Writing Dialog With Google Story Builder

Today I’m reflecting on another idea sparked during the Google Apps for Education Summit I attended two weeks ago.  Ever since Adam Seipel introduced me to Google Story Builder, I knew it was a perfect fit to use with the Elephant and Piggie series, written and illustrated by Mo Willems.

elephant and piggie

Elephant and Piggie pageIf you follow Book Buzz, the children’s book blog I write for my students, you know I recently posted about Elephant and Piggie.  The simple story lines and mostly two-character adventures are perfect for introducing young readers to the comic book format, which uses speech bubbles for dialog.  Each year I use comic books/graphic novels to get kids hooked on reading and I encourage teachers to use them in the classroom for a variety of purposes.  So what does all of this have to do with Google Story Builder?  Let me explain….

Story Builder is designed to create short videos that mimic what you see onscreen when multiple users are collaborating on a Google Doc.

Elephant and Piggie Story Builder

You simulate that experience by naming your characters and assigning them a unique color, then typing in what you want them to say.  You can even add one of Google’s music clips.  Once your story is complete, you are automatically given a unique URL to share your video.  Here’s a Story Builder video I created using text from the book Are You Ready to Play Outside?

My plan is to use this to spark a creative writing activity in which students would create their own Elephant and Piggie adventure.  I’d start by sharing the book Are You Ready to Play Outside?, then students would pair up to examine other Elephant and Piggie books and come up with an original idea for their own E&P story.  Next I’d show them my Story Builder of Are You Ready to Go Outside and demonstrate how to use the app.  Students would then type up their own Story Builders and share them with the class.

Not only does this make a good writing project, it could also serve as an introduction to using Google Docs for real-time collaboration.  We could even use it in a punctuation lesson by re-writing the dialog-only Story Builder stories using complete sentences with quotation marks, commas, and periods.

*Update 7/27/15:  There’s a great post at the Nerdy Book Club blog titled Top 10 Lessons Elephant and Piggie Taught Us that is fantastic!  Jen Terry and Jacquie Eckert have captured the real appeal of the E&P books.

Chrome Snagitp.s.  It would be great if Google provided an embed code for the finished Story Builders, but all they give you is a link to a webpage view.  In order to show my Story Builder here in my blog I had to screencast it, upload it to my YouTube channel, and get an embed code there.  I used a Chrome extension I learned about at the Charleston GAFE Summit this summer called Snagit to do that, but that’s a post for another day!

 

 

A Picture is Worth How Many Words?

Here’s another idea I shared during my Comics in the Classroom workshop last month:

For years teachers have been using wordless books to encourage creative writing with their students, but imagine putting a new spin on it by having students write dialogue and narration using a comic book format!  It’s easy when you use speech bubble sticky notes, and the same book can be used over and over again.

Here are two simple examples:

red book From The Red Book (Caldecott Honor Book) by Barbara Lehman

The Red Book crosses oceans and continents to deliver one girl into a new world of possibility, where a friend she’s never met is waiting. And as with the best of books, at the conclusion of the story, the journey is not over!

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Students could even use this as a starting point for writing their own graphic novel sequel to show what happens to the boy who finds the book at the end of the story!

 

lion mouseFrom The Lion & the Mouse (Caldecott Winner) by Jerry Pinkney

A wordless adaptation of one of the well-known Aesop fable, in which an unlikely pair of animals learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted.

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Students studying fables could use this activity as inspiration to re-write other fables as comic books.  In this video, Jerry Pinkney offers an explanation of the thought process behind the book:

 

Of course, not all wordless books lend themselves to speech and/or thought bubbles, but here are some others that would work well for the comic format:

girl and the bicycle The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett

“A little girl sees a shiny new bicycle in the shop window. She hurries home to see if she has enough money in her piggy bank, but when she comes up short, she knocks on the doors of her neighbors, hoping to do their yardwork. They all turn her away except for a kindly old woman. The woman and the girl work through the seasons, side by side. They form a tender friendship. When the weather warms, the girl finally has enough money for the bicycle. She runs back to the store, but the bicycle is gone! What happens next shows the reward of hard work and the true meaning of generosity.”

chalk Chalk by Bill Thomson

“A rainy day. Three kids in a park. A dinosaur spring rider. A bag of chalk. The kids begin to draw. . . and then . . . magic! The children draw the sun, butterflies, and a dinosaur that amazingly come to life. Children will never feel the same about the playground!”

secret box The Secret Box by Barbara Lehman

The story of what happens when three children find a secret box that was hidden long ago, and travel across town and across time on a puzzling adventure.  It’s up the the reader to interpret the ending, and to imagine what happens next.

Click here for additional teaching suggestions for this book.

 

 

farmer and the clown The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee (who I LOVE!)

“A baby clown is separated from his family when he accidentally bounces off their circus train and lands in a lonely farmer’s vast, empty field. The farmer reluctantly rescues the little clown, and over the course of one day together, the two of them make some surprising discoveries about themselves—and about life!”
Click here for an interview with Marla Frazee about the book.  And don’t miss this blog post from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast filled with artwork (and pre-artwork) from the book!

 

 

bluebird Bluebird by Bob Staake

The story of a beautiful but brief friendship between a lonely boy and a cheerful bluebird.

Click here to view the artwork for this award-winning book.

 

unspoken Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

“When a farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding in the barn, she is at once startled and frightened. But the stranger’s fearful eyes weigh upon her conscience, and she must make a difficult choice. Will she have the courage to help him?”

Here is Henry Cole “reading aloud” from the book.  This is a great introduction to show students how to think about and interpret a wordless book.

 

If you’d like to purchase pre-cut speech bubble sticky notes, here are some that I found online:

 

Can you recommend another wordless book that students could use to write narration and dialogue?  Please share it in the comments!

Note: When you purchase sticky notes or books 
via the links in this post, I receive a small 
commission (4%) from Amazon in the form of a gift card.
I use these gift cards to buy books for teachers 
to use during special reading projects and celebrations.
Thanks for your support!

Stop Bullying – Speak Up Comic Challenge

October is National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month, and I’ve found a fun media literacy resource (provided by the Cartoon Network of all places!) to use with my students.  Their campaign is called Stop Bullying Speak Up, and it uses videos and games to raise awareness of the issue of bullying.

My 5th Grade classes will be taking the Stop Bullying Speak Up Comic Challenge this month by creating their own comic strips using BitStrips for Schools.

I introduced the topic to the students last week and we had a class discussion about bullying.  It turns out that some of our kids have already started their own anti-bullying after-school club, so this project was an instant hit with them.

At the end of class, I gave them a homework assignment for this week:  brainstorm some ideas for an anti-bullying message that you could use in a comic strip; figure out what characters you’ll need, what the characters will say, and what the setting will be; and put all of this information on paper to bring to your next Library class.  This week they’ll create an avatar to use, and by next week I hope they will complete their comics.

I’ll continue to share the ups and downs of the project here.  Anyone else using this resource with your students, or doing some other anti-bullying activity?

Update 10/20:  The kids have been having a blast with the Bitstrips tools this week, especially creating the characters for their comics.  Maybe I should start using my Comic avatar here!