Nothing lights up a child’s face like hearing their own voice played back to them. Well… a puppy might be a really close second actually.
When I first began working with elementary students, I made it a priority to find ways in which students could communicate their ideas to others, and to share their work with an audience of more than just their teacher and classmates. Typically you might think of typed words on a screen or printed out on posters to be the way to go, but when dealing with the youngest of students, these are not always options. The challenge for Kindergarteners and First Graders, is that they are often in the beginning stages of learning to read, write and spell with their classroom teachers.
While I don’t deny that these students should be given opportunities to continue practicing these skills in all of their classes, I don’t think we should deny students opportunities to communicate their ideas in other ways either. For instance, primary students might not be able to write very quickly, but they can certainly talk quickly!
Enter Little Bird Tales!
Little Bird Tales is a website that allows students to create and narrate their own stories right on the web. Students can draw their own pictures, upload images, record their own narration for images, or type the words they want to share, and then compile it all into one simple little video with a few clicks of the mouse.
It isn’t the only digital storytelling platform out there, but it is one of the most feature-rich platforms available that can be operated by such young clientele all on their own. It fit all of my edtech goals that I had for them:
- simple, intuitive, interface
- students could use it at home, regardless of operating system
- classroom teachers could use it outside of the Lab
- teacher dashboard for managing student accounts
- artifacts created were digitally shareable
My students love to tell stories with Little Bird Tales! They’ve explained how to make snowmen, what animals they’d put in their zoos, and shared Bam Boo the Panda’s Adventures in China! And those were just done in their Technology classes – classroom teachers took advantage of the site as well. They had students share their science reports on penguins and butterflies, and their ELA work on Dr. Seuss too! They are taking some important first steps toward becoming digital storytellers. (If you’d like to know more about digital storytelling, be sure to check out ISTE’s Special Interest Group for Digital Storytelling (SIGDS), along with the resources on their community wiki.)
To help with the management of getting primary-age students up and storytelling on Little Bird Tales, I created some files to make things easier:
- A PDF of login cards that can be filled out with student access credentials
- The Publisher file from which the previous PDF was created, should you decide to tweak it a bit
- An Excel spreadsheet for uploading student account information, and which could double as the database for…
- …Another Publisher document that is set up for a mail-merge to populate the login cards with the actual student information from the database
All of the files can be access via a this shared Dropbox folder.
I laminated the cards, and give them to my students when they head to their computers to log in. After a few weeks, the kids have usually memorized their credentials and tend to feel a sense of pride in not needing their cards any more. But should they forget or have trouble, the cards are right where they can find them.
Hopefully these files prove as useful to others as they have been to me. If you aren’t sure how to use any of the files, such as the mail-merge, leave me note in the comments and I’ll be more than happy to help get you through it.
by JD Hancock
Images in this post, but not shown in the Image Credits section, are my own.