Self-Publishing With Your Class

I am so thrilled to host Susanna Westby from Whimsy Workshop! Her post will tell you exactly how to create a real book! Turns out it is easier and cheaper than I thought.


It’s an old stand-by activity in primary classrooms – the class book.
If you’re a primary teacher, you’ve probably done this many times: all students contribute a page, staple it together with a cover, and display it on the class bookshelf.

It’s a great activity for encouraging young writers, but with modern technology at our fingertips, it’s time for this activity to get a major update! Self-publishing your class books adds a new level of engagement and pride for students. For older students, they can become fully involved in the technical side of self-publishing.

Why bother?
First, publishing transforms the traditional stapled book into what is perceived as “a real book” – and that matters to students! There’s something about seeing their work printed and bound that makes them identify as “real” authors, just like those they see in a bookstore.

Second, when you publish, each student can have their own color copy; seeing their faces while sharing their finished book with friends and families – pure joy and pride! In my class experience, parents order one copy (about $10), but when they see the final result, they rush back to ask if they can order several more to send to relatives and to save as family keepsakes.

More ideas:

  • Put a copy in your school library for others to sign out.
  • Share the pages (projected) at a parent night or assembly; each student can read aloud their own page.
  • Use the book as the springboard for other language arts or math lessons, just as you would for any author study.
  • Collaborate to create non-fiction book instead, based on any subject you are studying in class.
  • Create a class poetry anthology or short stories.
  • Older students could create a book for younger classes, following the structure of a specific picture book or author.
  • Create a time capsule book with each student writing about themselves and their hopes for the future; parents can tuck them away to read years later. If it’s done each year, it’s a nice keepsake for the teacher too, after many years.

If you’d like to give it a try in your class, here are the steps to follow. I’ll use the example of my class book from this year called I Like Me.


Finding an Idea

Come up with a story that emerges naturally from class themes and discussions. We chose the topic of anti-bullying and assertiveness. Each student chose one animal, and we showed how that animal could be assertive after being “put down”. It’s a simple concept for a Grade 1 class.

Add Illustrations
Students illustrate their character; we used step-by-step drawing sheets, but older students could use photo references or create original drawings. More advanced students could create pictures digitally.
Drawing in progress. When students see the finished book, they understand why their teacher sent them back to add more details and color to their drawings!

When doing backgrounds there are three easy options.

  • Students can color the whole page, then simply scan it.
  • Students can cut out a single image and glue it to colored paper.
  • If you use an editing program, you can add the scanned images to a background you’ve made.

In all cases, you can simply drop your image into Powerpoint and use the text box option to add your text.


The main text is in black. A few more advanced students were challenged to provide non-fiction information about each animal, which makes up the lighter text framing the picture.
Print a Draft
The next important step is to print a draft of the book and read it aloud to the class; collaborate on changes to dialogue or plot. This sort of collaborative editing engages students in critical thinking, providing them with the opportunity to evaluate ideas, consider alternatives, and engage in higher level thinking.

This is the editing process in action! Students will notice details and make fantastic suggestions that you’d never think of!

When everyone agrees that it’s finished, there are a few options:


  • Save the powerpoint presentation as a PDF to send for printing to your local printers.
  • -Search for online printing companies submit your pages as jpegs.
  • In my case, I saved the pages as separate jpegs and dragged them into iphoto’s “Book Maker” feature.


Click the “Buy Book” button shown in the photo. Books arrive in about a week.


When the box of books arrives in the mail, get ready for fun! It’s one of the happiest and most memorable days. Students in my class have been quite emotional about it, and there’s a deeper understanding and appreciation for collaboration and the creative process.

Why not try self-publishing with your class as a way to promote higher level thinking? Plant the seeds by walking them through the process, and watch their creativity bloom! Who knows how many future authors and illustrators you might inspire.

If you’d like to read our class book I Like Me, you can find it here.

And finally, here is a freebie for you: A PDF photoshop tutorial guiding you through the steps for importing student images into photoshop and making simple backgrounds.

Thanks to Rachel for providing the opportunity to guest post! I’d love for you to share any of your own comments or experiences with self-publishing in the comments.

About Susanna Westby
Susanna is a mother or two who has been teaching primary classes for 20 years near Vancouver, Canada. She received her B.A. in education, visual arts and literature; her post-graduate diploma  focused on educational technology. In addition to creating children’s illustrations, she sells both her educational graphics and a myriad of literacy products in her Teachers Pay Teachers Store. Since earlier this year she has also been blogging about her own classroom at Whimsy Workshop.
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