Monson teacher Holly Smith’s first grade students recently published their class project book, “Animal Life: Mothers and Their Babies.”
Reminder Publishing submitted photo

MONSON — In a class project designed to encourage writing, a first grade class at Granite Valley School recently wrote and published a book on how animals care for their offspring, their teacher Holly Smith told Reminder Publishing.

Titled “Animal Life: Mothers and Their Babies,” the book contains handwritten pages and illustrations by each of the 16 students, which the class brainstormed, researched and completed over three months, Smith said.

“Writing is a struggle for them [at this age],” Smith stated, explaining that the project was designed to encourage students to want to write more. She first began completing the project with her students five years ago when she started teaching first grade.

“[This project] motivates them to write more,” she said, emphasizing how the students love and are proud of their work.

The project began in January with the class reviewing potential topics through the publishing site, Studentreasures Publishing. This site is specifically designed for classroom-published books, Smith explained, stating that she has used the site for all five years she has run the project.

Once the class voted on the topic, the students sat together on the classroom rug and each chose what animal they wanted to focus on. “They were very respectful of the other students,” Smith said, highlighting how well the students dealt with choosing another animal if someone else picked it first.
Smith then used online child reading platform Epic to assign nonfiction books on their chosen animal to each student. She met with students one-on-one to review the book, then allowed the students to read individually, Smith said. After reading, students chose facts from the book to include on their page. They wrote a first draft, then a final draft.

For the book’s illustrations, students practiced drawing their animal with online YouTube art video tutorials assigned by Smith. Students completed this writing and illustrating process for two animals, Smith stated.

Once the pages and illustrations were finalized, Smith sent the manuscript to Studentreasures Publishing. In addition to the free classroom copy that Smith received, families were able to preorder the book so each student could take a copy of their published book home. When the copies arrived, the class celebrated by allowing each student to read their pages to the class.

“It was [exciting] for them to get to see their writing in the book,” Smith emphasized. Through the project, her students were also able to demonstrate their improved writing skills, she said.

Smith stated that she intended to give a copy of “Animal Life: Mothers and Their Babies” to the school library at the end of the school year, in addition keeping one copy in her classroom.