How to Use ABC Books All the Way Through High School

Young child pointing at the letter A in an alphabet book
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We often think of ABC books as being educational only for young children. However, many years ago I was introduced to the idea of using ABC books for students in the elementary grades all the way though high school.

No, not your typical "A is for apple, B is for bear books," but ABC book format.

Using the ABC outline as a guide for writing allows for a creative, concise presentation of a subject matter and is versatile enough to use for nearly any age, ability level, or subject matter.

What You’ll Need to Create an ABC Book

ABC books are simple to make and don't require anything beyond basic supplies you probably already have at home - unless you want to get fancy with them!

You'll need:

  • A composition book or supplies for making your own book (such as a mini book or accordion book)
  • Pencil or pen
  • Crayons, markers, or other art medium for illustrating
  • Sample ABC books (I really like the series, Discovering America State by State as a wonderful example of how much or how little detail can be included in a book using the ABC format.)

If you want to get a bit fancier, a blank book, available at craft stores or online retailers, is a great investment. These books have a blank, white cover and blank pages, allowing students to customize and illustrate every aspect of the book.

A book intended for journaling is also an fabulous option for an ABC book.

How to Write an ABC Format Book

An ABC format book is an excellent alternative to a traditional written report and an ideal tool for review.

By listing a fact for each letter of the alphabet – one letter per page of their book – students are pushed to think creatively (particularly for letters such as X and Z) and write concisely.

The requirements for an ABC book can be adjusted based on a student's age and ability level. For example:

  • Elementary-aged students may be required to write one or two sentences for each fact, A-Z, or even, simply, “A is for…”
  • Older elementary and middle school students may be required to write a paragraph for each.
  • High school students might have a lengthier expectation for written work or simply be expected to include greater detail.

All ages should illustrate their work with the level of detail expected based on their age and ability level.

How to Use ABC Books

The ABC format allows for versatility across all subjects, from history to science to math. For example, a student writing an ABC book for science might choose space as his topic, with pages such as:

  • A is for asteroid
  • P is for planet
  • Z is for zero gravity

A student writing a math ABC book might include pages such as:

  • F is for fraction
  • G is for geometry
  • V is for variable

You may have to allow your students to be creative with some words, such as using words like eXtra or eXtremely for the letter X. Let's face it - those can be difficult pages to fill.

When my students create ABC books, we typically use them as a long-term project over the course of a particular unit of study. For example, they might spend six weeks on one ABC book. This allows them to spend a bit of time on the book each day, adding facts as they are studied and spending time developing the concepts for each page and completing the illustrations.

We like to have a little fun completing each ABC book by creating a cover design and including an author page on the inside of the back cover. Don't forget your author's head shot! You could even write a synopsis for the book on the back cover or inside the front cover.

Kids might enjoy asking their friends for review blurbs to include on the front or back cover.

ABC books provide students with a framework for summarizing facts and details. This framework helps kids stay on track and flesh out the details of the summary without feeling overwhelmed. Not only that, but ABC books are just a fun project for students of all ages - and one that might even get your reluctant writers excited.