We start off with the following materials: old manila folders (cut in half), pre-cut white computer/scrap paper, markers, and a stapler.
I give each student a pre-cut half of the folder and my one rule is to write their name and their teacher's name on the folder. But the rest of the decoration is up to them. I prefer them to create a sketchbook cover that describes themselves in some way.
We use markers to draw on our sketchbooks, but crayons or colored pencils could work great as well. As students work on their covers (the cut manila folder), I circulate around the classroom sliding the computer paper into each cover and stapling across the fold of the cover to attach the paper. Students could staple themselves, but I only have 1 really decent stapler so I'll do that work.
They open and close perfectly.
Surprisingly enough all my students are very excited about their sketchbooks and want to take them home already. I'm planning to keep them in the school for a while so that if I have any early finishers they can go work in their sketchbooks instead of finding something less constructive to do with their time.
Many of our teachers throw out old manila folders each year so this is an excellent opportunity to recycle and save some of my classroom materials.