My sister in law is a lot trendier than I am. She finds nifty projects on Pinterest all the time and actually does them. Who does that? Last Christmas, she introduced me to Smash Books. She had recently moved to Maryland to take a job teaching English, and she was showing me the beginnings of her Smash Book from her first few months away from good ol’ CNY.

What is a Smash Book?

A Smash Book is a fast, trendy way to scrapbook–scrapbooking for the 20-something, or the almost-20-something, or the hipster. Something like that.

Here is an example:

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This Smash Book page contains written text and taped/pasted-on elements.

Smash Books as a project

Smash Books came to mind today as I was reading Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha, another novel from Fluency Matters. It’s different than any of the other popular readers in that the chapters are extremely short, and each one recounts one moment or memory from the fictitious narrator’s life. Written from the first person perspective, it feels like you are reading a diary. Instead of assigning a traditional post-reading assignment (ex: a list of comprehension questions), creating some kind of a journal or diary entry as a processing activity seems to fit the tone of the text.

Introducing… the Smash Doodle™️!

While it might not be practical to create a Smash Book page for each chapter (finding resources to tape/glue/etc onto the page doesn’t pay dividends in language acquisition, after all), but perhaps a less Smash-y and more Doodle-y version could work. Yes… a Smash Book meets Doodle Notes would be perfect!

Let’s consider the novel 48 horas by Carrie Toth. 48 horas is a suspense-filled upper-level novel that is based on the real life experiences of Dr. Frank Sulloway (and published with his blessing).

Students could make their Smash Doodle™️ (yes, let’s go ahead and call it that! Let’s make it a thing!) as elaborate as they want. If it were me–overachieving student that I was–I imagine the page for Chapter 2 containing a re-created plane ticket representing the main character’s arrival in Ecuador, a ‘class photo’ of the group that was taking the class together, and maybe a plant leaf labeled with a scientific name (pretending that it was one from Ecuador). Maybe even a (fake) newspaper article about a ‘Local student to learn from Darwin scholar’.

It could be similar to the image posted above–a comic strip with a reflection and an action list of how the main character is going to move forward. You could give students time to “smash doodle” in a journal after reading each chapter–creating a diary as though they were the main character–and/or you could dedicate one day a week to putting together more elaborate smash books (generating news articles using the page linked above, finding images to print, taping and pasting in things that they’ve brought in from home). This could be done for homework, too, if your classes have homework.

How many Smashdoodles™️ is reasonable for a book?

Update: As teachers have played around with Smashdoodles™️, the general consensus is that doing one entry per chapter of a novel is too much. Maybe one per three-five chapters, or a few entries summarizing the book, or students could choose 2 key moments that they felt connected to from the novel.

Outside of reading novels, Smashdoodle™️ Notes are great tools to work into your classes. There are tons of ideas on Pinterest and other sites for special themed pages–like this one that would work great when you’re targeting the present progressive or this one in a food unit for students to describe what they crave in different circumstances.

What possibilities do you see for Smashdoodles™️?

Download Smash Doodle™️ starters

For many students, the most challenging part about creating a Smash Doodle™️ is being creative with it. They know that they want the page to look fun, but they’re not really sure how to get started.

I’ve got a FREE pack of Smash Doodle™️ starters that you can download and print for your students. Have them choose one of the pages to use as inspiration for creating their one-page Smash Doodle™️ about the article that they chose for the final step of this 3-2-1 lesson plan!

The Smash Doodle Starter pages can also be accessed in the ‘Forms’ folder of the Subscriber Library.



NOTE TO THE READER: Vida y muerte is an upper-level novel that invites students to consider the complex factors related to gang membership that impact individuals and communities. A primary goal of many language teachers is to challenge stereotypes by inviting students to see multiple perspectives on a topic. While many teachers choose to combat the stereotype that “Latin America is full of cartels and gangs” by excluding the study or mention of gangs and cartels in their classes, others choose to combat the stereotypes by addressing the topics in depth. Both approaches can be valid, but the latter must be done with intention and awareness. I have always defaulted to the second, but I have not always done it with intention and awareness, nor did I consider whether I was actually qualified to lead such a study, based solely on my academic experience and without personal reflection or specialized training in facilitating critical conversations. When I wrote this post in 2014, I did not consider how heartless and harmful it might be to ask Outsider students (students that are NOT part of the community being studied) to put themselves in Insider’s shoes and try to transform that individual or community’s trauma into a learning experience for the student. While I developed the idea for the Smash Doodle activity as I read Vida y muerte, I changed the remainder of this post to explain the activity using 48 horas instead.

20 replies on “Smash Doodle™️ reading activity

  1. Hi Martina,

    I tried the smash doodle assignment this year with La Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha. It was awesome. It was probably one of the best assignments that I have ever given. The students were so artistic and creative, and most of them loved this assignment. Thanks so much for the great idea. The final product is truly amazing.

  2. How do the students then present their Smash Doodle? I assigned a chapter to a pair of students, and they each made their own, but worked together.

  3. I am looking for ideas how to modify the smash doodle assignment for my students on the spectrum with fine motor challenges. Is there a digital app out there that would work? Are there any other ideas for modifications?

    1. Oh I’m sure! Just have them do it in Paint, or with Canva, or any of the things! Cindy Hitz always has great apps on her blog– ask her!

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