Book Structures, 6th-8th grade, 5th grade, 4th grade

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