Listen to this post as a podcast:
You’ve reached the end of a unit or year, and you want students to demonstrate their learning in a way that requires them to synthesize information, apply it in new ways, and reflect on how they have grown. To achieve any of these goals, an end-of-unit exam doesn’t quite cut it. You could have students do presentations…that’s always an option. But here’s one more: Have students create their own PDF e-books, packaging up some aspect of their learning into a finished digital product they can enjoy and share for years.
What Kind of E-Book Are We Talking About?
When you hear the term “e-book,” you might be thinking about the kind of thing you can read on a Kindle or Nook, and yes, those are e-books. But a broader definition includes PDF files, which don’t require any kind of special device to read. They also don’t require any high-tech software to create; I’ll show you how that works in a minute.
To get these templates, see the link at the end of this post.
Because this kind of e-book is ridiculously easy to create, having students make them is an excellent option for all kinds of final projects. And because lots of businesses now use e-books like these in their own work, assigning them to students gives them an extra skill they can take into their adult lives.
The Power of Visual Packaging
For some students, having an opportunity to put their words together with images and arrange it all into one tidy package creates a different kind of work ethic than you’d find if you just assigned a paper. Because the finished looks and feels a lot more like a “real” product of some kind, and has the potential to be a visually appealing one at that, you may find that students put a bit more effort into it.
Paintings in these images were created by Gwenn Seemel. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.
So Many Possibilities
Once your students have learned how to create e-books (and there’s a video below that shows them how), you can use this medium to have them create a massive array of projects. E-books could be assigned to a whole class or as a way to offer additional challenge to advanced students. Here’s just a beginning list of ideas for student-created e-books:
Mini-Textbooks that teach a single concept or group of ideas from your course material.
Book Reports or analyses that take the reader through the most significant moments of a book, compare several books to one another, introduce a selection of works from one author, or look at a central theme (e.g., “Images of Fatherhood”) as it is depicted in a collection of books.
Portfolios of a student’s art, photography, writing, or poetry.
To get these templates, see the link at the end of this post.
Year-in-Review Books that explore concepts from the school year like lessons learned, best moments, special people, turning points, or important challenges throughout the year.
Children’s Books that explore a concept learned in class or simply tell a good story.
Guidebooks offering advice and instructions for next year’s students.
How-To Books that teach the reader something about which a student has some level of expertise (think informational writing!)
Collections where students curate their favorite books, movies, quotes, video games, apps, memories, or even photos of meaningful places, objects, or people.
Reflective Journals students keep and build throughout the year to document their growth or thinking on a particular topic.
Memoir-Style Books that document a student’s journey through a Genius Hour or 20% Time project.
Club or Activity Books that chronicle the accomplishments of members of a sports team or club.
Professional Portfolios that could eventually be used as part of a job search. Teachers could also build their own professional portfolios in this same way.
How to Make an E-Book
If you have PowerPoint, which many, many people do, you already have all the tools you need to create an e-book. This video shows you how it works:
Get the Templates
The designs used to create the e-books in this post are available as individual PowerPoint templates or all together in a bundle. Each template also includes a link to the same template set up in Google Slides!! Click the image below to learn more:
OMG!!! This idea has totally opened up so many possibilities. To jazz up this last unit on informational text we are making a “Scholastic News” type publication. I was just going to allow them to use good old paper and crayons, but this has stepped our game up quite a few levels!!!
Stephanie, that sounds fantastic!! I would love to see pictures!
you minute video.l m saved me menber and of jennyfer
I love this idea so much! I teach college students, and this will be a great final project for several of my classes–thanks for sharing!
I think this would be ideal for college students. Come back and tell me how things went!
Wow, Jenn! This is awesome! I expect to use this to collect and compile my own work! So glad I took the time for your 5 minute video; I’m sure it just saved me hours of confusion and wandering. Love the simplicity and immense level of possibility! Thank you for offering a new piece of work sunshine.
So glad you like these, Sherri!
You’re just awesome. I love you my sweet girl.
Hi Dad! Oh my goodness. This is a nice surprise! I love you too!
Omg too adorable …what a great Dad!
Thank you I am incorporating this into my gallery studies class for a semester-long assignment.
My mind is blown. I never would have thought to do this in PowerPoint, but it’s a tool that most students already know how to use and they don’t need to make a “free account” for yet another publication website. Amazing.
I’m having a hard time not pinning and evernote-ing every one of your posts. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Your right most students already know how to use power point and Google slides. I am excited this will be a great way for my students to create portfolios and also share their work with other students.
I think I’ve just figured out what my Anime Club historians can do to really make their role as officers meaningful. Thank you so much for the idea. We take so many pictures during the school year of all the kids – participating in activities, hanging out, showing off their cosplay – and this sort of an ebook would be a wonderful keepsake for them.
Excellent is very helpful your templates
I’m speechless the idea is great and easy in the same time. Thanks a lot
My fourth graders are required to complete a history “task” geared towards a certain topic. Normally it has been to write a paper. We do it at the end of the year and they are so spent after testing that to write a paper seems like torture. I really would like to incorporate this into the process. However, we work off Chromebooks so have Google slides to work with. Is this possible through that?
Yes! Each template also comes with a link to a corresponding Google Slide template in the same style. Also, instructions for converting the Google Slides into a PDF are provided for the teacher. I wanted Chromebook kids to have the same access!
Hey Jennifer and All-
You can also read PDFs on Kindles if you email the document to your Kindle email address. I have not done a lot with this but perhaps if you played with the page size in Powerpoint, you might be able to adjust the readability on the Kindle. I took an Epublishing course just over a year ago and have more notes on this somewhere if you have questions. Great resources here! Thanks.
Thank you for sharing this idea. I love it and it turns out my students get very excited in learning about reading any type of written texts.
This is amazing, but I think it could even better through google slides, and I think it could be possible. This way students could even share and edit texts together in groups. Considering using this as a culminating project for a college course.
Yes, it’s totally possible through Google Slides, and you’re right, the ability to collaborate would take this to a new level! The templates I link to above also come with Google Slides-compatible files as well.
I know this isn’t your newest post, but I’ve read through it before, and just listened to the podcast. You are a genius!!!!! I can’t wait to try this out. Do you know if anyone has tried creating these on iPad minis? I know we can use Google Slides, but if it’s like the mobile app, you can’t edit the size of the presentation. Ideas?
Ooh, I didn’t realize you couldn’t change the slide size on iPad. I think I would try setting up the original Slide presentation on a desktop or laptop, where you could set the slide size, then just open it through the iPad. Would that work?
Jennifer, I am planning on showing the teachers that I will be working with this week your creative options. Thanks.
Carol, that’s fantastic! Thank you!
great idea, I created almost two years ago a little online project to create and edit ebooks, perhaps it can be useful. The service is free of charge – http://genebook.de. It is an online tool, – to use it you need only browser and internet connection.
Thanks for the idea, it’s awesome but in my opinion a slide transition will make the book spectacular. I will save it as .ppt only.
We are starting this year with 1:1 technology. These ebooks will be a great resource for the teachers. I am forwarding it to the teachers today. Thank you for taking the time to do this.
Hello, I love this. My 5th graders are making these as a culminating piece of evidence for an EL project. I was wondering if you have any completed e-book samples that I can show them?
Hi Katie! I don’t have any with the templates shown. I do believe someone contacted me a while back with a link to some samples, but I’m not sure what happened to them. (If that person is reading this, please refresh my memory!!). I would love to see some finished samples as well — if others reading this have some, feel free to share a link.
Hi, These templates look great. Is it possible to add audio to the e-books? I teach using the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) so having audio along with the text and visuals is important.
Hi, Leigh! This is Holly, a Customer Experience Manager. Because the final step to creating an e-book is to save it as a PDF, no, we don’t believe it is possible to add audio. However, you could choose to leave it as a PowerPoint and add audio that way. Hope this helps!
Can you do this with Google slides?
Hi, Tara! This is Holly Burcham, a Customer Experience Manager. Yes! You can certainly do this with Google Slides. Each PP template has a link to the same template in Google Slides.
If we purchase the templates can we share the templates with all students/staff at my school?
Hi Mark! The single-user license is for you and your students only, so yes to the students, but no to the rest of the staff. Sharing it with other teachers is great, however, if you purchase multiple-user licenses. Thanks for checking!
I love this idea; however does anyone have ideas on how students can share their own creative e-books with other students on a safe website?
Hi Georgia! I’m Holly, a Customer Experience Manager. I think the best way to enable students to safely share with others would be to create the e-books in Google Slides and then you have a few options on how to share–you can set the permission to “anyone with the link can view” and/or send the link only to certain people. The templates Jenn links to above come with Google Slides-compatible files if that’s something you’d be able to do. Hope this helps!
When I was in graduate school (chemistry), I was in a class where, over the course of a semester, each student wrote a module about a particular chemistry technique. After many years, my professor has an impressive, free, online textbook on modern research techniques.
I can imagine doing the same thing and someday having a student-written textbook tailored to my style/curriculum.
This is fantastic and so helpful! Thank you for sharing. Can this also be done using google slides rather than powerpoint?
You can absolutely use Google Slides to make E-Books!
Thanks so much! Absolutely loved the simplicity and beauty of the video sample! Can’t way to try it with my writing students!
So many creative ideas that will inspire students to be more interactive with research, writing and design.
I love this idea for science lab reports!
I loved the Midn’s Eyes strategies mentioned. As a teacher of English Learners/Multilingual students, reading the words to students ahead of time is so valuable!
Thanks for the great idea. Want to try it out.
Learning about personal finance and wanted power point or google slides to talk about credit cards.