I had one of my classes yesterday work collaboratively on creating a picture book story with Storybird (I am using it this morning with younger students in a school I am visiting). My sixth graders sure had a lot of fun with their story: The Giraffe Who Made His Way Home. I had the site up on our Interactive Board, and they were using the pen to choose images and then we “talked” through each element of the story. I had to guide them a bit around a “plot” because they would clearly have gone off in a lot of directions (note to self: remember that for today).
What I like about Storybird is that the story is inspired by the art, and not the other way around. This is a different kind of writing to be doing, particularly for students. Most of the time, they will come up with a story, and then be asked to illustrate it after the story is written. Storybird turns that idea on its head. This can be tricky at times (if there are not enough good images to use) and also inspiring when you see the artwork collections.
Here’s what I noticed:
- The collaborative storywriting forces cooperation, and ideas need to get fleshed out by the group. Some students deal with this better than others. In the end, I guided discussions on each page of the story as best as I could and then helped them reach consensus and then we moved on.
- I kept talking through (modeling) how I envisioned their story might be going. “What will happen next?” I asked a number of times, and when I knew time was running out on us, it was “how will Bucky get home?” What I was really saying is, it’s time to tie up the loose ends and finish the story.
- The students had a lot of choices for art and there were no disagreements when one chose a piece of art. Instead, the chosen piece immediately sparked ideas. “What about if …” is a phrase I heard a lot. There was also a lot of laughing and giggling at the artwork. That’s a good sound to have.
- I could see using this collaborative activity as a guide for reinforcing story development, and then having students work in teams or by themselves to develop their own story. I’d have to think more about how the pre-writing activity might happen, since the story is dictated by the art. Maybe a writer chooses the art, puts it in sequence and then does pre-writing from there.
- And although our collaboration was in physical space, I see an option in Storybird for collaborating on a book project with someone else on the site. That might open up the doors for some other kinds of writing partnerships.
I did check out the “teacher information” at Storybird and it seems like they have a pretty decent model for setting up a classroom account, and giving accounts to students. There is a free version, which has some limits, and a paid version.
Peace (in the story),