Lesson Plan: The Art of the Handmade Book

Written By: Debra L. Knutson
Grade Level: Elementary School

Time Allotment

Varies by grade level;
Elementary Lesson: Single Sheet Pop-Out, from two to five class periods*
Secondary Lesson: Altered Art Book, sixteen class periods*
*Teachers can adjust the length of time for these projects according to how simple or complex the lesson plans may be.


Creating Books to Use in the Classroom
Two examples of bookmaking techniques for elementary and secondary teachers

Elementary Lesson: Single Sheet Pop-Out
The student will:
• Use a single sheet of construction paper to create a simple book that may contain both text and images.
• Follow directions of book construction using the lesson from the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, see attached sheet.

• Experiment with variations using pop-out examples.
Secondary Lesson: Altered Art Books
Students will create an altered book that communicates information about themselves. It is similar to a time capsule, although it is done using the book form as the vehicle.

Download Lesson Plan

Subject Matter

Art, with interdisciplinary connections to language arts, science, math, and social studies, as well as other subject areas, including music and theater arts.

Learning Objectives

Elementary Lesson
Creating a book is a way for students of all ages to create meaning and gain knowledge in any given subject matter. It is an inter-active activity that engages students in the learning process in a very personal and hands-on way.

Secondary Lesson:
The student will:
• Transform a discarded book into a creative art work that encompasses an autobiographical theme. The student’s final project will utilize a variety of media and techniques including drawing, collage, painting and writing.
• Understand the history of the book and be familiar with methods of altering books for creative purposes.
• Create their own altered art book using the required contents listed on the checklist provided to them.
•Evaluate their book and prepare it for public display.

An altered book is the artistic process of changing an existing book to communicate a new message or to evoke a new response. Altered books are part of the larger, altered art, mixed media art movement.

Media Components - Video/Web

Elementary Lesson
Learn 360:Authors and Artists: Eric Carle, Tomie dePaola

Secondary Lesson:
Karen Whimsy
Brain Dittmer
MN Book Arts
Altered Book
Princeton Linda Books


Elementary Lesson:
1 - 12”x18” construction paper, or adjust paper to desired size of finished book, tools needed include scissors and pencil, colored pencils, etc. optional.

Secondary Lesson:
Hardcover books, (old encyclopedias are my favorite) gesso, paint, drawing materials, variety of paper, glue, gloss medium and individual materials chosen by the student.

Teacher Preparation

Elementary Lesson:
Practice the method used for construction of the book and prepare examples.

Secondary Lesson:
Research the topic of altered art books, refer to the following books for ideas, there are many books on this subject, these are just two of my favorites:

Introductory Activities

Follow directions of handout for pop-out book.

Learning Activities

Secondary Lesson:
Lesson Plan:

Day 1
Introduce the lesson with the slideshow. Ask students questions about their favorite books when they were growing up. What kind of books did they like? Use bookmarked internet sites to show examples of this art form, including the following: karenswhimsy.com and briandittmeer.com

Students receive their book to alter, and are given time to browse through it. Special pages that students think are interesting or significant are marked with a sticky note.

Day 2
Computer lab day. Students do research on book artists and techniques.

Day 3
Students word process their title page, dedication, and ‘About the Artist & Author’ pages. See attached examples for more specific information regarding criteria.

Day 4
Pages are ripped out of the book to make way for the addition of artwork in the six sections. Students remove one-third of the original pages by counting ten and ripping out five pages from front to back cover. Sections and pages are marked off with colored sticky notes labeled in order with the corresponding section. See handout. Each section is marked in order of the contents. Example: Title Page, section #1 drawing, section #2 collage, section #3 painting, etc. These six sections are all two page spreads.

Day 5
Begin glueing edges of pages in each section from the back of the book to the front. Hold pages in place using clamps and paper clips. Place wax paper between sections to prevent pages from sticking together.

Day 6
Gesso the collage for section #2 Day 7 & 8 Paint covers with acrylic paint, adding whatever creative touches that reinforce your theme.

Day 9
Add the memory drawing to section 1 by glueing in with liquid glue. Add and draw color out from edges with color pencils if the drawing is smaller than the pages of the book.

Day 10
Paint section #3 with watercolors. See website: karenswhimsy.com for ideas. Use text of the pages for the sentences you will create. Use underline or highlighter to accentuate the words you choose.

Day 11
Section #4, this is the section that is made up of personal photographs, students use four or more photos in this section. They also may include any poetry or writing done in their language arts class in this section. Students may use layout and design techniques using a variety of paper for background.

Day 12
Section #5, this is the “your choice” section. The student decides which technique to use in this section. It is a chance to make your own choices to communicate information you may want to include. Do independent research of websites and consider using ideas found on the altered art book websites for ideas, this may be another drawing collage, or painting.

Day 13,14, 15
Section #6, this is the hidden compartment. Use an Xacto-knife to cut away a shape for the hidden compartment section. This is the section where the meaningful object is contained.

Day 16
Student completes all remaining aspects of book project including final artist statement. Student completes self evaluation and prepares book for display.

This is an example of a grading criteria I use in grading the student’s final project. I also have the student’s write an artist’s statement to go with their book.

Culminating Activity

Students can share their books with fellow students, read them to younger students and also display their work in the school setting, perhaps the school library.

Community Connections

The public library is an excellent place to display this project, as it promotes the importance of literacy in the creation of unique books.