I found out about the Video Writing Prompts site from one of my new, favorite blogs, Technology Tailgate. Video Writing Prompts is part of teachhub.com. What’s nice about this resource is that it has done all of the work for teachers by collecting the videos and offering thought-provoking questions for different sets of grade levels. Many of the videos are movie trailers, and not all of them would work with elementary kids. But if you click on the link, you will see the appropriate grade levels and questions. (As always with videos, however, please preview before you show your class.) I can think of some higher level questions to go with some of the videos, but the fact that they are already curated and have some suggestions gives me a great jumping off point.
I recently saw this article on Boing Boing that shares a tweet from Emma Coates, Pixar’s Story Artist, in which she relates the 22 Rules of Storytelling. I am regularly trying to encourage my students to do #12: ”Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.” That rule could apply to many enterprises, not just storytelling. Perhaps if my students see that it is advice from the studio that produced Up, they will find it more trustworthy!
One of my favorite bloggers, Sonya Terborg, also posted about this list. The following day, she produced her own, modified, version, called “16 Rules for Sharing Your Story”. She made an excellent graphic to accompany it. You can download the PDF here. I think it would be an excellent poster to put in your classroom, or to print for students to use as a binder or notebook cover.
First of all, did you know that TED, the fabulous producer of videos with “Ideas Worth Spreading”, now produces ebooks? If you did, why didn’t you tell me? Fortunately, I read the San Antonio’s Express News on Sunday, and found out about it when they published a brief review of one of the ebooks you can find at TED, Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated.
Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated is a book of Six-Word Memoirs collected by Larry Smith. If you have not been introduced to Six-Word Memoirs, yet, I highly recommend that you read my original post on this topic, as it includes some other resources in which you may be interested.
In this new publication, which can be downloaded for Kindle, iBooks, or Nook for $2.99, Mr. Smith collected memoirs from students of all ages (grade school to grad school), and included the pictures that they drew to accompany them. Some of them, like “Hey, my swimming lessons paid off,” by Charlotte Berkenbile (8) in Keller, Texas, are amusing. Others, like “My alarm clock killed my dreams,” by Shawn Budlong (13) in Rockford, Illinois, are more thought-provoking. Some of the illustrations are just as moving as the text.
I highly recommend this very affordable download. If you are working with younger kids (K-3), you probably won’t want to show them the whole book, but select a few pieces as examples. For older kids, there are many possible discussion starters in here, and definitely inspiration for them to create their own Six-Word Memoirs.
(By the way, TED Books also offers an app and a subscription. If you subscribe for $4.99/month, you have immediate access to all of the current ebooks, and will receive a new ebook every two weeks.)
Flocabulary is a site that bills itself as “Hip-Hop in the Classroom”. I used to access it regularly for their wonderful “The Week in Rap”, which, basically, was a summary of the week’s current events with interesting visuals and a catchy rap to accompany it. Unfortunately, this became part of Flocabulary’s subscription program, and I sadly had to discontinue my students’ weekly viewing (sometimes the only exposure that they had to what was in the news). However, Flocabulary does offer some free videos, and I caught a new one this week about figurative language called, “Wordplay“. It’s a fun video to show your students if you are in the midst of teaching them about personification, metaphors, similes, etc…
The makers of “Draw a Stickman” have just released a new version, “Draw a Stickman Epic“. At this time, it is available for iPhone, iPad, and Windows 8. The Android app is coming soon, according to the developer’s website. ”Epic” comes in the free, trial version, or the paid version ($1.99). The main difference is the number of levels. With the free version, you get 3 levels, and the paid version offers 14. The other difference, I would assume (since I have not purchased the paid version), would be the presence of ads.
“Epic” is much more interactive than its predecessors, and demands the use of some problem-solving skills in order for your stickman character, which you will draw, to rescue its stickman friend (which you will also draw). In order to do this, you must strategically draw fire to destroy obstacles, as well as rain clouds.
“Draw a Stickman Epic” would be a good app to use as a reward or in a center for students. With a projector, it could even be a whole class activity; after a level is completed, the students could write about what happened, and even use it as a story starter for further adventures.
Talk Typer is a website that works best in the Google Chrome Browser. Without installing any software, you can choose from several languages, then speak into your microphone, and Talk Typer will print the text of your speech. You can then look at what it produces, make any corrections you would like, and then move it into the bottom portion of the page. In this second level, you can e-mail it, tweet it, or even translate it seamlessly into another language.
This free tool could be so useful for ELL classrooms, foreign language classrooms, and even regular classrooms where students might use this as an aid or an extension. For teachers who are looking to incorporate Universal Design for Learning into their classrooms, I think this resource is essential.
For the summer, I have decided to use my Tuesday and Thursday posts to reblog some of my favorite posts that some of my readers may have missed the first time around:
As a teacher, do you ever have a moment when no one needs your help, and you are standing in the middle of your classroom wondering what you should be doing? In my twenty years of teaching, I think that’s happened twice: when I was student teaching and had no idea what I was supposed to be doing anyway, and today. I showed my students Storybird, which allows you to choose sets of art to illustrate a story that you write. I meant for it to be a station on some computers in my classroom, but the students who started at that station didn’t want to leave. So, I started pulling out laptops until everyone was working on their own stories. For over an hour, there was silence in my room, and every child was engaged in creating his or her own story. We had been studying Figurative Language, and the assignment was to create a story with a winter theme that used at least 4 different types of figurative language.
After lunch, I thought the students might be weary of sitting in front of computer screens. I began saying, “Okay, you have a choice. You can either continue working on your Storybirds or – ” I didn’t even get to finish. They unanimously agreed that they wanted to continue.
Storybird is free. Register as a teacher, and you can add a class of students easily. The students do not need e-mail addresses to register or log in. You can view their work at any time, and they can also view the work of other students in the class by clicking on a tab at the top. They can comment, as can the teacher. It’s online, and easy to share, so they can show friends and family. The teacher can post specific assignments or the students can just create. Collaboration on stories is possible, and reading the stories of others is inspiring. The art work is charming and lovely.
Here is a sample from one of my 4th graders: (I apologize if some of the words are cut off – WordPress does not “play well” with embed codes!)
PicLits is a website that basically offers a catalogue of pictures for which you can make captions. The captions can be created from a word bank underneath that changes based on the selected picture, and variations of the chosen words are offered (such as plurals). This is one of those sites where the user can differentiate for him or her self. Single words can be selected for beginning English speakers – or entire sentences and paragraphs can be added. Some users offer famous quotations for the pictures, while other users lend a sense of humor to the image with a quip, as you can see below. There are links to several blog sites that give recommendations for using PicLits in the classroom. As always, though, it is important for the teacher to preview images before recommending the site to your students.
The 49 journal pages on “Grace is Overrated” are inspiring and thought-provoking. They include quotations, fill-in-the-blanks, and questions that are great for self-examination. The layout of each of Christie Zimmer’s pages is fun and attractive as well. Some of them are more suited for adults, but I have used several with my students. The kids enjoy voicing their feelings on such a variety of topics and discussing the quotations!