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Make Writing Less Intimidating with these 2 Digital Storytelling Apps

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Oct 12, 2013 6:00:00 AM

Storytelling is an indispensable human activity. Not only do we use stories to share our experiences and convey who we are, we also use them to create analogies, convince others and illustrate our arguments. Because storytelling is so valuable, we try to incorporate this activity into our lessons as often as we can—and do so in a way that both inspires our students and makes them more comfortable with the writing process.

In our experience, one of the best ways to teach storytelling to beginning writers is by using digital comic book generators. As with traditional storytelling, students must write, but unlike traditional writing, students are never faced with a blank white least not for long. Instead, students drag and drop characters, images, backgrounds and objects into layout boxes; then they write around the images.

This morning we came across a couple of new comic book generator apps and wanted to share them with you.  

Make Writing Less Intimidating with these 2 Digital Storytelling Apps

digital storytellingBitstrips for Schools is intuitive and a heck of a lot of fun. As with most comic book generators, users are able to customize their own cartoon characters, backgrounds and images, but Bitstrips also allows users to import pictures into their comics. We also like the fact that we can share, remix and collaborate with others on our comics, set up virtual classrooms, and access an administrator dashboard.

Bitstrips is free, but only for the first 30 days. After that, it costs $9.95/month for your first classroom. Additional classroom are $4.95/month.

digital storytellingIf you don’t need administrator controls and you’re on a budget, but still want a powerful comic-creation tool, ToonDoo is an ideal choice. ToonDoo gives you sophisticated results, but without the learning curve.

Everything is as simple as click, drag and drop. When you finish your masterpiece, grab your comic’s embed code, or click on the Facebook and twitter icons to share it with the world.




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Tags: digital storytelling, reluctant writers, apps for educators, apps for teachers, reluctant readers, technology in the classroom

Pixton just may be the best digital storytelling application yet

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 6, 2013 9:28:00 AM

digital storytellingIf you’ve followed our blog, it’s no secret that we’re fans of using digital storytelling apps and comic book generators in the classroom. While there are dozens of useful applications out there, this morning we stumbled upon what just may be the holy grail of comic book generators: a nifty little application called Pixton.

Unlike most comic book generators—which have limited flexibility—Pixton allows users to completely customize their work: Choose from a wide variety of characters, change their facial expressions, shrink them, enlarge them, and rotate and shift their body movements. This only scratches the surface of what you can do with this app. Whether you’re zooming in and out of panels, swapping out background images, adding props, speech bubbles or text, everything is as simple as drag and drop.

Free accounts are available, but you’ll have to put up with advertisements and you won’t be able to print and download the final product. Upgrades begin at $8/month.

To learn more about how you can use digital storytelling in the classroom, watch the video below.



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Tags: digital storytelling, reluctant writers, apps for educators, apps for teachers, reluctant readers, technology in the classroom

Using wordless picture books to engage reluctant writers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jul 27, 2013 6:00:00 AM

We’ve noticed something about our students: When we give them a topic to write about, they say “it’s boring.” When we don’t, we hear things like, “Tell me what to write about, I can’t think of anything!” Sound familiar? We thought so.   

In our experience, wordless picture books have been a useful, anxiety-reducing foundation for creative writing. Instead of starting with a blank “canvas,” students already have a sketch that they can write around. All they need to do is supply the narrative voice, the dialogue, and develop the story.

Using wordless picture books to engage reluctant writers

There are hundreds of picture books, but one of our favorites is Molly Bang’s The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher. It is as bizarre as it is amusing and for these reasons, students seem to love it.

reluctant writersIn this story, we follow the misadventures of a nameless, strawberry-loving grey lady who simply wants to buy her basket of fruit and be on her way. But no sooner does she exit the grocer’s when she finds herself pursued by a blue, impish-looking creature: a Strawberry Snatcher who loves his fruit as much as, or perhaps more than, she does.

The chase winds through sidewalks and into the streets—we didn’t know that Strawberry Snatchers could ride skateboards—and finally into the woods. We won’t give away the ending, but even if we did, your students would still have the freedom to make up their own.

As you can see from the image above, we’ve taken a scanned image of the book and added speech bubbles and dialogue with the help of Pixlr, but there are several ways your students can approach this assignment. They could simply type up the story in a Word document, or if every student had his/her own copy of the book (you can find cheap used copies on Amazon), they could print speech bubbles and use masking tape—or any kind of tape that is not very sticky—to attach them to the pages.

If you’re looking for more ways to engage your reluctant writers, check out a couple of our recent blogs, Storybird uses digital storytelling to engage reluctant writers and 5 of the Best Digital Storytelling Applications.


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Tags: digital storytelling, reluctant writers, apps for educators, apps for teachers, reluctant readers, technology in the classroom

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