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An Autograph Book from Yesteryear


end-of-year graphic



  • Arts & Humanities
    Language Arts, Visual Arts
  • Educational Technology
  • Social Studies
    U.S. History


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

Students explore a school autograph book from the 1880s and create a contemporary version of it.



  • study the pages of a historic autograph book.
  • talk about how the autograph book differs from present-day autograph books and discuss any clues about the time in which the book was written.
  • imitate the style of the autograph book entries as they write thoughtful text and rhymes.
  • compile individual entries into a class autograph book written in a 19th-century style.


autograph, history, 19th century, end-of-year, friend

Materials Needed

  • Internet access (or printed pages from an online autograph book from the 1880s)
  • paper cut to 5 inches by 9 inches
  • writing materials

Lesson Plan

Share with students this Seattle Times article on an antique autograph book dating to the 1940s. As you look through the entries, share information about some of the choices the authors of the book made..


If you print the article, you might copy it onto overhead transparencies and share it with the entire class.


As you share the contents, solicit students' reactions to its contents. How are the entries listed in this article different from autograph books that students might have seen before? What stands out among the entries? What does this autograph book say about the time in which it was created?

After sharing a few entries and discussing the autograph book, introduce to students the idea of creating a 21st-century version. Provide each student with a sheet roughly the same size as the one depicted in the article (probably about 5 inches by 9 inches). Challenge students to create an autograph book entry or rhyme in the style of the entries in the antique autograph book. Entries should be congratulatory, thoughtful, kind, and respectful and written in the students' best handwriting! Students with artistic talents might imitate some of the artwork seen on the pages of antique autograph books.

Photocopy each completed autograph page, and bind the pages together to form a class autograph book.

Extension Activity
If possible, arrange for a local antique dealer to visit the class to display other written historical documents and/or to share writing implements that might have been used at different times in history.


Share the way(s) in which students applied what they learned from the article about the antique autograph book to this activity.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins


Return to Making the Most of the Dreaded End-of-School Days.

Looking for more end-of-the-year ideas? Check out Wind Up Learning as the Year Winds Down: Activities for the Last Days of School.


Originally published 05/31/2002
Last updated 05/19/2017