When I first sat down to brainstorm about cross-curricular projects for my classroom, I began by making a table that had 6 columns. In the first column I listed the weeks of school. In the second and third columns I mapped out what we would be covering in math and reading each week. I reserved the fourth column for possible social studies or science connections. In the fifth and sixth columns I began jotting down ideas for connections to the arts and technology. I would recommend this brainstorming activity for anyone trying to follow in my footsteps in regards to integrating technology into your curriculum.
During the first week of school we focus on reviewing phonics skills and sight words in reading, and in math we focus on number sense. Many teachers do “All About Me” activities the first week of school to help students get to know one another. I wanted to modernize this process, so I thought digital storytelling tools would be a natural fit with this goal in mind.
Selecting a Tool
After poking around on the different digital storytelling tools out there, I settled on Little Bird Tales. Here is the list of criteria I was looking for in a digital storytelling site:
- kid –friendly
- allowed students to record voices
- allowed students to create individualized art
I found all these things in Little Bird Tales, plus other features that I think you will love too. One great thing about this website is that they have lesson templates aligned to the Common Core Standards for grades K-6. After you create your class, you can assign these lessons to your students. You can also make your own assignment templates, which is what I did for this project. I created sentence frames for my students that used basic sight words.
Introducing Students to Digital Storytelling
I introduced the lesson to the students during the first week of school. I asked them what they would like to know about me. I explained that I had prepared a story for them about me, and that they each would get to make their own story to share with the class and their parents. I explained to them that the objectives for the project were for them to practice using sight words, and color and number words.
Getting Students Started
The next day I put students on the computers. Getting students to log in was not easy, so I would recommend making the passwords easy for primary grades. Students also have to put in a school code, which complicates matters. If your school is not currently sign up for Little Bird Tales, you will be prompted to register your school, and your school code will be generated when you create your account.
I showed students how to use the draw pad to create photos, and I helped them edit the sentence frames to create their own sentences about themselves. One big issue I experienced was that students would forget to save the page they were working on before moving on to the next, and their work would be lost. In addition to students creating their own artwork, they can also upload pictures. I enlisted the help of parents for this by sending a how-to letter home.
I called up students individually to help them record their voices. I did this mostly in the morning as students trickled into class. One issue I had with recording was that it seemed to chop off the last part of the audio clip if you clicked on stop too soon after the student finished speaking. My advice would to do a slow count to 5 and then hit stop to avoid this issue. You also have to make sure you have the most up to date version of Flash installed on your computer, or you make have problems recording.
The Final Product
I was hoping to get these stories done in 1 week, but it took us about 3 weeks to finish. When students are done creating their stories, you have 3 ways of sharing them.
- Sharing a Link
- Creating a PDF (just pictures and text)
- Downloading for 99 cents
I opted for embedding them into our class blog. See my article about setting up blogs for your students using kidblog.org. Students were able to share their stories with their classmates, and with their families at Open House. The stories were warmly received by the parents. They were beaming with pride at their student’s work.
I love how this project was an authentic task, because students were able to share with a real audience. How do you create authentic writing tasks for your students? Have you tried digital storytelling with your students? What do you feel like the biggest challenges when designing digital storytelling tools for your students?
Coming Soon: Using QR Codes to Engage Parents at Open House