Storybird: Visual Storytelling for Everyone

My friend recently mentioned that her son is having a hard time generating ideas for journal writing.  It is taking him much longer than it needs to, and the result is a frustrated mom and child.  I explained that I view writing skills as I do muscles sets in the human body.  You have to use those muscles in order to strengthen them.  The same is true for writing skills.  We often overlook writing in the summer months, opting to keep our children reading or practicing math facts.  So, in the spirit of Back to School, I’d like to introduce one of my favorite digital resources to help students become more creative writers.

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As the scrolling image states on the landing page, Storybird is a place to

Write books you’ll always remember.  Read books you’ll always remember.  Discover books you’ll always remember. Share books you’ll always remember.

In a nutshell, users of all ages are inspired by beautiful art collections to write their own stories and books.  Collections range from silly to serious, but all are high quality.  Check out “Another Day, Another Doller” by my former student, Andrew:

From a teacher’s perspective, it could not be easier to get started.  If your school has Google accounts, even better.  Here are the basics:

  1. Go to Storybird.com.  Click Sign Up for Free (right corner).  Click Educator/Student.  Then click Google Sign In.
  2. Once there, Click Studio, Classes tab, and Add a Class.   Give it a name.
  3. Now, under Studio and Classes, you should see Review, Students, and other tabs.  Click Students, and Add or Invite students.  Click My Students Will Create Their Own Accounts.  See that class code?  Write it down.
  4. The students will complete the same steps as you did in Step One.  Only this time, they will enter the class code.

One of the things I love most about Storybird are its challenges.  I received an email regarding the September challenge:

For this month’s challenge, we’re going to take that famous writing advice, “Write what you know,” and put it to work. Think back to a time when you tried something new for the first time. How did it make you feel? Use your experience, and your memories of those emotions, to help you create your characters and tell your story.

Love it!  Note:  “You must have a Regular account for your story to appear in the public library and to be featured on our blog and to earn the badge. Stories published from Student accounts are only visible to members of your class.”  Doesn’t matter to me!  I am just looking for creative ideas to keep my kiddos writing!

Parents, you can sign up for free basic accounts.  Don’t be discouraged by all of the extras, like printable hardcover books, that Storybird has to offer.  The basic program is more than enough to produce beautiful stories and build writing confidence.

Storybird has so much more to offer in terms of reading and sharing stories.  Check back, and I will highlight some of its other awesome features, including its companion poetry writing app for iOs, Lark.

 

Poem in Your Pocket Day 2016

There is just something about pocket-sized anything that is so appealing!

I’ll be honest, I had never heard of of Poem in Your Pocket Day until I read this post by Shannon Miller.  Here is a description of Poem in Your Pocket Day from the Academy of American Poets:

Every April, on Poem in Your Pocket Day, people celebrate by selecting a poem, carrying it with them, and sharing it with others throughout the day at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, and on Twitter using the hashtag #pocketpoem. 

Poem in Your Pocket Day was originally initiated in 2002 by the Office of the Mayor, in partnership with the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education, as part of the city’s National Poetry Month celebration. In 2008, the Academy of American Poets took the initiative to all fifty United States, encouraging individuals around the country to join in and channel their inner bard. In 2016, the League of Canadian Poets extended Poem in Your Pocket Day to Canada.

Poem in Your Pocket Day 2016 was held on April 21

I just knew my classes had to participate!

I started with awesome poetry from the Poetry 180 program.  Poetry 180 is designed to bring a different poem to high school students each day of the school year.  I sampled a few of the poems before sharing it with my sixth graders and found them to be appropriate.  [Note, I would use caution with younger students.  You may want to hand-select poems from the site to provide age-appropriate reading material for the younger grades.]

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I let the children analyze two poems using the Poetry Peace Map Method by Lauren Candler.  You can preview this method of exploring poetry with this link.  They selected their favorite, and edited this Canva from Shannon Miller with their poems.  We printed three copies on standard paper.  We placed one copy in our pockets, put another copy in a basket, and a third copy was hung outside our classrooms to celebrate and share!  I also adjusted the document, selected four of my favorites, and printed four to a page.  I placed them outside of my classroom for students and teachers place in their pockets.  The more, the merrier!

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The students were surprised to find that they actually liked some of the poems.  In fact, I have even caught some of them reading from Poetry 180 during Free Reading time!  I would highly encourage you to participate for Poem in Your Pocket Day next year.

Poem in Your Pocket 2016

 

 

Winter Around the World Collaborative Project

So much has been happening at Cecil Intermediate School that it has been difficult finding the time to write.   I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I am a huge fan of goals.  Blogging more often is at the top of my list.

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Recently, my homeroom and exploratory group participated in a worldwide collaborative project entitled, “Winter Around the World.”  Spearheaded by the fantastically creative librarian, Shannon Miller, over 250 classes around the globe added stories, illustrations, and poems to create a wonderful digital storybook.  You can learn more about the project here.

Cecil Intermediate students added haiku poetry as this was our focus in grade six ELA classes.  We used the Word Mover app by Read, Write, Think (free) to publish our poems.  Word Mover can be used on computers and Chromebooks also.  Here are a few of my favorite submissions:

Winter Life by Liam-page-001

winter poem by Katie-page-001Winter in Pennsylvania by Abby-page-001

I am so proud to have been part of this forward-thinking project.  My students were inspired by the sheer number of participants.  They loved viewing the ideas from children in far away places.

Please enjoy the sights, sounds, words, and voices of children as they share their experiences in Winter Around the World.

Winter Around the World

Giving Individuals a Voice with Padlet

Looking for an easy way for students to SHARE their learning?  Padlet is a terrific, FREE tool!

I encourage my students to share what they are reading frequently.  The students are much more likely to accept a recommendation from a peer than me.  Biblionasium has become a staple in our classroom, but I also like the on-the-spot responses that Padlet provides.

The steps to using this terrific, FREE, collaborative tool could not be easier.  First, create a new wall.  You can modify the wall by choosing fun backgrounds like blueprint or chessboard.  Create a title and description.  This is where I usually post my instructions.  Select a layout (freeform, stream, or grid).  I vary this depending on the assignment.  Then you SHARE it with your audience.  I’ve found the easiest way is it use the Padlet generated QR code associated with your wall.  (You can find it under the share icon.)  The students bring their device to the iPad or computer screen, scan the code, and they have instant access!  They can tap anywhere to add their response!  So easy!  They don’t even have to log in!  Best of all, the finished product can be printed as a  .jpg, .pdf, excel or csv document.   It can also be embedded into a blog!

Plot Development with Toontastic

How do you teach students to identify the parts of a plot when they have already been exposed to it a million times?  Time to turn those tables, boys and girls!  I decided to have the students CREATE plots.  Yes, they write stories in the other half of ELA, but some of the students get so wrapped up in the word portion of writing that they lose their focus.  What to do?

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I recently mentioned that one of my favorite iPad apps, Toontastic, is now offered for free.  It had been a little while since I had used it in the classroom, so I decided to revisit it again.  It requires very little, if any, writing, but the best cartoons require careful planning, voice narration, and animation.  The connection to the writing process is certainly clear!

We started with a paper planning sheet and a iPad for inspiration.   You can find a FREE student planning sheet from LaunchPad Toys here.

I let the students view the scenes and “toys”, including characters and special effects prior to making a final decision on the setting for the story.  The newest app upgrade includes over 50 different scenes, and I would advise students choose carefully.  “Pick and Stick” is one of my favorite phrases!

Toontastic-Setting

 This was a very revealing portion of the project.  Despite learning about plot for a several years, some students still saw plot as a series of events with relatively no connection.  Working through the planning with each pair really allowed me to correct misconceptions and mistakes.  I’m hoping this one step will remain memorable to them.

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After approving their plot, I gave them index cards.  They wrote down what they would like to SAY.  I wasn’t too picky about this portion as some of the students are much better at “winging it” than others.  I didn’t want to stifle creativity with too much structure.

Then, I let them go crazy!  Our final results were saved to the camera roll and uploaded to YouTube for the world to see.  Here are a few of my favorites!

Jungle Stress by Nate and Tony

Tokyo Smackdown by Kaylee and Dominique

Toontastic and Telestory are FREE

I have been so busy designing new and creative ways for my students to tell stories digitally. We’ve been using Animoto, StoryboardThat, and Thinglink to share our reading experiences.  I absolutely love these programs.

But once upon a time, when I had my whole team reading the SAME novel, I had the students use a fabulous storytelling app on the iPads.  It was called Toontastic.

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We read the intriguing story of Claudia and Jamie searching for the mystery of the Angel statue in From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.

Well, I am happy to announce that Toontastic is joining Google and is now FREE!   This is a huge deal as this was a pricey app!  I love Toontastic as it offers so many great choices to showcase stories.  You start by planning your story via the plot diagram or story arc.  Choose your scene, characters, and mood music to communicate your ideas.  There are dozens and dozens to choose from.  Animate your characters and record your voice.  Put it all together to show what you know!  Is there any better way to show that the students understand the parts of a story? Love, love, love!  See our example below.

Now, I have not used Launchpads Toys sister app, Telestory, but judging from the App Store reviews, it is just as fabulous and FREE too.  According to the description, you can create and broadcast your own TV show!  The steps seem to be simple.

“Pick a theme, then mix and match over 30 animated scenes to film your own story.  Craft a script using our playful TV tropes (or write your own).   Dress up in 50 different digital costumes with face tracking.  Perform and record your own show with animated settings and special effects.  Broadcast your show by exporting it to the camera roll and sharing your creation with family and friends around the world!” 

This app is compatible with the iPod and iPhone too!  Moms and Dads might like to have this one too!

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