Back to Projects

Our Book of Tools

School: Alice B. Beal Elementary

City/State: Springfield, MA

Grade(s): K

Format(s): Children's book

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Science and Technology, Visual Arts

Project Overview

Kindergarten students from the Alice B. Beal Elementary School in Springfield, Massachusetts, created this book about tools. This product was part of a learning expedition on tools, in which students learned to identify tools and their uses and learned about the wider world through the study of tools. A major part of the study was learning about people’s jobs through the tools they use. Students interviewed members of the school and outside community to learn about the tools these people used.

Many kindergartens do a unit study of “Our School” or “Our Community” to help students become knowledgeable and comfortable about their community; this Learning Expedition was a particularly interesting and effective way to do that. The study gave students a concrete, consistent, interesting lens on the lives of each community member; kindergarteners were excited to see the similarities and differences in the tools of a police officer, school secretary, custodian, electrician, technology teacher, cook, plumber, etc.

Throughout the expedition, students were immersed in hands-on activities using actual tools.  They were involved in a case study of carpentry tools, and a classroom center was revamped into a wood-working station. Carpentry and construction tools were categorized by students into groups, based on their main function (e.g. tools that join things; tools that measure; tools that grip)

Each student chose a tool that he or she wanted to become an expert on by looking at tools and photos of tools. Through nonfiction read-alouds, small group readings, visits from experts, and a site visit to Lowe’s Home Center, students learned the name of their tool, its use, and anything else they could about their tool. 

Students used writer’s workshop as a means for noticing details about their tool and describing it through writing. Students revised their writing multiple times. Students worked with the technology specialist to word process their sentences themselves on the computer. Students also created multiple drafts of their illustrations, making them as accurate as possible. They received critique from peers and teachers between drafts.

In addition to this product, students also created wooden sculptures that they designed, built and painted for a school exhibition.

This project was featured in an exhibit at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2010 featuring exemplary student work, Books for Kids, by Kids.

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • The idea of using tools as lens to understand professions is a powerful one that can be used with young students in a number of ways
  • An elegant visual layout, that combines student illustrations and writing
  • Shows a high level of precision and detail in kindergarten student’s illustration (see drawing of a bayonet saw, combination square and slip joint pliers)
  • Exemplifies the power of revision and critique for young students
  • Writing and drawings retain the qualities of young student work while also being of high quality

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • With support, I can make connections between the pictures and words in an informational text.
  • I can teach my reader about a topic using pictures and words.
  • I can participate in shared writing projects.
  • I can use pictures to send a clear message to my listener.
  • I can compare 2D and 3D shapes using a variety of features.
Back to Projects