Mentoring Science Students to Draft a Book – Give Them a Template


Tip#4In 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.

How should a physics and engineering teacher like me instruct students in how to write a book? I gave the reasons why I am doing this project in a previous post. I have been learning about the self-publishing process over the past year, as I published my first book and marketed it. This did not make me an expert, but it gave me a new perspective that I could share with students. Besides this experience, we are networking with writers in our community to give the students other perspectives on writing and publishing.

But back to the main question – how should a science teacher like me teach students this process of writing and publishing? I decided to give the students wide latitude on creativity, while giving them more detailed guidance on deadlines and expected outcomes. To start them off, I had two meetings with them before the summer break where we discussed ideas for books and the importance of writing to a target audience. For the summer, I gave them the assignment to write a first draft of the book, due mid-August. We are starting to review these drafts now. To help them save time and concentrate on the creative aspect of writing, I gave the students a book template that was formatted as a paperback book, ready for publishing. All they had to do was type over the text. Since the whole point of this project was to learn to communicate effectively about science through a book, learning the intricacies of formatting a book, as required in the Chicago Manual of Style, was not high on my list of learning objectives. Providing the students a template saved them valuable time to do what was most important.

Throughout this project, I will show other ways that you can mentor students in the creative process of producing a book, while giving them supports that keep the project from being too daunting and time consuming. If you would like to see or use the template, click Book Template for Students to download it. It was based on the template provided at the “Tools and Resources” link on the website for APE (Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur): How to Publish a Book, by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch. I had used this book as my primary guide in writing and publishing my first book, and I recommend it.

Next week, my post will have a tip on organizing students into a writing critique group.

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Recruiting Science Students to Become Published Authors


digital-self-publishingWhat was I thinking? Summer vacation was only a few weeks away, and I had decided to dedicate much of my summer to mentoring a group of science students to write their own books. Why? Well, I had just self published my own book that I had co-authored with a former student. The experience was rejuvenating for me. Not only did I rediscover my love of writing, but I also discovered a whole new world in today’s self publishing arena. The book we wrote, however, was an essay on spirituality, so we had to work on it outside of school. We wrote the first draft and did our own first edits over last summer, then we got friends to beta edit and review over the fall, then we hired a copy editor to get a finished book by January, and published it this spring. We also did our own marketing, though I realize now that we started late. We made many mistakes, but we learned the entire self publishing process with many of its facets.

Now what could I do with this newfound knowledge and interest in writing and publishing, given that I teach Physics and Engineering in a public high school? I have always required my students to write short essays about science, as I have believed that the ability to clearly communicate scientific concepts helps students learn those concepts while honing their communication skills. Mentoring students to write their own books about science would take this idea to a new level. Yet, it is right in line with the Next Generation Science Standards which seek to link science with literacy.

Then, one day in late May, it hit me as I talked to a couple outstanding science students – they were doing incredible science research projects this summer. I realized I knew other students doing similar projects. I find that mentoring students in special projects is one of the highlights of being a teacher – I have mentored many different groups as shown in the photo. Therefore, I chose three high school students that I knew and asked if they would be interested in publishing a book by next spring about their science research experience. Their response was enthusiastically positive! In fact, by the next week, they had recruited three more students. I set up two after school meetings to go over my idea with them and to see if they were all truly committed.

My first step was to have a short meeting after school to explain to all of them what I had in mind and what I believed the project would require of them – I asked them to think everything over and commit to the project by the next meeting. I also asked them to give me their parents’ contact information, so their parents could understand what I was doing. I called all the parents over the next few days, and they were universally positive and thankful for the opportunity. At the second meeting, I laid out a tentative schedule of events from initial drafting of a book through marketing and selling. I also had asked the students to produce a draft book proposal with an outline of their ideas and their target audience. The students were excited and eager to get started, and they all had great proposals. Finally, I provided them some resources to get started. Now I have six outstanding rising junior high school students who have dedicated themselves to writing and publishing a book by April 2015 with the goal of selling 500 copies by the end of the school year in June 2015 – an ambitious objective, but motivational! 

Subscribe to this blog at and get email updates on the first and third Mondays of each month as I continue to describe this project and our journey to publish our books. Also, please share it with other teachers or anyone who may benefit.