Who’s who in your classroom: Using Book Creator to build community

Michael HernandezCommunity, Creative Arts, Digital Portfolios, Digital Storytelling, Publishing

Empower your students to get creative whilst getting to know each other - a great idea for the start of the school year.

One of my biggest struggles at the start of the school year is getting to know my students. I’m bad at memorizing names, but great at faces. And it's often late in the school year when I finally find out how truly interesting my kids are, and their varied interests outside of school.

So this year, why not consider getting to know your students by using Book Creator to publish a Who’s Who of your class?

Like school yearbooks, a Who’s Who is a compilation of student photographs and names. But instead of grids of faces and names compiled by teachers who already have too much work on their plates, let your students make this book, leveraging their creativity and the multimedia capabilities of Book Creator to add personality and flair to your class compendium.

Michael Hernandez example portfolio
Here's an example portfolio page I put together in Book Creator

How to Create a ‘Who’s Who?’ with Book Creator

Create a bio page

Let each student have a page of a class book to share information about themselves. You can either use the collaboration features to invite multiple students to edit a single book, or have students work independently and then merge the books into one later.

Determine what information to include

After you have discussions about digital safety and citizenship, such as never publishing home addresses or phone numbers, encourage students to share factual information about themselves, such as age or height or where they were born. Other categories might include favorite hobbies, or their hopes for the future.

Create a self-portrait image

This is key to getting to know my students. Have them create their own photograph or illustration so that they can represent themselves as they see fit.

Add multimedia content

Invite students to share links to some of their favorite organizations, music playlists, reviews of movies, or other content they’ve created, such as videos or links to a personal digital portfolio.

Make use of a special theme

We have some fun themes in Book Creator that can help students style their book in any way they want. Learn more here.

Theme template picker in Book Creator

Publish your Who’s Who

You can make this book public so that parents and administrators can also get to know students, or keep it private to just your class by inviting students to be collaborators.

Maybe you just want this book for yourself, in which case, let students know this from the outset–the information they choose to include will probably change if they know that this is a private conversation between you and them, versus a public-facing publication.

Here's how to share your book safely with Book Creator.

More than just a fun project

Like most Book Creator projects, the act of creating stories, especially personal ones where students are invited to contribute their own ideas and perspectives, helps students develop important life skills.

Empowering projects like this one can start classroom conversations around identity, how we represent ourselves, and questions of authenticity, such as accuracy, perspective, and bias.

This is also an important way to get to know our students beyond a transactional relationship of teacher/student, and provides teachers a glimpse of our students as independent people with lives beyond the classroom.

Students feel trusted to have agency over how they represent themselves, and share important details about themselves that they feel are important for teachers and their classmates to know. Knowing how complex my students’ lives really are helps me be a better teacher because I can have empathy for them, and use examples and assignments that tap into their concerns and address their needs.

You can also use projects like this one to establish class norms and culture. Because my students frequently work in collaborative teams, I like to ask students to include how they like to work, what traits they prefer in teammates, and what kind of conditions they need to be successful.

Options for images

Not every student is able or willing to be photographed, or to publish their image in a book. In cases like these, consider having all students create a personal crest, editorial illustration, or other image that best represents their personality, instead of a photograph. Make it a requirement for all students to complete this, so that individual students don’t feel awkward or different.

Above is an example of a personal crest taken from our 'Back to School' book. You can remix that book and copy this page into your own if you wish.

However you choose to use Who’s Who books in your classroom, it’s a fun way to humanize your classroom and build lasting relationships founded on trust.

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