Make Your Own Transition and Social Skills Books for Students: How to Write Books and Create Visuals for Them

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Help! I'm Moving To A New School

During the four years that I taught special education, I created a handful of books for my students to assist them with making transitions or with learning/modeling/reinforcing social skills. Typically I used a combination of Boardmaker visuals and photographs to accompany the text for these books. Sometimes I use only photographs.

Making transitions in life can be stressful for anyone. As we grow up, we learn how to deal with these changes in ways that minimize our stress levels. Children haven't learned such strategies yet, particularly children with autism who often have trouble dealing with transitions or unexpected changes, even small ones that happen on a daily basis. Planning ahead for major, anticipated transitions and putting some aides into place can help them through the process.

Books with Boardmaker visuals and/or photographs can also assist students with their social skills. These materials are also particularly relevant for students with autism who frequently have trouble reading people's expressions or feelings and picking up on social cues.

In this hub, I discuss characteristics for both books, including things that you should and should not include. I also include additional suggestions for using these books, plus other strategies for helping students who will be making major transitions.

I use two different methods for adding the pictures to my books. Sometimes I copy and paste Boardmaker pictures and photographs into my Microsoft Word documents. Sometimes I include the text only in Word and then paste the photographs by hand before covering the pages. You can see examples of both of these methods below. It's completely up to you which one you would like to use.

I get all of my cardstock and contact paper in bulk from Office Depot. Whether you laminate your books or use contact paper, cover the books BEFORE punching holes to bind the books or you will have to re-punch the holes after you cover it. Let me know if need other assistance with the assembly process.

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Transitioning to a New School: Version #1

I created this first book when my district moved my elementary school into a new building over Christmas break. This is an unusual circumstance, but many of the elements I used can apply to any transition book. I included photos of both the new school and the old school.

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For this book, I didn't have to include pictures of any new students and teachers so I simply included pictures of people from our school. If a student is transitioning to a new school, you can also include pictures of some of their new classmates and teachers if possible.

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Include details about all of the classes, activities, etc. that the students will have in their new schools. It's important to talk about what will stay the same as well as what will change.

I did not include any pictures of this, but it's also important to include a calendar so that students have a visual for when they will be making this transition. If the transition won't happen for a while (i.e. not until the beginning of the next school year), you can include the summer months and then show the month that the new school year starts with the first day of school circled or highlighted.

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Transitioning to a New School: Version #2

This is a book that I made for student who was going to middle school in a different district. I was able to take him to the new school for a morning during one of his last months of elementary school. I took the pictures for the book then. I discuss some options that you can consider if you can't take pictures later in this hub.

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(not pictured) It's important to include details about the feelings/emotions that may happen as this new transition occurs. Students should know that it's okay to be worried or anxious and that there will be people there to help them through that. They should also know that there are lots of things that will make them happy and excited and that they should focus on those positives.

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My students have really enjoyed seeing pictures of themselves in these books. Even if you aren't able to take pictures of the students in the new school, include some of them in their current school. I think that it makes the books much more personalized than they would be otherwise. Even my students who aren't making the transitions enjoy seeing themselves featured in some of the photos.

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Social Skills Book

I used the same word template to make different versions of this book for different students. I have sent the template to a couple other teachers who were able to adapt it for their students' specific needs as well. (You can send it with pictures, but it's a HUGE file like that.) If you would like my template, let me know.

I included the following scenarios in my template:

  • working in the classroom
  • working with other students
  • playing with others
  • cleaning up
  • walking in the hallway
  • lining up
  • not touching others

These are all areas that apply directly to my students and some of the difficulties that they have in school. There are numerous possibilities for scenarios. I've included a link for Carol Gray's newest social stories book on the right further reference on this topic as well as another social skills link. I also included information about feelings/emotions with each scenario as it was appropriate to do so.

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For each scenario, I had the students model ways to follow and to not follow the set of directions and took pictures. Creating this book is a lesson in itself. When asked to act out inappropriate scenarios, many of the students realize how silly, annoying, or even hurtful their actions can be. If the students get tired of reading the book, you can have them act out the scenarios sometimes. Also, as I mentioned above, the students love that this book is about themselves.

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Additional Classroom Book Idea

If you enjoy creating these types of books for your classroom, consider creating books for other purposes as well. I made the book pictured on the right for my students at the beginning of a new school year. They enjoyed seeing pictures of me and my husband and some of the things that we had done during the summer.

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There are numerous possibilities for these books.  You can create books for field trips or other special events during the school year (concerts, plays, guest speakers, etc.).  You can have students bring in pictures from their own family trips or events and help them make books.  You can also create books with student work from any number of classroom units or projects.  For more book ideas, see this thread at proteacher.net.

If you aren't able to take your own photos for a transition book, here are some additional ideas.

  • If possible, contact your student's new teacher and ask for some photos that you can use. In the age of digital photography, they should be able to e-mail them to you.
  • If this is not possible, look up the new school's web site and use photos from it for your book.
  • If your student is moving, you can also include pictures of the new area.
  • If there isn't time to make a book, spend some time with your student looking up information about the new school and new area online.

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8 comments

kelleyward 3 years ago

What a fantastic idea. Love it. Going to set aside time to make one with my boys. Take care, Kelley


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Most informative ans well presented in such a simple text. Thanks for helpful information.


tlpoague profile image

tlpoague 3 years ago from USA

I love this idea. One could even use it to make easy to read children's books. I will have to add this to my need to try list. Thanks for sharing!


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin Author

Thanks, Kelley! That's great.

Thanks, DDE!

tlpoague, thanks! You're absolutely right that you can use these ideas to make virtually any kind of children's book. Best of luck.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

What a wonderful idea! I could see doing this to make books for special occasions, such as a book of memories for my niece's high school graduation! I love this!


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin Author

Thanks, Vicki! You could definitely use these techniques for special occasion books.


MJ Martin profile image

MJ Martin 24 months ago from Washington State

Thanks for such a creative way to share memories with our children. I really like the idea of covering the pages with clear contact paper. This is great and helpful way to include the students in their world of schooling.


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 24 months ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin Author

I really appreciate the feedback, MJ Martin!

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