Creative Story and Poetry Writing With Storybird

storybird

I was reminded about Storybird at my March District Librarians meeting last week and realized that I haven’t shared it with students and teachers at my new school this year.

Storybird allows anyone to “make gorgeous, art-inspired stories in seconds.”  (Or, more realistically, minutes.)  The site has a huge collection of searchable and browse-able artwork, and a simple drag-and-drop format for creating online picture books, chapter books, and poetry pages.

storybird art

First page of art results for the tag “rain.” (Click to enlarge.)

 

Users can’t upload their own artwork, so students who write a story first may have difficulty finding exactly the right art to match their words.  For that reason, it might be best to let the art inspire the words, which is helpful for students who have trouble coming up with ideas.  Once students have chosen the artwork they want to use, they add the pictures to their book pages (as many or as few as they want) and type in their text.  Students can save their work and continue to edit it later, until they are ready to publish.  Published works can be shared or kept private.

 

 

storybird storyboard

Once an art collection is selected, students are given a template for creating a book. (Click to enlarge.)

Education accounts are free and allow teachers to create classes and assign user names and passwords to their students.  This makes it easy to monitor student progress.  Stories can be viewed online at the Storybird site and can be embedded in a website or blog, but there is a fee to download them.  Printed copies of finished books can be ordered from the site for a fee, and you can even use the site as a fundraiser.  Your students purchase published copies of their books, and you keep 30% of the sales.

 

 

 

Here’s a Storybird book I created as I was learning to use the site tools.  (I was trying to model writing rich descriptions by using lots of adjectives and adverbs.)  It only took about 30 minutes from start to finish.

If you’re a fan of Storybird and you have any user suggestions, or want to share a story or poem, please leave a comment!

 

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New Makerspace Furniture!

Just a quick look at some new furniture I purchased for my library, thanks to my fall book fair profits:

Yellow TableThis yellow Jonti-Craft Berries KYDZ 60″ Six-Leaf Table will be used for our Creation Station.  I can place supplies in the middle of the table for students to work with individually, or students can work together to create something in the center of the table.  The cutouts allow students to reach whatever is in the middle of the table more easily!  (I ordered this from DEMCO.  My cost was $280.)

Blue Table This blue Jonti-Craft Berries KYDZ 60″ Horseshoe Table will be used for our Demonstration Station.  Whoever is leading the activity can sit in the middle to show students how to do something new, and assist them if they have problems.  The deep horseshoe shape (rather than a more semi-circle kidney shape) allows the facilitator to easily interact with each student at the table.  (I ordered this from DEMCO.  My cost was $345.)

I also ordered the matching chairs from DEMCO for $48 each.  This isn’t meant to be a commercial for DEMCO, but I wanted to share the purchase info in case anyone was curious!

My only quibble with the tables and chairs is that they are not on casters, but they aren’t that heavy and they slide easily across the carpet in my library.  If you have recently purchased or “McGyvered” some makerspace furniture, I hope you’ll share in the comments!

 

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Using Google Docs for Submitting Requests

Google Summit LogoI’m still having fun playing with the Google apps I learned about in last week’s #GAFE Summit, and one of the ideas that experience sparked involves using Google Docs to coordinate purchase requests from the teachers in my school.  As the media spcialist, I value their input as I decide what resources to order for the library but it can be difficult sometimes to keep track of all their requests.

In the past they have emailed me or written me notes detailing the subjects they cover and the materials they need to support the curriculum.  But now, the collaborative element of Google Docs will make it possible for them to submit all their requests in one online document.

Here’s a sample of what I envision the Purchase Requests Doc will look like.  (Click the image to enlarge.)

Purchase Request

Anyone with whom I share the link to the official document will have editing rights, so all the teachers will be able to add their requests themselves.  Each grade level will be assigned a different color so that I can see at a glance if one grade is over- or under-represented in the ordering process.  And I can respond to their requests to let them know I have added items to my order, or that we already have the resources they need.  This will also serve as a reminder to me to notify the appropriate teachers once the new materials have arrived.

I also do most of the technology troubleshooting at my school, so I may create another Doc for teachers to use to submit any tech problems that need my attention.  I could use Google Forms for that, but I think having all of the requests in one place would make a powerful statement about how much of my time is spent keeping the technology working.

If you are already using Google Docs to coordinate requests, I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions.  Please leave a comment, or tweet me at @LibraryLoriJune

 

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A Perfectly Messed Up Story

To celebrate my day off from school today, I visited a big bookstore to spend a few happy hours in the picture book section.  (You did that too, right?)  Among the many delightful titles I examined was one that immediately stood out as a great read-aloud for my library classes:

perfectly messed up story   A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell

Little Louie is so excited about the story he wants to tell, but when first a jelly blob and then a peanut butter glob land on his beautiful pages, he is outraged that someone is being so careless with his book.

Page from A PERFECTLY MESSSED UP STORY by Patrick McDonnell

Page from A PERFECTLY MESSSED UP STORY by Patrick McDonnell

Orange juice stains, fingerprints,scribbles — keep calm, Librarians! — will no one respect Louie’s story?  He eventually comes to realize that we can enjoy books (and life in general) in spite of any imperfections that intrude.

McDonnell (winner of a Caldecott Honor medal for Me . . . Jane) has created a thoroughly charming character in Louie, and there’s no doubt that as a librarian I have found a soul mate in him!  In Louie’s own words: “We need to show some respect here. Books are important. They teach us stuff and they inspire us.”

And I love that I can use this book to share three different messages with my students: 1) Please take care of your library books!, 2) Even if someone else didn’t take such good care of a library book, you can still enjoy the story, and 3) Don’t let a little “jelly” spoil your good times.  (In that respect it reminds me of Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin!)

No wonder this book received a starred review from both Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly!  And right now you can purchase it from Amazon at 30% off the cover price.

What book(s) do you use to emphasize book care with your students?  Tell us about them in the comments!

 

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What is STEAM and How Can You Support It In Your Library?

I had the opportunity to participate in a great twitter chat Monday night dedicated to discussing ways librarians can support STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) in our schools.

Working at ComputersSome of the ideas that were shared include:

  • facilitating computer coding sessions for students
  • stocking library learning centers and Makerspace areas with building materials (Legos, K-nex, Little Bits, etc)
  • displaying student art in the library
  • providing “maker” books for students (Lego idea books, duct tape projects, Minecraft manuals, origami instructions, etc)
  • donating weeded library books for project components
  • hosting themed maker sessions that are tied to the curriculum
  • sharing creative writing tools like Storybird for non-fiction writing
  • designing 3-D printing projects tied to the curriculum (i.e., math students printing geometric shapes such cylinder, cone, etc)
  • using rap, hip hop, and other types of music to memorize facts
  • sponsoring a Minecraft club
  • offering creative writing workshops for students
  • creating a collection of nonfiction graphic novels
  • leading a themed Genius Hour project tied to the curriculum
  • using Skype or Google Hangouts to connect students with other classes or field experts

You can find an archive of the entire STEAM in the Library chat here.  Please follow #tlchat (TeacherLibrarianChat) and #tlelem (TeacherLibrarianElementary level) on Twitter for new inspiration every day, and tweet those hashtags to share your own library successes!

Are you doing something different to support STEAM in your school?  Please share it in the comments!

 

 

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First Day with First Grade

I saw the first 1st grade class of the year on Friday, and we had a great time together! I like to mix it up with them because if we spend too long sitting still in one spot they either get the fidgety-wigglies or they fall asleep!

mr. wiggles bookWe begin by sitting on the story rug while I read Mr. Wiggle’s Book by Paula Craig, and we discuss all the things that make Mr. Wiggle sad when people don’t take care of books. Unfortunately the book is out of print now, and the prices on Amazon (at the time of this posting) are ridiculous! If you have a copy of the book, it’s a great introduction to book care for younger students, and it leads right into a fun song.

Wwhaddaya think of thate talk about what we see on the cover of the book — Mr. Wiggle wearing his reading glasses and “holding” a book — and then I introduce them to These Are My Glasses from the CD Whaddaya Think of That by Laurie Berkner. We then sing the chorus together a few times, using simple motions to act it out, and the kids love it! (By the way, when you order the CD from Amazon, you get the mp3 version free with your purchase.)

2-Mr. Wiggle0003

Mr. Wiggle is sad when you throw your library book.

Then we move to the library tables and review book care with a Mr. Wiggle powerpoint on the Promethean board. Finally, I hand out drawing paper and crayons and ask students to draw a picture of Mr. Wiggle, and a picture of something you should or should not do when borrowing a library book.  We talk about the “No” symbol (at the end of the book, and on slide 8 of the powerpoint) and they feel extremely sophisticated when they use it on their Do Not drawings! 1-Mr. Wiggle0002

If we have time, I allow volunteers to share their pictures with the class. We then practice the song one more time so they can sing it for their teacher when she picks them up.

I love to hear how indignant the kids sound when they tell me about things that are bad for books. Most of them take book care very seriously, which is just the way I like it!

 

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Keeping Busy

Reflect

 

Whew, it’s been awhile since I took time to reflect on what’s going on in my library!

My principal put my library on a flexible schedule last year, after five years on a fixed schedule, and I’m thrilled with her commitment to keeping it that way.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to find that nine weeks into year two, I’m still figuring out how to squeeze in everything I want to do!  In the past, I planned six projects per week (one for each grade level at my K-5 school) and out of necessity ran the library on autopilot while I taught six Library classes daily.  Now, I’m usually working on six projects PER DAY as I collaborate with teachers, plan special library events, manage our school website, provide technology training, and continue to see classes for story time and research projects as needed!

Having the freedom to try new things with teachers and students is both exhilarating (so many ideas!) and frustrating (still not enough time!) in equal measures.  My primary concern right now is making sure that the activities I’m scheduling are not just cute and fun, but are providing real interactive learning opportunities for the students.  Working with teachers is crucial in supporting the classroom curriculum and addressing the common core standards, and planning time is something they don’t have enough of, either.  Fortunately we were able to add a Curriculum Coach to our staff this year, and she and I have been putting out heads together to figure out how we can best help teachers align their content with the standards, and integrate more technology into their lesson plans.

NetworkedTeacher
Frankly, I blame a lot of my problems on social media.  My PLN has expanded in the last two years from just reading blogs to following tweeps on Twitter and  pinners on Pinterest, and participating in monthly webinars hosted by TL Cafe, School Library Journal, and various other providers.  Consequently, I’m exposed to more great ideas than I have time to try!  Curse you, PLN, for thinking so creatively and sharing so generously!

So, how do I eat the elephant?  One bite at a time!  When I’m discouraged at the end of each day by how many things didn’t get done, I have to remind myself of all the things I did accomplish.  Toward that end, I started a Project 365 photo journal, but I have to admit that I’ve been too busy to keep up with it.  Do you have any tips for staying positive when things get hectic?  Please share them in the comments!

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Alec Couros via Compfight

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