9 Unique Ways to use Digital Scrapbooks in the Classroom

Nine simple unique ways to use digital scrapbooks at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year.  

Perfect for both student and adult visual learners. Use digital scrapbooks to teach procedures, assist substitutes, wrap-up units, give as gifts, and so much more.

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Are you a scrapbooker?

I am. Or, I used to be.

I've spent more hours cutting, mounting, and fixing printed pictures to pages than I can count. It used to be one of my favorite ways to spend a free Saturday. But, over the years I've found less and less time to participate in any hobby, much less one as time-consuming as scrapbooking. My craft room with its piles of pictures, tools, and paper has grown wild and dusty.

A couple of years ago, I learned about digital scrapbooking. Honestly, at first, I was completely turned off. The available formats were rigid, sites weren't intuitive, there didn't seem to be any way to truly personalize my books, and the final products looked cheap. I couldn't understand the appeal.

Over the past several years, there have been great improvements in both the process of creating digital scrapbooks and the end product. I tested several different products and sizes until I found one I felt comfortable with. And soon I began to find ways to use digital scrapbooks in other areas of my life.

Not only can they be used to create gorgeous keepsakes of past vacations, but scrapbooks full of visuals can be helpful in the classroom too. Think of all the times when you wish you had a detailed picture book to re-explain a procedure or remind students of specific directions.

Well, with a digital scrapbook you can.


Nine Ways to Use Digital Scrapbooks in The Classroom 


At the beginning of the year: 

1. Class rules book. As you teach class routines at the beginning of the year, take pictures of your students performing certain tasks such as how to line up as a class, how to sign out to use the restroom, where to turn in completed papers, etc. Place the completed direction book in your classroom library for students to refer back to throughout the year.

Not only will it save you time repeating directions over and over again, but students also love seeing themselves as “models” for others. Perfect for new kids and visitors!

2. Substitute procedures book. I think we can all agree that writing sub plans can be a pain. If you’re like me, your plans are super detailed with notes on everything from specifics points to teach in the lesson to exact times when students should line up to go to specials. In recent years, I’ve updated my sub binder to include pictures of where to find important materials like textbooks, extra paper, band-aids and incentive rewards.

I was devastated once to see that a sub had accidentally taken those notes with her. I decided I needed a more permanent solution and created a visual sub binder to include everything a sub would need to know from where things are located in my classroom to pictures of team members and support staff that they could call upon if they need help during their day. 

3. Photo directory book. On the first or second day of the school year, I take my students on a "field trip" around the building to find all of the important places and meet important people. Each student has a card labeled with a place (cafeteria, gym, playground) or a person (counselor, principal, nurse) and we go on a hunt to find each one.

Not only does it help students become more comfortable in their surroundings, but also they are able to make personal connections to staff members with whom they'll interact all year long.

It would be helpful to create a small photo directory of those important people and places once the field trip is over. Students surely will forget the name of someone or the exact location of the computer lab after that first day. After all, that's a lot to absorb in one day!

A photo directory will help them match faces with names long after meeting staff. Insert a simple map of the building for students to use when visiting the counselor or nurse for the first time. (This would also be great for the sub book - label important areas such a the teachers' lounge and adult restrooms!)


At the end of a unit:

4. Class project book. If you're like me, you incorporate hands-on projects into your units. During our last Titanic unit, students spent days making replicas of the ship, cabins, and passengers. I was so proud of their work and wanted to keep their projects displayed for the remainder of the year.

Soon, however, their projects were falling apart after accidentally being bumped or dropped. Plus, they were taking up every available inch of countertop space in the classroom. I realized the projects needed to go home so I took several photos of each and created a visual collection of their work. Students could still look at other's projects while I regained my workspaces!

5. ABC book. Have your students create an ABC book of all they learned from a unit. Assign each student a letter of the alphabet and have him create a document detailing one aspect of the unit that starts with his letter.

For example, from our Titanic unit, the student who received "I" could write a short paragraph or two about the iceberg hit by the Titanic and then draw a detailed illustration of his writing. Take pictures of the pages and combine into a book that not only serves as a reminder of the unit but also can be gifted to a younger class as an informational text. 

6. Classroom character traits book. Do your kids struggle with character traits? It never fails - no matter the group, it seems like understanding the difference between character traits, physical traits, and feelings is a struggle for my students. Before trying to analyze the characters in a book, teach about character traits using your own students as examples. Have students select at least two traits that fit them well and explain their choices. Then, have students draw exaggerated self-portraits showing those traits.

For example, if a student says she is kind-hearted, she could draw a huge heart on her chest or if another feels he is smart, he could draw a huge brain. Combine the pictures into a character trait book and use as a reference when student struggle to name character traits for characters they can't meet in real life. 


End of the year:

7. Class yearbook. I used to love the yearbooks that you could order with your student pictures. As a student, it was something I looked forward to receiving at the end of each year. But, as a teacher, I lost interest. It was filled with students I'd never met while my own students seemed to get lost amongst the crowd.

Instead, I wanted a yearbook filled with visual memories of our own adventures, trips, and lessons.

So throughout the year, I would take pictures of the important and the mundane and save them for an end of the year class yearbook. Because it contained pictures from our end of the year events, this was a book my students would never see. Instead, it was a memory for myself and a way to get next year's class excited about being in my classroom.

I put it in our classroom library at the beginning of the year, and the new students would gawk at all the previous group got to do.  It was a great way to garner interest in a unit before it even began. 

8. Parent volunteer gift. Do you have parent volunteers? A couple of years ago, I had a fabulous volunteer who did everything from creating booklets and cutting out yards and yards of laminated products to being a reading buddy for students who needed the extra help. When the year ended, I wanted to show my appreciation by giving her something a little more meaningful than a gift card.  

So I asked certain students to write her thank you notes and include specific ways she had helped them. Then I took pictures of the notes and combined them with pictures I had collected all year of her working in our classroom. (Since I was diligent about documenting our year for our blog, I had lots to choose from!)

The completed book ended up being one of the best gifts I've ever given -  unique and heartfelt. 

9. Visual planner. Over the past three years, I've challenged myself to reduce the amount of paper I collect and keep throughout a school year. At one time, I had at least 30 binders full of the papers I used during the years, copies of lesson plans, and other necessary teaching materials. They were quickly consuming my basement and I hadn't even finished my first decade of teaching yet.

I knew I needed to change.

I began scanning everything I used in a unit and saving digital copies on my hard drives and flash drives. But, there was never a good way to organize my visuals, such as anchor charts, posters, or signs I remade each year - until I thought to use a digital scrapbook.

Before removing visuals at the end of a unit, take pictures of each one and save in a file on your computer. At the end of the year, compile all of the pictures and publish into a book. The hard copy will save hours of searching and scrolling through files on my computer at the beginning of a new year. Instead, simply go to that section in the book and be reminded of what to make and how I wanted it should look. For visual learners like myself, this could be a huge time saver!


Have I convinced you yet to give digital scrapbooks a try in the classroom? Let me know! I'd love to see your finished products.