Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How Storybird is Making My Students Soar with Excitement

shawnzrossi (Flickr)
When I introduced the site called Storybird to my students, I wasn't completely certain of how they would receive it.  Would they like the wide option of images offered on the site?  Would they think it would be too "juvenile" given most of them are around 12 years of age?

They have been so excited about using this tool since I mentioned that we would start publishing their stories on our wiki.  Last week, my students were working on their Harry Potter Book project in Edmodo.  One of my students, who loves to write, approached me and asked "could I please go to the Storybird site?".  I casually responded with a "yes".  Shortly after, I heard a flurry of whispering among the students and a few other students then approached asking the same question.  They were eager to write stories!

So what does this experience teach me?  Apart from the fact that Storybird has become a popular tool in my classroom, it is teaching me that students love to create things.  If you give them the opportunity to create a story, a video, or anything that appeals to them, they will impress you with their enthusiasm.

Remember in my earlier post I mentioned that we would be proofreading Storybirds in the classroom?  It has been going well so far.  The students appear to understand the importance of good writing skills and that taking the time to proofread will ensure that one's audience will take your written work more seriously.  This proofreading activity has proven to be loads more enjoyable than simply assigning a daily grammar sheet and marking it together in class.   The difference between the two is that when we verify our grammar and spelling in our stories, there is authenticity in the task - we understand that a story will only be published after it is polished.  Simply tick-marking or circling the answers on a worksheet can get quite mundane.

Another important element of this collaborative process is that students understand the need to respect one another's work.  Our proofreading activity is not a time intended to publicly shame students.  It is imperative students realize we all make mistakes.  This exercise is intended to show each of them over time that we all have varying strengths in our writing abilities.  Some may be very creative writers with amazing story lines but make several grammatical and spelling mistakes.  Others may be have practically flawless grammar and spelling in their stories but may lack certain important elements to make the stories more engaging.  My hope for my students is that they will embrace these realities and recognize the powerful potential of working together.

Please stay tuned for more Storybirds from my students on our class wiki!  We are currently enjoying our Spring Break and will be back to some creative work next week.