The website I observed this week was Storybird. Storybird is a website where you can create your own personalized stories.
Storybird is a nice tool for teachers. When signing up, you can choose to sign up as a regular user, as an educator/teacher, as a student, as a professional writer or as a professional artist. I chose to sign up as a teacher. When you press on the educator/teacher option, you are directed to a page where you fill in information about your account: the school, the name of the class, the zip code of the school, etc. Then, you can add or invite students to join your group. You can create the students’ accounts by filling a grid by writing every student’s first and last name and by creating a username or you can have your students to create their own account and give them a code to add on their account to be part of your storybird group. For example, my group code was P79P9; I would have to give it to the students by writing it on the board for example and by asking them to add me. To have more information about how to create a teacher account and how to manage it, please see this page.
There is a tab to create assignments. When creating an assignment, your fill in a form. You create a name for your activity, a description, you put an image or a video to help the students understand the assignment (you can enter a URL or choose a file). You then choose if they can use all artwork to do their work, if they can use a specific artist or use a specific tag. For example, an assignment given by a secondary art teacher could be to focus on a specific artist known on the website that they would have studied in class, so the teacher could ask the students to create a story using only this specific artist’ work. After choosing that, the teacher can choose the format. There are four options; you can choose the Longform Book (multi-chapter), the Picture Book (multi-page), the Poem (single image) or any format. If we take Magritte as an example, an elementary English teacher could ask the students to use only one painting of Magritte and create a free verse poem. However, you cannot upload a picture. You can only take the ones that are on the website. So, if they would write a poem inspired by Magritte, they would have to choose a picture on the website that made them think of the painting or that would relate to their poems. Here is an example I made about the famous “trahison des images- Ceci n’est pas une pomme”: When you choose to do a “single image”, you cannot write your own words, you have to choose from the few words given; it can be a good challenge for elementary students. After choosing one of these options, you have to choose a due date. By pressing the box to enter the date, a calendar appears so you can see exactly where the date is placed in the calendar.
Most reviews that I saw were positive. The negative point that often came up was about the fact that you cannot have more than one group on your teacher account if you use the free version.
Rachel R, an elementary teacher from Pennsylvania wrote: ”Students LOVED writing their own stories & really getting creative. As a teacher for almost 500 students, my one negative is that you have to pay to have more than one class, makes management hard”
A 12-year-old reviewed: ”This is my absolute favorite website. The environment is great, everyone is so nice, and you can really let your creativity flow. So so so great!”
Storybird is also a great way to add ICTs (Information and Communication Technology) to your class. As Nina Mityuk,a teacher, puts it: This is a great tool for students to create stories and share them with anyone they choose to share it with. It’s a great way to implement technology in my lessons because students learn to navigate through the computer and also learn to comment on other books. I would recommend it to every classroom teacher – it’s great to be able to publish books without going through all the expenses of printing it.”
What is also great about the website is that you can read tones of stories written by other users. You can even comment and discuss about the story with the writer and other users. A teacher could ask the students to review a story taken on that website.
The thing that is bizarre about that website is that you must be 13 years old or up to subscribe to it. If you are under the age of 13, you must provide a parent’s email address so that the latter will be notified that his/her child use that tool.
To conclude, I think Storybird is good website to use in the classroom, especially in elementary classrooms because of its childish images. It is easy to use and easy for students to understand how to use it. It could be good for projects like writing an adventure story about a particular topic like dogs and cats or writing a book for children (on the secondary level).
Here is an example of a short one-page story I made that would have been a good one to two periods project for elementary children.