My Students Have Been Published!

It must be somewhat dissatisfying for a student to spend hours perfecting something (whether an essay, a story, a piece of artwork, a presentation, or even a movie) only to turn it in to a teacher and have to wait a few weeks to get it back with a few comments, maybe a few corrections, and a grade. While teachers must help and encourage students to become more creative and be better writers, having the teacher be the only audience lacks something—authenticity. If students could create something for a specific audience (and actually have that audience view their work), they might focus more on their craft knowing that anyone could see it, right?

To test this theory, I challenged my students to write an enhanced ebook (using video and written text). In fact, four junior high English classes wrote separate ebooks and submitted them to Apple—and two of them are now available to download on iTunes!

In the 8th grade English classes, we formed six teams (writing, editing, video, graphics, promotion, and publishing) that worked simultaneously and collaboratively in order to create our final product. Rather than simply assigning students all the roles or even one specific role, students selected their own teams based on their individual preferences. Don’t we all want to work in our strengths?

The 7th grade Language Arts classes were considerably smaller, so we took a difference approach:  each student created an entire page with written text and video.

In each class, students voted on their class’ topic and then created an audience profile—making sure that the book was written with someone specifically in mind (not just me, the teacher). After three weeks of brainstorming, collaborating, updating each team’s daily progress, editing rough drafts, creating videos, designing a cover and illustrations, and putting everything together using the Book Creator App, each class had a finished product they created entirely by themselves ready to publish.

For several of my students, this was the first writing assignment/project they’d ever done that focused on creating value for the audience rather than focusing on the expectations of a rubric and creating something to please the teacher. Creating an enhanced ebook for a specific audience who might actually read the book gave this project the thing that many assignments are often missing—authenticity.

Click below to download our iBooks to your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, or other IOS device. (Don’t worry—they’re free!)


CAC Survival GuideCAC 7th Grade Survival Guide

(written by 7th graders to help upcoming 7th graders learn everything they need to know about life on Mustang Mountain)—AVAILABLE NOW!



I Wish Every Person KnewI Wish Every Person Knew… A book about things you should know.

(written by 8th graders [6th period])—AVAILABLE NOW!






Finding FunFinding Fun:  What To Do When There’s Nothing To Do

(written by 8th graders [2nd period])—Coming soon




Survive Secondary SchoolSurvive Secondary School:  How to weave through the Wild Jungle of Junior High

(written by 8th graders [3rd period])—Coming soon





To read about our book-writing process, check out the “We’re Writing a Book!” posts (Part One  |   Part Two)

We’re Writing a Book! (pt. 2)

If you missed the previous “We’re Writing a Book!” post, you can read part one here.

After two weeks of writing a book in class, I don’t know who’s learned more: me or students.


Week One

This is not going as planned.

After one week of writing a book in class, not much happened other than ideas being shared. It was really hard for me to not just jump in and start telling students what they need to do because I want this to be their book. I’m having a hard time finding the balance of suggesting ideas and suggesting ideas. This is a tough balance for me.

To help get some ideas for balancing the text and video inside our book, I emailed Patrick Carman for ideas. Most of my students have read the Skeleton Creek series and loved it! (If you haven’t read the series, you should.) Patrick wrote us back and gave us some great tips. It was a cool experience for my students one, because they didn’t think Patrick would write us back, and two, Patrick helped show the importance of using best practices when working on something new.

After a few days of the writing process, I kept finding myself struggling to just tell students what to do, so I adopted the mantra, “I will answer the questions you ask,” and many of my students began asking some awesome questions! Because I like to be in control, I tend to give answers to questions students haven’t even figured out how to ask.

Isn’t learning to ask the right questions a really important skill? If so, who in my class asks more questions– me or my students? Ouch.

Lesson Students Learned: How to ask the right questions (and more of them).

Lesson I Learned: Give students more opportunities to ask questions. Let their questions drive instruction.


Week Two

Compared to the first week, week two was much better. I set a rough draft #1 due date, and my classes came through. It truly was a rough draft and needed A LOT of work! I projected the book and we read it as a class while students pointed out corrections that needed to be made. This was tough for many students because I wasn’t the one judging the quality of the work– and it wasn’t private.

Before we began the “constructive criticism” in class, I coached my students through the art of giving and receiving criticism. That’s a tough skill to master. As we went through the book and students began voicing their opinions, I hovered over the conversation like a cobra ready to strike at the first scent of personal criticism. But nothing happened. In fact, it was the recipient of the criticism who needed the most coaching. It’s tough to not get defensive.

Lesson Students Learned: Use constructive criticism to improve without getting defensive.

Lesson I Learned: I am not the only one with an opinion in the classroom. I need to give my students more opportunities to share, lead, give criticism, and accept criticism– as long as it’s constructive.


What’s next?

After reviewing the first draft, it’s time to really get to work. Students have new goals, deadlines, and ideas to work on. We’re starting to see a book form and it’s getting exciting. I’m still trying to stay out of the process and coach students along. Again, this is so challenging for me because I like to be in control. I’m learning to find the balance. I’m also learning that this whole writing a book thing is way more than writing a book. My students are learning some serious lessons about accountability, communication, collaboration, leadership, and questioning.