How to Plan a Lapbook
A Step by Step Guide
Once you understand the basics of lapbooking, you can easily plan your own lapbook to match whatever topic you are studying. You don't need to buy a kit, so you save money. And you can custom design the lapbook to reflect your children's interests and educational needs. So grab a pad and a pen (or print my lapbook planner page), and let's start planning.
Step One -- The Topic
What will your lapbook be about? You can choose any topic under the sun!
Some moms use lapbooking to motivate a reluctant learner. For example, if your child loves animals, a horse or cat lapbook may really delight her. If your child is a fantasy fan, a lapbook on Narnia may be a winner.
Or maybe you want to choose one of the academic topics you're already studying. Don't look at lapbooking as adding something new or in addition to an already overloaded schedule. Consider lapbooking the way you will learn the topics you've already planned to study.
Step 2 -- List Sub-Topics
Once you've chosen an overall topic, break it down into the smaller chunks of information. These chunks or subtopics can be thought of as a day's lesson. List all of these on paper or use my lapbook planner page (linked above). Be sure to list your reference material whether it be a book, a website, or a video.
At this step, you're simply choosing what to study about your topic.
Personally, I find that having a book serve as the basis of my study to be invaluable. I simple look through that main book, listing the main ideas that I want to be sure to cover.
How many chunks of information do you need? Well, each topic is different. It could be from eight to twenty! Don't worry if it seems too few. As you study, your children may ask questions you hadn't thought of which may lead to new subtopics.
By All Means, Plan.
But hold loosely to your plan.
Be willing to explore teachable moments and go on tangents with your children.
Step Two -- Select Minibooks
The next step is where it gets fun! Take your list of subtopics/chunks of information, and consider what type of minibook would best fit the information.
Pencil in one or two minibook options on your list, beside each idea. (My lapbook planner has a space for this.)
There are lots of mini-books --a layered book, a circle book, a jigsaw book, a trifold, on and on. And you can get creative if you'd like! Create your own original folds or styles.
Some things lend themselves to certain types of folds. Lists work well in top tab books, life cycles are suited to wheel books, and timelines are perfect in accordion books, for example. But don't get bogged down in choosing the "perfect minibook" for this chunk of information. Generally any minibook will work for whatever type of information you want to record.
Now that you have a general plan, you do one of two things.
1. You can fine tune your plan by selecting exactly which minibook style to use for each chunk of information. Just aim for a variety of minibooks to give your lapbook more visual appeal. Try not to use a minibook style more than twice in one lapbook.
2. Or if you prefer to give your children more ownership in the process, give them options each day for the minibook style.
By the way, I don't plan the layout of the lapbook -- the actual placement of each minibook in the filefolder base. But you can if you want. That will lead to considerations of minibook size. Instead, I prefer to add more extensions to our lapbook if our books are too large or too many to fit on the base.
When you start lapbooking, you need some sort of list of the minibooks. You can use my Minibook Gallery as a reference, but you'll probably need something printed out as you plan.
You can make your own list to reference. But one problem with that is that it's easy to forget the names of the books. A solution is to create a reference lapbook with a blank template of each type. Label each book with the name you prefer to use for it. Then when you plan, you can visually see the various options.
If you would prefer, you can just put the labeled mini-book templates into a ziplock bag. As you learn to make more mini-books, your reference kit can grow.
TIP: Snip off one bottom corner so that your bag will not fill with air and be puffy. The hole allows the air to escape so your zip bag will lie flat.
Here are more helps for making a Minibook Guide.
- Reference Lapbook
Walking by the Way blog shows a very colorful example! Ami used this when her son wanted to plan his own lapbook. She gave him the reference lapbook, and let him choose!
Lapbook Planning Dos and Don'ts
- don't overplan in too much detail.
- if you know that you tend to overplan and simply can't resist, then allow yourself freedom NOT to complete a few of the minibooks you've planned. (no guilt allowed!)
- be prepared to revamp your plan partway through the process as you discover your children's particular fascinations.
- be willing to explore tangents and bunny trails -- that's where some real learning can happen!
- allow the children to take ownership; don't require perfection; let them do it their way.
Other Planning Helps for Lapbooks and Unit Studies
Want to hear it said a different way? Visit some of these links about lapbook and unit study planning.
- Planning a Unit Study or Lapbook
Matschsticks shares how she plans a unit study or lapbook in an easy to read outline form with great examples!
- SunFlower Faith's Lapbook Planner
This homeschool mom is offering a free PDF lapbook (or unit study) planning page.
- Cindy Rushton's Advice (PDF)
Cindy offers this free PDF document jam packed with ideas and photos. Pages 20-22 are where she talks about planning a lapbook, sharing the ideas that Amy Pak gave her in an email.
- Lapbooking 101
Another take on the unit study/lapbook planning approach. Worth a click!
- Lapbook Lesson Guide
Don't let the drab look of this site fool you. This check list gives you a day by day plan for how to make a lapbook with a single living book. A great resource!
- Ozark Ramblings Lapbook Planning Page
Some thoughts about creating a lapbook plan and a free printable (hosted at Scribd).
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