Careers of Today Lapbooks

My first graders just finished their Careers of Today Lapbooks, and they look amazing.  Not only were the final products great, my students were able to apply all of the researching and reading comprehension skills they have been working on over the past 7 months.

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Choosing a Career

To begin the project, I placed ten books about different careers in the middle of each table group.  I tried to include a variety of modern jobs for students to choose from.  I asked students to take a book from the middle and spend two minutes previewing it by looking at the pictures, reading the back cover and first page, and deciding if this was a career they would like to have someday.  I then rang a bell and students placed their books back in the middle and chose a new book.  We did this ten times.  The process took about 25 minutes but the time they spent reading, evaluating, and synthesizing was well worth it.

At this point, students had to choose one career that they would like to research.  Some students definitely had a hard time narrowing it down, but in the end, everyone chose just one!


The next step was doing research.  Students were given graphic organizers that broke down the information they had to find into five categories: what do they do?, where do they work?, what tools or equipment do they need?, how do I become one?, and other interesting facts.

Laptops Picture

We had just read a book about park rangers together as a class and completed a similar organizer together on chart paper.  I really emphasize to the kids the importance of using bullet points and paraphrasing.  As an upper grades teacher, I know how important it is for kids to be able to take notes and not to plagiarize.   This is definitely a challenge with first graders but they have gotten so much better the more we have practice.

Students used the books they had previewed to complete their organizers. The category, how I become one?, was definitely the most challenging section for students to complete.  I asked that kiddos include 3-5 bullet points for each heading and most books didn’t go into great detail into the education and work that went into getting that job.

The Lapbook

After my kiddos had completed all of their research, we completed the cover of the organizer and each foldable one at a time.  Each foldable took about 20 minutes to complete.  I precut everything as much as I could beforehand and I also folded all of the lap books before passing them out to students. I took the project slow but allowed students who moved quickly the chance to keep going and begin working on the next foldable.

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As students finished their lapbooks, I had them pair up and use their lapbook as a tool to teach the other students about the career they researched.  I loved hearing them talk so knowledgeably and excitedly about their jobs.  Once they were finished presenting, I had them switch partners.  In the end, students presented at least four times and became mini experts of their chosen career!



If you are interested in doing this project in your own classroom, you can find this resource here.


This resource includes all the foldables you will need with step by step instructions.


Pictures of student samples are also included.


I hope your students have as much fun doing this project as mine did.


Not Your Typical Biography Project

Each year, the school I teach at celebrates the arts by having a Night of the Arts.  Each specials class (art, music, GATE, PE, science) creates something unique to share with parents (choir concert, PE demonstration, science experiments) and all of the classes display art/writing pieces that center around a common theme.   This year the theme is multiculturalism.  This is my first year at the GATE teacher, so I want to do something special.  I have definitely spent a lot of time thinking about a unique project my students could create that would not only expose them to new cultures but would also provide a complex and challenging learning experience. 

Then finally the perfect project fell into my lap (actually it hit me on the head).  I was pulling some resources from the shelves in my garage when a box hit me on the head.  I looked down at it and realized it was the multigenre project I created when I was an undergrad at the University of Arizona.   I had reinvented the project and used it once before when teaching in sixth grade in Idaho.  This was definitely the perfect I had been waiting for.

Here is how it works:

Students research the life of a famous historical figure and choose six major events from his/her life.  Then instead of writing a typical research paper, they create meaningful and accurate primary source artifacts that they eventually present to the class.


For Night of the Arts, my students will choose a famous historical figure from an assigned country.  This way kiddos have some choice about what they research (which is very important when you are looking for by in).  In addition, students will get the opportunity to hear reports about people and cultures from all over the world.

During the project students will create:

Authentic Artifacts 

Students will create long, short, and artistic artifacts to represent the different stages of their historical figure’s life.  Examples of artifacts include birth certificates, campaign buttons, marriage certificates, awards, invitations, newspaper articles, journal entries, portraits, photographs, or obituaries, just to name a few.

Portrail Example

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Campaign Button Example

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Transcript of Interview

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Container, Works Cited, and Rationale

My students will also have to choose a container to house all of their artifacts. The container must be important to the life of their figure.  For example, I have had students in the past use violin cases, luggage, medicine bags, brief cases, and cereal boxes.  In addition, the kids will create a works cited page listing their sources and write a rationale explaining the artifacts they created.  This is such an important part of the process because students must think critically about the reasons behind their choices.

I love this project so much that I decided to share with it with others in my TPT store.  You can find it here.


Included in the packet are:

– Day by Day Lesson Plans

– Project Description Handout

– Sample Biography (2 levels)

– Research Graphic Organizer

– Student Artifact Samples

– Creating Authentic Artifacts Guide

– Project Completion Checklist

– Scoring Rubric


My hope is for students to display and present their artifacts and containers at Night of the Arts.   I will definitely take pictures and share how it goes!

I know my students will love it and can’t wait to get started! ! !


Westward Expansion – What a journey!

I love project based learning, and I also love love love teaching about Westward Expansion.  Put the two together and I am in heaven.  When I first moved to fourth grade many years ago, I wasn’t all that excited about the prospect of teaching Idaho history.  However, when I realized that I would get to teach about the Oregon Trail, I was elated.

What is Westward Expansion all about?

This is the question my kiddos always ask when I tell them what our next unit of study will be.  Most have never heard of Westward Expansion before let alone Manifest Destiny, Oregon Trail, or wagon train.  This is why building background is so important.

To do this, my students create ABC Books of the Oregon Trail.


Groups work together to identify several important and meaningful words associated with their assigned letter from their research.   Within each group, they evenly assign themselves letters of the alphabet and use the ABC graphic organizer to track important words and phrases.  It is really important that students write down a short sentences about each word so that they can use the word correctly in context later.

Graphic Organizer

After they have three words and a short description for each letter, they will write a well-written paragraph that accurately uses their chosen words in context.  I always ask that they underline or somehow make their chosen word stand out.   Finally, each student will then draw an illustration that relates to one or more of their chosen words.  Look at these great examples:

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I now have students use this really cute final draft paper.

Letter A

In the end, students presented their completed books to the class to show their understanding of this amazing period of US history.



As a gift, I take each group’s ABC book and create a small hand held version that they can each take home and share with their families.   This is definitely a fun project that I not only love to teach but my students love as well!


Moving West – Wagons

This year, my fourth graders are taking a journey west in a fun and exciting pioneer simulation.  To help set the stage and get my students excited about this unit, my class and I turned our room into a wagon train.  I think it came out pretty well!

To create the wagons, I duct taped pvc pipe to both ends of each table.   I came in on a Saturday with my husband because I wasn’t sure how challenging it would be and wanted some additional help.  You could do it on your own but having someone there to help is really nice.

In addition to using duct tape, I also used two zip ties to fasten each pac pipe to the table leg.  I am sure that the amount of duct tape I used would be sufficient but I just wanted to make sure that everything was securely fastened.

The next day, students used white plastic table cloths from the dollar store to create the bonnets and tied them using cord.   This was so much fun to watch.  I really wanted to see how students would attach the bonnets on their own so I gave little help.  Most groups were able to problem solve and attach their end of the bonnet successfully but a few groups required a little more help.

I think they ended up looking fantastic and my students had a blast putting them together.

This is the perfect start to our moving west unit!