Getting Started with Zines

Written by Destiny Wagner

March 27, 2023

“Are you telling me that I can turn one sheet of paper into an 8-page booklet?”  

“YEP!”

I first learned about this from an English teacher colleague back in the early 2000’s.  I’m sure the concept has been around for quite some time, but I love the flexibility of such a simple tool.  The idea is to take one sheet of paper, divide it into eight sections, fold it, cut it, then fold it some more and – VOILA! – you have a small booklet or “zine” with each of the sections becoming a page.  (You may want a decorative front and back cover so, truthfully, you may only end up with six “useful” pages).

So how do you make a zine?  I started out designing mine in Microsoft Publisher back in the day.  Now I use Google Drawings.  You can pick your favorite tech design tool or simply use your favorite writing utensil and get creating by hand.    

Check out this short video of how to fold and cut properly to create your zine. 

Below are my top 5 ideas for using zines.  I hope you’ll find some inspiration to create your own, whether it be for the classroom or for personal use.  The sky’s the limit!

1.  Keep Track of Characters in a Book or Create a Story

With so much technology and online learning (especially these last few years), putting pen or pencil to paper is becoming a lost art.  As your students read, have them keep track of the characters.  They can make note of defining traits, importance in the story, type of character (protagonist, confidante, sidekick, extra, etc.), the list goes on and on.  

The zine could also be a template to outline a story they’ll create.  Each page could represent an element like plot, theme, scene, characters, or viewpoint.  The nice thing is that the students can start to get a visual layout before they actually sit down to write.    

2.  Illustrated Vocabulary Terms

This idea stemmed from a microlearning course called “Five Research-Proven Ways for Students to Master Vocabulary” developed by TCEA.   One of the ways discussed was the importance of illustrating vocabulary terms to increase retention.  The quality of the artwork really doesn’t matter – the student will link their sketch to the word, even if it’s stick figures or rough shapes.  Forty seconds of drawing is enough to increase that connection between a word and its definition.  For more information on this topic check out this article by Read Naturally.    

3.  Logging Tutorials or Phone Calls

Let’s be honest.  None of these tasks are likely to be at the top of your “This is So Exciting/I Can’t Wait To Do This!” list.  However, keeping track of such items are necessary and having a log can prove to be invaluable should anyone question your efforts.  Organize the zine however you wish, but make note of important things like date, time, and person(s) involved.  

4.  A Different Kind of Calling Card

One of my passions is teaching reality-based self defense.  At each of my seminars, we end with making a zine filled with awareness tips.  The page is pre-printed so all the attendees have to do is follow along as we fold, tear, and fold some more.  They leave with a pocket-sized zine of tips for staying safe and my contact information.  I love that it’s small enough to be carried in a wallet or purse.  Some of the students have even asked for extras to hand out to family and friends.  Safety tips for them; more advertising for me.  Win-win!

Click here if you’d like your own copy*.  

Perhaps you could use this idea for a Meet the Teacher or Back to School Night.  Include your professional contact information, any highlights for your class rules or policies, and a few fun facts about yourself.  You may even wish to add a QR code to your school’s website. 

5.  Holiday Gift Guide

This one is probably my favorite idea for personal use of a zine.  Each year, I design the cover then add specific names or groups of people.  I’ve kept them over the years so I can look back for inspiration in deciding on gifts.  I also love that it helps me keep track of spending.  I’ve found that having that tactile list to pull out at stores is invaluable.  Besides helping you not forget something or someone on your list, it can be a conversation starter in the stores as well.  

Click here for a template.  You should be asked to make a copy then you can edit the sections as you wish.  And, yes, my 2022 cover is of Matt Bomer.  I decided to break from the traditional Christmas scenes and chose a picture that makes me smile (#whitecollar).  There’s also a tiny Slytherin logo on the back cover because all things Harry Potter make me happy.  

SUMMARY

Whether you choose to design a zine for classroom or personal use, I hope you enjoy the simplicity of this useful tool.  Happy creating!

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