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First Grade Writing with StoryKit

Just before winter break, I was in need of a quick project that first graders could do independently while their teacher and I pulled individual students to work with us. We decided to use Storykit and have them create books about the holidays.

Storykit is an iPhone app created by the International Children’s Digital Library. It works well on the iPad, but if you are looking for it in the iTunes Store, you need to look in the iPhone Apps category. It allows users to create an electronic story book that they can enhance by adding pictures, drawings, text, and audio. Books can be accessed through the StoryKit app or shared via email.

We showed the students how to create a page, take and insert a picture, and add text (about 5 minutes total), then paired them up. The children were asked to take a picture of their partner, ask the partner what he/she liked about the holidays, and then type the response using the format “He/She likes…” After the first child had taken a turn, the second partner took the iPad and created a page about the first child.

The whole project went much better than we ever expected. When there was a problem the children collaborated and solved it themselves. They helped each other spell unfamiliar words, use the camera, and troubleshoot problems. Using four iPads, the first graders were able to create pages for 26 children in just under half an hour. No adult help was required, the kids were engaged and empowered, and the resulting books were adorable.

They could have been published just as they were, but later that week, to complete the project, the teacher had the students draw cover pages, which they photographed and added to their books. She also worked with small groups on the spelling. Had she wanted to, she could also have asked each child to record a sentence. The books were saved on the iPads for the students to read and were also shared with the families via email. Here is an example (children’s faces blurred for privacy).

Screenshot of book

I could see this project being used in many ways at different times of year. It could be a “get to know you” book for the beginning of a school year. Kindergarteners could create an “I see” sight word book, perhaps with pictures the teacher has already added to the camera roll.

Tech Tuesday: Story Starters

The Common Core standards are coming, and with them will come new emphasis on writing, and especially on producing and publishing writing using digital tools from a very early age. In fact, English Language Arts Writing Standard 6 for kindergarten states, “With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.” The five paragraph essay is no longer the star of the student writing pantheon. Students will need to become accustomed to different types of writing produced for different, authentic audiences. Some student writing will be produced in ten minutes and some over the course of a week or more.

Here are two story starters that may help.
PictureScholastic Story Starters generates creative writing prompts that allow students to practice using different voices and formats for different audiences. Students (or teachers) can select a genre and then spin to get a prompt. You can spin all four wheels at once or do one at a time until you get something you like. Need to practice vocabulary? Have your students write a to-do list so they can focus on using higher-level words. Are letter writing skills what you are looking for? One of the prompts has students writing a letter. You can also choose a grade level to produce simpler or more complicated prompts. Here are some that I generated:

  • Grade level K/1: Describe a pet for a silly elephant who swims in the ocean.
  • Grade 2: Write a one-paragraph newspaper article about a nervous parrot who wants to be invisible.
  • Grade 4-6: Write a birthday party invitation for a stubborn dentist who only looks at things through a microscope.

If you choose to write online, you may add a drawing and publish your work in one of four formats: notebook, letter, newspaper, or postcard. You can then print it or save it to iBooks, to Edmodo, or a number of other places. See Scholastic’s Teacher Guide to using this activity.

The Story Starter and The Story Starter, Jr. work similarly, however, they provide randomly generated complete sentences which would typically be used to begin a creative writing piece. The sentences are usually funny and will appeal to students. Here are the first few prompts I got:

The Story Starter:

  • The brilliant accountant polished the table near the submarine for the hunter.
  • The tired sock inspector rode the bicycle into the backyard to wake up the President.

The Story Starter, Jr. (more basic vocabulary and simpler, shorter sentences):

  • The pilot was digging in the sand in the desert.
  • The girl was carrying an envelope in the haunted house.

Originally published on Technology at Chaparral.