Middle School ELA Inquiry Project

Middle School ELA Inquiry Project ~ Writing a Children’s Book

Looking for a fun and engaging middle school ELA inquiry project for your middle school ELA students?  As middle school teachers, we know what it’s like at the end of the year: kids are tired, teachers are tired, and testing is over.  So, we need something to keep our students engaged while requiring little prep for ourselves.  That’s why we’re sharing a project that’s high interest and high engagement for students but low prep for teachers.  This project can be used any time of the year, but it is perfect for the last weeks of school.

Allow your middle school students to work together to write children’s books!  I know that may seem like too much for the end of the year, but truly, it’s not, and the end product is so worth it!   In small groups of three or four, your students will plan their own stories, draft, revise, edit, and illustrate them. All you will need to do is work as a facilitator.  This project is perfect when you need high interest and participation from your students but want low prep for yourself. 

Why Choose a Middle School ELA Inquiry Project  

Now, before we get into the how to, let’s talk about the benefits of using a middle school ELA inquiry project approach. With inquiry-based learning, students are exploring, investigating, collaborating, and making decisions/taking action. This entire project fits under inquiry-based learning. Students begin by exploring the genre of children’s literature. Then, they investigate what makes a good children’s book.  Finally, Students do a lot of collaborating as they create an original story and illustrate it. They also must make many decisions throughout the process and take action to put the book together as a polished piece of literature!

I would recommend at least three weeks for this entire process, maybe four, but you could probably complete it a little faster, and it definitely could be extended into a four week project.  

The best part is that you can make this project a contest, or just have a day where students read their books to each other.  Some years, with careful planning, we have even taken our middle schoolers to our local elementary schools and had them read their finished books to those younger students.  Even if you don’t do this, students love this opportunity when they know that they will get to work together and share what they’ve written.  The artists in your classroom will also have the opportunity to show off their work.  You can even use book creator.com if you want your students to do this digitally. If you do choose to go the digital route, you can save some time.  

Steps for Fostering This Middle School Inquiry Based Project ~ Writing a Children’s Book 

  1. First, in order to write a good children’s book, students should read some. Gather as many children’s books as you can from the library, your house, or thrift stores. Take one class period and require your students to read and analyze several children’s books. Give them a form to help them with their analysis of these books. On this form, you’ll want to have questions or checklists for them to complete as they take a look at what the author does and uses to make a good story.  Is there rhyme?  Is there alliteration?  How does the author keep you wanting to turn the page?
  2. Next, in order to form groups, give students an application. You need to find out who can draw, who has a gift for writing, who has a vivid imagination, and who students can work well with.  So on your application, provide questions and requirements to let you know those things.  Then, take a look at those applications and put your students in groups.  I think groups of three to four are the best, but you could do partners too if you feel like you won’t have as much participation and too much of one student doing all the work kind of thing.   I do not suggest putting more than four students together.
  3. Once groups are formed, it’s time to brainstorm. Provide your students with some forms that they can complete  individually and as a group to help them develop their ideas for plot, setting, and characters. – Have them create different characters, different settings, like sketches, just to get their ideas out.  You’ll need to guide them to make sure they have a plan, so after brainstorming, you could give them a handout asking them to summarize what their main conflict will be and how it will be solved.
  4. Once groups are on their way to completing their book, you’ll want to supplement with mini lessons. Some of the mini lessons that we include are how to make your character’s realistic, how not to overload adjectives, how to watch the tense you use, how to choose the right transition words.
  5. If you skip making the handouts, checklists, and mini lessons for yourself and want to purchase our Writing a Children’s Book  resource from our TpT store, you’ll have everything you need ready for you!

Use Book Creator.Com If You Want to Make This a Digital Product

If your students still have devices at the end of the year, and you don’t want students using paper and pencil to do this activity, then Book Creator.com is perfect for this middle school ELA end of the year inquiry project.  Book Creator.com is a web-based tool that allows students to create digital books with ease. It has a user-friendly interface and allows students to add text, images, videos, and audio to their books.  Your students can collaborate on the same book and add multimedia elements to enhance their stories.  I still had my students draw and color their pictures and we scanned them in to book creator to put in their books.  The best part about book creator is that when kids read their books to the class, it can easily be displayed on your screen, the words and the pictures, so it’s better than holding up a small book. 

To use Book Creator, you will just need to sign up for a free account and then invite your students to join your classroom. From there, students can create their own books and share them with their group members and the teacher.  Trust me, it’s really easy.  Another thing I like about this is that you will be able to view your students’ progress and provide feedback as needed. Additionally, Book Creator allows for easy sharing of completed books, making it simple for teachers to showcase their students’ work to parents and the wider community

Resource That Includes ALL Forms, Handouts, Mini Lessons Needed for This Middle School ELA Inquiry Project

Now, if you want all of the resources that are needed to implement this project ready to go, we’ve got you.  In our TpT store, we have a resource titled Writing a Children’s Book where you can find everything already done for you to make this project work! This resource includes the form for analyzing children’s books, the application for groups, different brainstorming handouts, writing exercises to help students develop characters, plot, and setting, group work forms and checklists, planning sheets for a story with illustrations, and mini lessons to guide them through the story writing process! All of the brainstorming and writing exercises are included in both printable and digital Google Slide formats.  You definitely can make these yourself, but if you want to skip the work and have it done for you, all you will have to do is make copies or post to Google Classroom.   Finally, if you need some other ideas for the end of the school year, check out this blog post.  We hope you enjoy this project as much as we do! 

~ Shannon