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Altered Books

At the beginning of each Art 2 class, I require that each student bring in an old hardbound book.  Many times, they either can’t get their own or just don’t get one, so I always try to have some available.  The librarian at my school keeps me supplied with her discards and I try to pick up nice ones I find in our public library’s book sale room.  Skinny books work best.

We look at some examples and then spend a couple of days setting up their books.  I just have them “chunk” the pages together to create thicker pages for our altered books.  This way they can use Sharpies, watercolor and paint without the colors bleeding through to the back.  Depending on the covers, sometimes we have to prep them a bit, too.  Smooth covers sometimes need a little sanding to get the paint to stick.  The fabric covers sometimes have embossed titles that we have to sand off, too.  Usually, I don’t encourage painting their covers and/or giving their book a title until about halfway through the semester.  Sometimes, at the beginning they don’t know where their books will lead them so it can be hard to give it a cover or a title.

I really give them flexibility over their books.  I feel like they need that space to explore and just do whatever they want.  Especially since I’m giving them all their regular class assignments!  I provide a list of prompts for their altered books, but I do not require them.  I also allow them to copy the work of others and draw copyright protected characters, logos, etc.  I don’t allow them to do this in their regular artwork and sometimes they just really enjoy it.  Copying can be a great exercise sometimes, too! So, I allow it but I don’t encourage it.

Over the course of the semester, I have students work in their altered books whenever they finish an artwork early.  It also makes a great lesson for when I need a substitute teacher.

Some of their books are…well… disappointing.  BUT some of them are AMAZING!  Some of them just really take ownership of them and they really go over and above the basic requirements.

As far as grades go, I don’t give them a set number of pages.  Some kids (the ones who work very slowly but diligently on their regular artwork) have a hard time finding time to work on them.  Others will only scribble to fill up pages if you give them a set number.  So, I just grade them on their overall effort.

Here are some great spreads from my students.  Kindly ignore my charcoal smeared fingers holding open some of the books!!

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Hi, I’m Erin!

I’ve been a high school art teacher at a rural school in WV for the past 14 years. I teach Art 1, AP Art + Design, Art 2 and 3. 
I’m a little obsessed with my sweet husband. Together we have FOUR kids and a rescue dog named Boomer! 
I love a bad pun and terrible dad jokes. I spend time looking at MBTI memes, cooking, listening to serial killer podcasts and Harry Potter audiobooks on repeat. I also teach yoga and indoor cycling. Click the button below to learn more about me. 

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