Monday, April 9, 2012

Jumping for Joy with Story Jumper

Since my last post about using Storybird in the classroom, I must admit that the excitement among students in using this site has begun to wane.  What is interesting to note is that it seems the male students in my class are the ones expressing dissatisfaction.  My female students, on the other hand, seem to generally still show enthusiasm about it all.

When asking some of the girls in the class why they like Storybird, the common response is the illustrations.  They love the colorful, cute images.  This got me thinking about what it is the boys would find appealing.  I have boys in my class who love to draw in class.  One of my students has even gone to the lengths of drawing a character representing every boy in my class!

So after some searching, I stumbled upon Story Jumper.  This site allows students to design their own illustrations and write stories.  The boys were all over this new site!  Everything from wizards to robots appeared on the boys' screens during our lab time.   The girls were also enjoying the site and when I individually asked some of the girls which site they liked better, they generally seemed to like Story Jumper more.  However, one student noted that Storybird is great when you don't have an idea of what to write about as the images offer springboards into writing ideas.

What I like about Story Jumper as a teacher is that I can create a classroom account for students.  Every student is assigned a fictitious username (an adjective and animal name).  No e-mails needed to sign-up students and it's free.  Parents can also access student accounts from home using the child's username and a special password.  Teachers can print a letter to parents from the site which explains how to access stories.

I have set up my classroom account to only allow students to access Story Jumper during class time.  I have to select "Start" to begin the class, allowing my students to begin the story writing process.  Once I select "end", stories are automatically saved and students are automatically logged out.  Another neat feature you will discover in the Classroom Edition is that you can view the stories students have created from your computer.   All the stories appear on the same page with their usernames and real names next to them (though their actual names never appear publicly on Story Jumper).

Another important point to make is that when students want to access their account, they need to select "Classroom Edition" on the far right of the screen.  First-time users will be prompted to enter their Class ID (shown on their handouts explaining how to access their accounts). 

I like that the site encourages children to explore others' stories.  We started by looking at some sample stories to see the possibilities in the story writing and illustration process.

I also let my students choose what to write about and for the first class only, let them write in English if they wished.  I wanted to see what topics interested them through their own writing, to better inform my future instruction. 

Another thing I love about this site is that it has a free handbook that teachers can use to teach the writing process to students.  I definitely intend to use it to supplement the resources I am using to teach writing in French.

My class is comprised of 11 and 12 year old students but I could also see the merits of using this site with young children.  Children of all ages love to create illustrations.  Young children who are already beginning to write can narrate their own stories or can obtain assistance if working with an older buddy class.  This would be a nice change from using paper and pencil for story writing!  Hook up a projector to your computer and you can project stories to share with your class.

Although I am not abandoning Storybird, I definitely intend to use Story Jumper more often with my students.