STEAM Project Idea – Have your STEM Students Write a Book

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Three AuthorsLooking for a new project to do with your students this fall? I have been a science and engineering teacher for ten years, and I am always looking for ways to improve my students’ learning experiences. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) has become a hot topic in education – we need more students majoring in STEM fields, according to many, including President Obama. Many also advocate that a richer STEM education is when Art is added to the list, making it STEAM. So how can a STEM teacher add some sort of art project to his or her curriculum? Many of us appreciate what art can bring to any classroom, but we don’t want our students’ effort to degrade into a cut-and-paste activity or something too simplistic. I piloted a project for the past year, and I think it is one option that can work well and is far from simplistic: Have your students write a book about their STEM experience.

I started the project in May 2014 by talking with a few outstanding science students who were each pursuing some sort of independent research. They were at the end of their sophomore year, and I asked them how they would like it if I guided them through the process to write and self-publish a book about their research experience. I had just self-published my first book, so I was familiar with all the steps required to bring a book to publication. They all agreed, and we started. We followed a Project Schedule I laid out. We also followed the steps of an author hoping to traditionally publish, writing to a target audience and going through several phases of editing and revising. We set a goal to publish by April 2015, and all three of the students that stayed on the project published in May or June of this year. You can see photos of the three authors and their books above — click HERE to see more.

The experience these students have gained by writing their own books is both broad and deep. Over the past year, along with actually writing a book, they have learned how to write a book proposal, work in a writing critique circle, coordinate with beta readers, copy editors, and cover designers, and blog about their book project. They also attended a writers conference, and they set up a booth to explain their project at our state science teachers annual conference. In the end, these students have learned a deep lesson in how to communicate about STEM. Along the way, I documented our steps and the checklists, templates, and other resources we used. All of this is available in my book: Creating Student Authors: How to Mentor Any Student to Be a Self-Published Author, available in ebook or paperback. Let me know if you plan to do this project in your school – I would be happy to help in any way I can, such as providing an introductory presentation to you and/or your students.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with tips you can use in your classroom as I describe my experience teaching and mentoring STEM students. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.

Start Mentoring Your Students to Write and Publish Books Today

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This ebook is only $.99 until June 6th as a Kindle Countdown deal

This ebook is only $.99 until June 6th as a Kindle Countdown deal

Now is a great time to start a special project with students who can work through the summer and through next school year writing and self-publishing their own books. Why now? I found in mentoring three of my own students that the summer provided the ideal time to draft their books. Drafting an entire book takes weeks, and it requires few distractions–the school year is too busy for this. Therefore, by meeting your students now, setting up a schedule for the project, and assigning the first few tasks before the school year ends will allow them to get started and draft their books over the summer break.

My book, Creating Student Authors: How to Mentor Any Student to Be a Self-Published Author, is just released and available in paperback and ebook. If you would like to duplicate this project with a group of students, this book is the how-to guide that will give you everything you need to start. It is filled with free links, templates, checklists, and other resources so you only need to set up the meetings and use the book to follow a step-by-step approach to get your students published. One copy is sufficient for a teacher and a group of students–you can share the content with the group.

The ebook is on a Kindle Countdown deal and listed for only $.99 until June 6th. It is free at all times if you are in the Kindle Unlimited program. Click HERE to go to Amazon.com and purchase a copy. Get started with your students this week.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I mentored three high school science students to become published authors by June 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit. Use my book for your project – you can read an excerpt and buy it at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com/books/.

Student Author Successfully Finishes One-Year Project to Publish Her Book

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Schwartz cover

Jennifer Lee Schwartz, student author, self-publishes her first book.

In this blog, I am sharing how I am mentoring a group of high school science students to write and publish a book about their science research experiences by April-June 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year.

I have been working with a group of students for one year now on this project. We started with a couple meetings last May. Now I have three students who have stuck with me through the year and are publishing their books. The first student to successfully finish and publish is Jennifer Lee Schwartz. Her book, available now in paperback, and soon in ebook, is On the Right Track: A Student’s Memoir of Research, Advancement, and Holding on to Hope.

Jennifer followed the process I laid out, and she improved on it by finding people who provided copy editing and helped make her book cover. She followed up on contacts we made back in November at the Ridgefield Writers Conference, and they helped her produce a professional quality book. As her mentor, I could not be more impressed.

If you are a teacher who likes to explore new ways to challenge your students, this project is perfect for you – and now is the perfect time to start. Use my Project Schedule to get started. You can access all the templates, checklists, and other materials at my Resources page. To get a complete description and step-by-step instructions, get my book, Creating Student Authors, to use with your students – one copy will be enough to work with a class or group. The paperback has QRCs at the end of each chapter so you or your students can scan them and instantly get the necessary templates and checklists right on your smartphone or tablet. If you prefer the ebook, it has hyperlinks to do the same thing. I would appreciate your feedback on either format. Good luck!

My next post will be more about my students’ experiences publishing their books.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by April-June 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.

The Final Push: Helping Student Authors Prepare to Release Books for Publication

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Student Authors, Jennifer Lee Schwartz and John Diorio, plan book release on May 17th

Student Authors, Jennifer Lee Schwartz and John Diorio, plan book release on May 17th

In this blog, I am sharing how I am mentoring a group of high school science students to write and publish a book about their science research experiences by April-June 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year.

I have coordinated with my students to get their books ready for release, so we are in the last stages of preparing them for publication. Simultaneously, we have to market them for release. As self-published authors, we have nobody but ourselves to market our books. My students have blogs and have been posting about their work and their books for the past nine months, so they have done well in building up interest in their books. Now they need to alert their blog followers, their contacts, their family and friends, and their community that their books are about to be available for purchase. Obnoxious sales pitches are not appropriate. Instead, just letting people know the books are available will suffice.

Two of the student authors, Jennifer Lee Schwartz and John Diorio, are planning a joint book release party at our town library on the day the books will be available on Amazon.com:

On the Right Track: A Student’s Memoir of Research, Advancement and Holding on to Hope

by Jennifer Lee Schwartz

Broadening the High School Experience: A Student’s Perspective on Independent Exploration

by John Diorio

Official release party May 17th from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Ridgefield Library

Contact Jennifer Lee Schwartz if you would like to attend.

Jennifer’s memoir about her journey through the Ridgefield High School Science Research Program is filled with emotional anecdotes and new perspectives on innovative cancer research. Jennifer chronicles her struggles and successes, both in the program and in her life, to create a powerful and touching story. John’s book explores the concept of a more open and personalized education system. Creating classes that are centered around independent study projects, will promote exploration and allow students to put their knowledge to use.

The other student author, Alexandra DiGiacomo, will be releasing her children’s book about sharks in June and is working out the details.

My original deadline to these students was to release their books in April. I think April is ideal, as students can do work over spring break and release their books before the final wave of academic tests that hit in May. Nevertheless, these students needed some extra time, and they are releasing their books before the end of the school year. All in all, they have done an outstanding job in completing this project. If you are interested in duplicating this project as a teacher or mentor with your own student authors, I am releasing my book, an easy to follow step-by-step guide to the entire self-publishing process, on April 27, 2015 on Amazon.com:

Creating Student Authors: How to Mentor Anyone to Be a Published Author

by Bryan Holmes

Profits will benefit Ridgefield Public Schools and Newington Public Schools in Connecticut.

My next post will be more about the preparation for publication release.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by April-June 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.

Approaching Publication – Final Guidance for Student Authors

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Final Steps to Getting Published (Bryan Holmes)

Final Steps to Getting Published (Bryan Holmes)

In this blog, I am sharing how I am mentoring a group of high school science students to write and publish a book about their science research experiences by April/May 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year.

I have had meetings with my students over the past week, and they are almost ready to publish their books. They are getting back their marked up manuscripts from copy editors, they are coordinating the publication release event, and they are gearing up their marketing efforts. The challenge for me is to help them without being overbearing so that they get published in a timely manner.

Finishing up editing is the first of the final steps to publication. Using the Chicago Manual of Style, the copy editor will have marked up the draft manuscript. Now my students must go over each recommended edit and either accept or reject it. Formatting or grammatical edits should almost always be accepted. If the copy editor strays into content editing, the author may want to reject the recommendation. Whatever the case, the corrected draft manuscript, with copy edits incorporated, must be read through for coherence one more time. This can be tedious, but it’s an essential step to ensure the book reads clearly. Finally, the book must be formatted for upload into Amazon’s CreateSpace (paperback format) and Kindle Direct Publishing (ebook format). See my Self-Publishing Checklist for Amazon for this process.

Picking the publication release date and venue is the next important step to finalize publishing. As a self published author, you are in charge of when your book comes out–so don’t surprise yourself and publish it before you are ready. Schedule a venue, invite the people you want to be there, and market the event as something special. Two of my students, John Diorio and Jen Schwartz, are working with the Ridgefield Library and tentatively have set up May 9th, a Saturday, to hold their release event. Alexandra DiGiacomo is looking to release her children’s book in an elementary school, possibly by late April. All three are in the final stages of coordination, so watch here for a confirmation of details.

Finally, keep marketing and build excitement for the publication release. All three of these students are planning events where they can promote their books immediately after they come out. Each has a different target audience, so each has a different marketing plan. Setting up a book signing is typically the least effective way to promote a book, especially if you are unknown. Therefore, these students are seeking to promote in places where their target audience already is. In other words, they are bringing their books to potential customers, not hoping for customers to come to them. Use my Marketing Checklist for Authors to start your marketing plan.

My next post will be more about the preparation for publication release.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by April/May 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.

Project Schedule to Publish a Book – What’s Worked and What Hasn’t

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Schedule page imageIn this blog, I am sharing how I am mentoring a group of high school science students to write and publish a book about their science research experiences by April 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year.

Mentoring a group of high school students is always challenging, but also rewarding. In setting up this project last spring, I gave the students a Project Schedule to meet with the understanding that we could change milestones as we progressed. With about two thirds of the time gone by, I can tell what worked and what did not work out as planned. If you plan to do a similar project, this assessment could be helpful to you.

What worked as planned? The basic approach we have followed and the time given for each stage of the project have been about right. Also, having the students draft their books over the summer was definitely the best way to do this, as they have very little time for the project during the school year. I think the only other way that they could find the time to write during the school year would be if the project was part of a class. We are doing the project outside of class as an extracurricular activity, and the students are already overloaded with other activities. Finding time to do anything extra is a huge challenge.

What has not worked as planned? The biggest challenge I am seeing with the students is to find the time to finalize their draft books after the beta reader feedback and to prepare their books for copy editing. These tasks require hours of careful line by line analysis of the text. I had hoped for them to do this over the winter break, but the students were too busy. I tried to hold an after school meeting, but it was unproductive. What I need to do is to dedicate a day off from school, say on a Saturday, and do a detailed self edit of our texts to incorporate the beta reader feedback and prepare the texts for copy editing. In order to meet our goal of publishing the books this April, we must get the copy editing done no later than March. Given that my students are all about to take their mid-year exams, we cannot begin this process until the end of January, leaving February and March to finish. I think we will make the deadline, and I had planned extra time in the schedule. When I do this project again, however, I will plan a weekend retreat for this final editing process.

My next post will be more about the preparation for publication release.

Subscribe to this blog athttps://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with weekly tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by April 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.

For the Final Editing of a Draft Book, Hire a Professional

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Tip#7In this blog, I am sharing how I am mentoring a group of high school science students to write and publish a book about their science research experiences by April 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year.

For the self-published author, one of the biggest challenges is not to look self-published. A big giveaway that you wrote and published your own book is an unprofessional format and appearance. Books, especially in print form, have their own particular look, and it is almost impossible for an amateur, self-publishing author to get this look right on his or her own. The best way to ensure your book looks like a book is to hire a professional editor for the final editing phase.

In their book, APE (Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur): How to Publish a Book, Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch explain some final editing options that are available. There are two basic types of book editors: content editors go through and evaluate the book’s content, especially as it appeals to the target audience, while copy editors go through the formatting and ensure it matches with the Chicago Manual of Style, the “bible” for publishing. As Kawasaki and Welch also point out, if you enlist beta readers to get feedback on your draft, you may not need a content editor, but regardless of how diligent you have been in editing and revising, you will want a copy editor to go through your manuscript. There are too many formatting nuances for the amateur author to catch all the mistakes—and there will be mistakes—probably hundreds of them that the copy editor will find.

You can find copy editors for hire in many places. As traditional publishers have downsized, many copy editors now freelance or have their own companies. Many self-publishing and hybrid publishing firms offer author services, including copy editing. I used CreateSpace’s copy editing service on my first book, and I was happy with the result. There are many options, so look into them and determine what is best for your students. If money is an issue, consider having your students do a fundraiser to pay for the copy editing. Fees vary, but plan on approximately $500 for the professional copy editing of a 100-page book. Some editors charge by the word, others by the hour, so compare several estimates. The money will be well spent, and it is the only expense that the self-publishing author should not avoid.

Next week, my post will have a tip on how to self-publish and release a book.

Subscribe to this blog at https://bryanholmesstem.wordpress.com to get email updates of my posts with weekly tips you can use in your classroom as I describe how I am mentoring six high school science students to become published authors by April 2015. Also, please give me your feedback, and please share blog posts with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.