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Lap Book Learning
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Lap Book Learning

Lap Book Learning
Cay A. Gibson

     A well-planned poster on the Olympics (complete with the gold, silver and bronze medals won by the American team), an artistically designed poster of the Little House books, and our carefully transferred weather graphs and charts applied onto a poster all met the same fate.  They were thrown away. 
     We loved working on the projects and we loved the final result; but hated the outcome.  I knew each new poster would end up in the trash. It was discouraging.  It made me hate to do a poster project.  Yet, as a committed homeschooling mother, I diligently proceeded to make these works of art that showed what we had learned. And I hoped some of the final results would linger in my childs memory.
     A newspaper article about a nearby homeschooling family changed this dilemma for us.  The Michael Kane family in Louisiana used lap books , which sounded like a phenomenal discovery to me.  I had never heard of them. 
     Lap books, flap books, project books, presentation books, shutter books, graphic organizersno matter what you call them are condensed educational tools that are becoming increasingly appealing to homeschoolers and can be applied with any curriculum or educational method you use.

What is a lapbook and how is it made?
     This is the definition shared by Beth Nelson of the Zikefans email loop:
     A lap book is a learning tool to get your children involved in hands-on learning about any subject or book they are studying.  A lap book is traditionally a folder that has been refolded to open like a shutter on the window of a house.  Inside these folders are a series of books in all
shapes, sizes and forms highlighting key points of your lessons.  These miniature (minit) books can be anything from simple pop-up books to more complex bound ones.  The simplicity or complexity of these books is really up to the parent/caregiver and student.  Lap books are meant to organize the things that your children have learned.  They are meant to replace worksheets.  You put in your lap books what you have already learned - nothing more.
     The statement that intrigued me was, The simplicity or complexity of these books is really up to the parent/caregiver and student.  This statement assured me that lap books would give us the freedom to be as creative or as simple as we cared to be or as home life allowed us to be.  
     The end result does not end up in the trash but is conveniently tucked inside a folder (a years supply fits nicely into a magazine file tray that sits upright on your shelf).  It is compact, pleasing to the eye in color as well as content, and is accomplished in easy bite-size pieces, which the child digests a little each day in tantalizing morsels instead of in a hurried, gorging, purging effort.
     At the invitation of homeschooling mother, Kimberly Kane, I spent an afternoon at her home looking over a years worth of lap books done by her children.  Listening to her daughter, Keaghan, as she filled me in on the contents of her books acknowledged for me that it was a very personal endeavor; one that she was proud of and had enjoyed putting together.  She had retained its contents in her memory.
     The idea that these are compact keepsake books intrigued me even more.  No more tossing wonderful finished products into the trash.  No more feelings of defeat before a project is begun.  What is even betterwhen grandparents ask what we have been working on the children can simply show their lap books and launch into excited descriptions and explanations of what is in it with no prompting from me.   To the familys questioning, What have you been learning?, there is no garbled I dont  know or I dont remember.  The lap books are the proof in the pudding.
     Kimberly, who uses a unit study approach in teaching her two children, discussed her satisfaction with lap books :
"Five in a Row is the main curriculum we use in our homeschool, as well as Amanda Bennett. I first heard about Dinah Zike on the Five in a Row website.  I started looking into her methods and a year ago in April (2001), I purchased her Big Book of Books. It really made so much sense to me because I am artistic by nature and I was looking for a better way to document what we did in our units. Lap books are just a term to describe the big folder-book I use to put all my little books/projects into when we are done. It is called that because you can put it on your lap and look at together."

What is put in your lap book ?
     Unlike Kimberly, I am not artistic by nature.  But these lap books promise me an easy, no-brainer concept to excite my children with.  The ideas and our excitement are endless.  Anything we think of, anything we discuss or research can be added to our lap book in any appealing art work and paper folds that we think of.  Miniature books, maps, personal artwork and cutouts, vocabulary words, and diagrams fill the folds.

What age groups make lap books?
     Any age!  If I wasnt helping my kindergartner make hers, I believe Id be making my own lap books!
     With my third grader, we made a list of famous men of the American Revolution and glued pictures of them on a folded piece of paper that was cut into sections.   Upon lifting the picture, my son wrote a little something underneath about that person and his involvement in the war.  We also did a cause and effect of the war using a folded paper that was cut in half. 
     My seventh grader is reading all of J.R.R. Tolkiens books.  So she started making a lap book on The Hobbit.  She drew maps from places in the book, made a minit book in which she summarized the story, adorned the folds with careful drawings of all the characters, and did a character profile.
What are the benefits of lap books?
     In using lap books , you: 

immerse your children in the learning, allow them to own the information, have something tangible to show others,
take any information, even from a workbook, and format it into something exciting, tactile and colorful, recycle pictures from old workbooks and magazines to use teach to many different learning styles, at different levels, boys and girls, do something artsy without spending a great deal of money, use this as little or as much as you want in your studies, give them little bites, which are easier to chew,
allow a non-writer or a slow writer a way to show his/her work in smaller assignments spread over time which keeps the big picture from becoming overwhelming, saves units in a compact way all in one place,
use them to refer back to while doing ongoing studies, have an excellent review tool in years to come.
(List contributed by Kimberly Kane with permission)

Where Can I Find More Information on Lapbooks ?
       Dinah Zike is the author of several instructional books including the Big Book of Books, the Big Book of Projects, and Great Science Adventures published by Common Sense Press.  Her books, particularly the Big Book of Books, are a tremendous help in creating lap books.  With The Big Book of Books you will find what you need to get started.  It has complete descriptions and diagrams on how to create miniature books and the different folds and how to use them, for your lap book studies.
     Here are some sites where you can order Dinah Zike's books:

     There are videotapes of lap book demonstrations that you can purchase and Tobins Lab offers you the option of renting the videos.  Tobins Lab ( ) has a free sheet that explains how to make a lap book. 
     These are some wonderful weblinks on lap books.  To view them, go to: .  This page gives basic information about lap books and includes links to other sites.
     The email loop dedicated to discussing and sharing the lap books concept, has a file site where you can view various lap books:   Their home site is extremely helpful:
     Kimberly told me, "Lap books have revolutionized the way we do school around here."  
     I share her sentiments with enthusiasm, as do other homeschooling families who have discovered the wonderful pleasures of looking through the shutters of these lap books and exploring the world of learning with their children.  Knowing that I can pick up one book and a folder (or two or three folders to make double or triple lap books ), some glue, paper and a box of writing tools, and get started entices the spirit of learning in our home.
     It beats flipping through workbooks and looking around for added educational paraphernalia.   Lap books promise my children will be enthusiastic learners from the comfort of my lap instead of becoming slaves to the grindstone. 
     My children no longer feel the frustration of having to bend over a textbook or worksheet doing schoolwork.  I dont have to worry about looking for fun, motivational ideas to gain their interest in the book or study that we are doing.  The task is as simple as sitting in mothers lap with a good book, the appeal is in the finished product, and the personal accomplishment is its own motivation. 

The term lap book is a trademark of Tobins Lab, P.O.Box 725, Culpepper, VA 22701/ used with permission.  Cay Gibson is a homeschooling mother in Louisiana.  Further information on lapbooking and notebooking, along with a lap book supply list and lap book lesson guide will be available in her upcoming book "Literature Alive!" found at
Literature Alive!.

(Published in the Catholic Home Educator 2002)

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