Turn Your Sketchbooks into Multipurpose Learning Tools

Within my district, the elementary level art students are each provided a printed and bound sketchbook. Teachers get to choose how they wish to use sketchbooks in their own art rooms. Some teachers require sketchbook assignments, but more frequently, teachers use them for project preparation, sketches and free draw.  Last year, because it was my first year, I had no say in the design or content of the sketchbooks for my specific school. This year, however, my goal was to have students use them in many different ways, both for educational and expressive purposes.

Therefore, in addition to using the sketchbooks for sketching and free draw, I also reference them during instruction. We use them to explore the elements and principals of design as well as other topics like color theory. I make this possible by utilizing handouts that students insert into their sketchbooks. I also include inspirational handouts, like a list of drawing ideas, and a list of the art room rules.

inserts for sketchbooks

A couple of the other elementary art teachers and I compiled the handouts, informative inserts, and activities that spanned the scope and sequence of all our grade levels to transform our sketchbooks.  Here is a link to a Pinterest board that includes some of the inserts we used and many more!


Using handouts like these has made our sketchbooks into invaluable resources for our students. Not only do they get to use the sketchbooks for the traditional purpose of sketching and planning, but they also get to create a fun place to store all of their new knowledge and express themselves creatively!

Do you take on the task of designing your students’ sketchbooks or are they in charge of how they use them?

Would you include inserts like these in your sketchbooks? Which do you think would be the most helpful?  

Alecia Eggers Kaczmarek

Alecia is an elementary art teacher in central Iowa who is passionate about teaching and reaching her students with an innovative and meaningful arts education.


  • Theresa Gillespie

    I love the idea of students having sketchbooks to be used throughout the art class for many different purposes. Our district has never purchased sketchbooks for our elementary students but it is something I’d like to look into.

    Having inserts for students to refer to is an excellent idea. I would include inserts on the Art Elements and Principals that students could use while working on projects. A handout with creative starters or ideas would be helpful as well. I like the inserts that you are using. Having a page that helps students be reminded of classroom rules or guidelines is perfect. I have to say the Art Room Voice Level chart is my favorite ;).

    • Alecia Eggers

      The voice level chart also happens to be my favorite :)! If you follow the Pinterest link, it includes some of the elements and principles handouts that we inserted in ours as well! The M.C. Gillis ones are awesome!

  • Helen Cantwell

    Terrific. I also use sketchbooks in my elementary art room. I have the students call them ISN Sketchbooks. In our district the students use Interactive Student Notebooks in their classroom and are familiar with them and the format. It works for us, and I will be using them during my observation, which validates and connects to our goal of Engaging students. I appreciate your pages very much.
    I have expressed to the students that any assessments will be open sketchbook tests, where they have the resourses to use in their ISN Sketchbooks.
    Looking forward to hearing more … thank you.

    • Alecia Eggers

      I love the term Interactive Student Notebooks! Awesome!

  • Ashley

    How do you add in handouts with a premade sketchbook?

    • Alecia Eggers

      We submit a 102 (front cover/back cover + 100 pages) page long document to our district’s printers prior to them actually printing out and binding the sketchbook, including those first pages with the images and inserts (so instead of say 10 blank pages, we have 10 of the pages with info). So it just prints in the order of the pages submitted and is bound that way!

      • Connie Vickers

        wow! Must be amazing to have a district that will do this for you!

  • Connie Vickers

    How do you attach the handouts inside the sketchbooks? I do something similar but I have students take notes on the elements, etc. in their sketchbooks. I never thought of handouts. Which do you see as an advantage?

  • Connie Vickers

    Sorry, I just read how you incorporate your pages into your sketchbooks. Do you have suggestions for putting them in already bound books?

    • Alecia Eggers

      No worries! You could always go with the good ole cut and paste method! I also believe it was in Art Teachers Hate Glitter presentation video from the winter conference that I saw she had a special folder for handouts, like the ones I put in the sketchbooks, in folders at each table for easy student access, separate from the sketchbooks. Something to consider :). As for comparison between notes and handouts that would really be up to your preferences. With that being said, I inserted the handouts, but purposely blocked out space for note taking on the specific content and topics of each handout near that inserted page…so I like to think it’s the best of both worlds. Let me know what you decide to do!