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Thematic Traveling Daybook

Thematic Traveling Daybook

Written by Robert Puckett
July 29, 2013

Image originally uploaded on 2013-07-29 15:54I teach Graphics Communications at J.H. Rose High School in Greenville, NC. My classroom is a mashup of a computer lab, a screen printing shop, and an offset printing and bindery. We have 20 plus computers– mostly iMacs with a few leftover Dells.

I currently teach three classes:

  • Intro to Graphics Communications, including five major printing processes, career opportunities, safety, employability skills;
  • Digital File Prep, covering designing and outputting digital files for a variety of printing methods, page layout, file management and output;
  • Advertising and Design, exploring problems in design by applying design basics to creatively develop simple to complex layouts using industry standard software.

Because we have the tools and technology to support the creation of texts from ideas to products, it’s really important for students to be able to create with the end product in mind, to ask themselves questions about their design:

  • How is it going to be consumed? digitally? or print?
  • What kind of print or electronic media makes the most sense for my audience and purpose?
  • What do I need to consider in terms of layout, page setup, saving and outputting my file?
  • What kind of paper (texture, weight, surface, brightness) or display (mobile, desktop, LCD, projector, etc.) will my audience encounter?

Multimedia Includes Print

The problem is that many students are just not that interested in moving the projects they create on the screen to printed pieces. They are engaged making digitally on the computers, progressing through tutorials and projects at their own pace, but most lack enthusiasm and perserverance in creating print media like posters, flyers, shirts, tickets, and cd covers.  They are fine producing and consuming on screen and most seem to think digital delivery is sufficient.

I, on the other hand, want them to engage the page and understand the craft involved in print media, so I designed the Travelling Daybook project to bridge the digital/ print divide.  For this project, students in each of my classes make a daybook by creating covers, printing and sewing in pages, writing about a theme that they are interested in, releasing the books for others to contribute to, and following the book’s journey on the website Book  This forces them to attend to the printer’s craft of measuring, cutting, and binding, engages them in producing writing that is self-selected and meaningful, and gives them an opportunity to use digital tools to track physicals books, sharing their stories in both print and digital formats.

After reading about “interest journals” in Penny Kittle’s “Write Beside Them” , I decided to have students create daybooks that would be released into the world to travel around freely and become objects that collected people’s stories. Once bound, students decided their own topics such as sports, fishing, zombies, DJing, cars, pets, and video games. Students took ownership of their books and their writing, investing in writing something that someone else would want to read. First, students released their books inside the classroom.  Since they were required to pick another student’s daybook, there was an immediate connection based on similar interest, creating community hyper-locally with peers who sat in the same room, kids they might not have ever talked to.  Next, they sent their hand-made books into the wild, and while many were sad to let them go, they came to realize the benefit of connecting with others who have similar interests and feeling like part of a greater global community. 

Make With Me

Here, I’ll describe how to make daybooks using recycled snack bags for covers.  While you can use wallpaper, gift bags, old t-shirts, or have students design and print their own covers, remixing snack bag for daybook covers helps us think about package design, consider sustainability in making and marketing, and explore culture, health, and status associated with foods.  As I’ve worked through multiple iterations of this project, I’ve decided that it makes sense to have students make two daybooks:  one to keep as a personal daybook that is crafted from their favorite snack bag and one to release with a cover that is student-designed, printed, and related to the theme of the travelling daybook.


Hammer, nails, block of wood, big plastic needles with large eye-holes, tape, glue (quick-setting such as contact cement), spray adhesive, rulers, cutting tools (x-acto, scissors, cutting wheel, paper cutter), ribbon or string, paper clamps, rubber bands, pencils, markers, cutting mat, mat board, paper, chip bags.

Day One: Create Covers

Cut two pieces of mat board to 6″ X 9″ ( or.5″ larger than book pages). Clean chip bags with mild soap and water.  Dry, measure, and cut chip bag to 13.25″ X 10″ (or 1.25″ larger than the combined total width of both pieces of mat board and 1″ larger than the height of one mat board).  Fold bag in half to locate center line.  Measure over from center .125 on both sides of the line to create a .25″ spine.  Measure from top of bag down .5″ on both sides and draw a line across the top of the bag.  Repeat from bottom of bag to create reference lines for aligning the mat board.  Coat back of chip bag and one side of both pieces of mat board with brush-on glue (contact cement).  Allow to dry for a couple of minutes.  Now use reference lines to place mat board in position on chip bag. Trim corners to allow folding of excess chip bag (see slideshow diagram for detail.) Coat extra chip bag around edge with glue (contact cement) and coat .5″ margin of mat board with glue (contact cement).  Fold and adhere chip bag.  Smooth to seal.  Cut sheet of cardstock 12.25″ X 9″.  Paint inside cover of daybook and one side of cardstock with glue (contact cement).  Wait a few minutes, then adhere cardstock to inside cover of daybook.  Press smooth.

Day Two: Assemble Book

Fold 25 sheets of 11″ X 8.5″ in half on the 11″ dimension.  Insert sheets into each other to create a 5.5″ X 11″ booklet.  Open pages up and clamp to book cover with large paper clamps.  Place book down on block of wood and nail three holes in the spine– one at the center, one 3″ above, and one 3″ below.  Nail through the paper, the daybook cover, and into the wood. Wiggle nails out and make sure hole is big enough for string or ribbon.  Sew paper into cover using a pamphlet stitch starting from outside the spine, threadding into the top hole, out through the middle hole, back in through the bottom hole, and back out the middle hole.  Leave extra string or ribbon for tying the short starter piece to a longer piece that you can wrap around the book at the middle hole.

Day Three:  Create Content

Students choose a theme and type a short narrative into a 5″ X 8″ document about an experience connected to that theme. They write fiction or creative nonfiction and pair with illustrations, photos, drawings and realia. Students share what they have written and give feedback to other students. They then create page layouts in Indesign (Publisher or open-source Scribus would work fine) to fit the pages of the physical book and typeset their entries. They use Photoshop or to scale their images to the size needed to fit their daybook. They then print their content with crop marks and trimmed the pages and glued them into their books.

Day Four: Register Books on BookCrossing & Create Release Notes

Students create an account and log onto  Students register their books by title so they can track the daybook’s activity on the website.  Once they’ve registered the book, they receive a Book Crossin ID number (BCID #).  Students then write release notes that inform anyone who finds the book what to do with it.  This is procedural writing, so it is important to be clear and concise.  They consider this part of the book as an informational “why and how to” for a person who finds their book and review samples of release notes on the website and use them as mentor texts for writing their own. They include the BCID# in their release notes for tracking the physical daybook at the Book Crossing website.  After students finish entering all of the digital content to the website, they upload their narrative into BrookCrossing, print their release notes, journal entries (which is their narrative) and/or illustrations,photographs drawings to be place/glued into the physical book.

Day Five:  Release

The next step in the process is to do a couple of controlled releases. The first was within the class. We put all of the book on a table and students were asked to pick a book and to write on the theme of the book and to log the entry on the BookCrossing website. For the second controlled release students were encouraged to share their books with a member of the faculty and ask them to log their entry. I advised the students that they may need to help their teacher with the process of entering the content and navigating the website. Next, students release their books into the wild.  They find others’ daybooks and begin the story-sharing journey by writing in others’ daybooks and uploading their entries, called journalling, on the Bookcrossing website.

Book Learning

During the creation of the physical daybooks, students were engaged, and there was an energy around the making. The peer-to-peer interactions were cool to observe.  Students were helping each other by showing and demonstrating the steps of creating the books, and there was simultaneous learning and contributing to other students’ learning. Students were sharing a new mutual experience and talking each other through solving the problems of making the books.  There was a lot of laughing, talking, playing, making, and sharing by kids who had previously segregated themselves into closed groups. Near the end of that semester, I heard a student say, “We are a family in here.” This process of making books together was a great activity to create a community of learners that would continue to grow and learn together throughout the semester.

While working digitally at, I talked with students about their identities in online spaces and how important it was to consider how they portray themselves on open networks.  We discussed safety, privacy, and professionalism in their writing, and this process was somewhat of a learning curve as students worked to navigate the BookCrossing platfrom.  The relationships and the community that developed in the bookmaking process carried over here, and the students helped one another navigate this new territory. We were all learning this how the site worked together.  

While talking about this project with Tar River Writing Project colleague Jenifer Smyth, I mentioned that I would like to see more interaction in the students’ daybooks.  We brainstormed together, and this is the graphic she came up with after our discussion. Some really good ideas emerged, and she suggested hosting a release event at the school.  We talked about what that would look like, and one idea was inviting community members into the school and having students pitch/talk about their books and encouraging people to write in them. Afterward the students could help community members log entries into the BookCrossing site. We also talked about setting up events in other places like coffee shops and tea houses. The idea is to have computers available for students and community members to use during these release events, promoting community digital literacies.  I think there are lots of opporuntities here for more peer-to-peer and cross-generational sharing, and I hope you’ll share your ideas, questions, and ways you might adapt this project for your own context.  

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