Bev's adventures in ICT

Posts tagged ‘Story Writing’

World in Cartoon Motion

Comic strips and animated cartoons have been around a long time. Everyone I know has, at some time in their life, bought a comic book or read a comic strip; be it a small 3 frame strip in their daily paper or a large graphic novel. The great thing about comics is their accessibility. the pictures tell the story. Written text is often kept at a minimum and often a single word is all you need to portray a ‘sound’ or a mood: and that’s great when you’ve got some reluctant writers. Cartoons are another item that have something for everyone: from simple cartoons for the very young up to more sophisticated Manga or full length features. During our lifetimes most of us will have sat and watched Scooby Doo, or something a little more edgy, and thought it would be fun to have a go. Unfortunately not all of us are artistically blessed but you just don’t have to be!  With that in mind I thought it was worth sharing a few online or downloadable comic strip or animation creators that could be useful in a classroom setting.

Comic Strip Creators

  1. Make Beliefs Comix: This site was one of the first comic strip creators I used with pupils, quite a few years ago. I like it because it’s really simply presented and the children could work out how to use it really quickly. There are a selection of characters included (new ones have been added) but,  and this is a disappointment if you want to create an epic, you can only create four panels at a time. The site doesn’t have a save facility (a bit of a downside) although you can send a copy to your email address. I used to get children to hit the Print Screen key and paste it into PowerPoint (so they could crop it and add more if they wanted to) – a small step that children pick up quickly and are quite happy to do in order to preserve their work. Obviously, comic strips don’t have to be in English, so why not use them to support work in other languages?
  2. Bitstrips: I have never used Bitstrips but thought I’d include it here as some of you might find it useful. You seem to be able to have a go without registering if you want to try it out (although that appears to be free). Like Make Beliefs Comix,  it includes a selection of characters (and a separate activity where you can design your own) and looks to work in the same way. You are able to save your creations although I think this is to an online gallery – you might be better off using Print Screen! There is a Bitstrips for Schools option, which offers additional ideas support and features, but this service is not free.
  3. Super Hero Squad: I can easily see this site appealing to children as it includes recognisable characters from Marvel comics and is very bright and eye catching. On the negative side, the emphasis on the Marvel universe could limit the usability and flexibility of it within the classroom but it still a useful thing to have access to. It allows users to create small comic strips (with 1-4 panels) or a longer comic book story and does include lots of nice features, including a selection of fonts, and artwork. Completed work can be printed or downloaded to your own computer in pdf format.
  4. Lego Comics: Similar to the Marvel website in options and settings, this Lego style comic creator  is worth a look. It’s not one of my favourites as I think it is too heavily weighted towards boys character wise (girls like Lego too!!!!!) but it’s still worth checking out.
  5. Comic Life: Not an online creator or a free download but still the most complete comic strip creating tool for schools. Comic Life allows you to use your own photos and has a whole load of layouts and options available. It’s available for Windows and Macs and there’s even an app for your ipad. To get truly inspired check out some examples from Porchester Junior School in Nottingham.
  6. Stage’d: Another one I haven’t tried out properly but thought was worth including, Stage’d combines comic strip creation with animation. To try it out you need to install the Unity Web player to get it running online but once it is running you’ll that you have two choices of character: one called TS and another called Robot (they look like little wooden men). Once you’ve got started there is a little question mark in the bottom right of the screen – click this and up pop a selection of handy hints to get you started. the panel on the left shows you a selection of options for ‘dressing up’ the characters and allows you to select their actions. This tool is probably best for pupils in UKS2 and beyond – have a go and see what you think. Now time to look at…
Tools for Animation
  1. Domo Animate: Domo might not be to everyone’s taste but it’s a cool little thing from the people at Go animate (another one you might like to look at). Simple characters, lots of options, free to register (once you’ve registered content can be saved) and pupils I’ve shown it too have absolutely loved it. I’m pleased to see they’ve got rid of the word ‘fart’ in the sound effects section as this had the potential to send some children into fits of giggles!
  2. Shidonni: Simple, Foundation Phase/KS1 friendly website. Needs Microsoft Silverlight to run properly. Children design and draw a little character and bring it to life. The hand drawn quality makes it a little different to other animation websites and it certainly is cute. I can see this appealing to girls more than some of the other websites listed here but boys would have fun with it too.
  3. Zimmer Twins: Another animation creator that looks appealing and is free to register. I haven’t used this in school but have shown pupils in UKS2 what it can do and they’ve gone home and tried it out for themselves. There’s a great video showing how to create you movies included and the set up is quite similar in look and feel to Domo Animate.  There are lots of completed movies to look at, including this one on Cyberbullying. I like the way that you can rate completed animations and make comments and there is a teacher area if you are interested in using it within the classroom.
  4. DoInk: I’m not entirely convinced about this site as some of the recently created videos you can access are not suitable for sharing in school. It also needs a little more artistic flair and mouse control than the others featured here so might not be accessible or suitable for everyone. that said, some of the animations are beautiful to look at and I’m sure, with time and patience, good results could be achieved.
  5. Kerpoof: Make a Movie: Another activity available via the Kerpoof site: this has similar themes to the story creating activity shared yesterday. Each theme includes a selection of backgrounds and animated characters along side other options like your own doodles, text etc. Items have to be dragged onto a timeline to animate the movie, making it a little tricky for younger pupils, and there is no guidance included – you would have to have a go before sharing it with any students. Some of the characters included in the menus have to be bought in the Kerpoof store and this is not made clear until you choose them! I’m sure some pupils would find that frustrating! You might still like to give it a go though (or, as I did with Zimmer Twins – mention the site to pupils so they can show their parents and use it at home).
Obviously this list is incomplete. There are lots of other activities available online, or to download, so I thought it best to focus on those I have used or already knew about. Considering the animation element; there is plenty of information available regarding animation software that can be used in school (Scratch, Pivot Stick Figure, Anithings to name but a few) and I have previously blogged about creating stop motion animation and using mobile apps.  If you would prefer to use something you already have available in school, like PowerPoint, you could look at some of the activities I’ve created here. Just remember: animations and comic strips can be used across the curriculum in all kinds of ways. And, what’s more, children seem to love them.

I Wanna Tell You a Story…

There are a whole host of online tools, downloads and websites around that are really useful when you want children to get creative with their story writing. Some are very simple and others are absolutely astounding but, as the spotlight seems to always be one the literacy (and numeracy) skills of pupils I thought it was about time I shared a whole bunch of them on here. Many of them you may have come across or used before but I’m hoping there might be a few tools here that you can use in your classroom to inspire both you and your pupils. So, here we go…

Getting Inspired…

  1. We Tell Stories: A site well worth mentioning if you haven’t come across it before; We Tell Stories includes six different stories told in six different ways. Each has something to offer, depending on the age of your pupils, but the one I really like for primary school use is the Fairy Tales one. The child needs to make a number of choices to complete the story and, if they don’t agree with how the story turns out, can write their own epilogue at the end. Every class I have shared this with has loved it – including the boys, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect given the genre.
  2. Lightning Bug: This is an Australian website, full of  ideas to help with the story writing process. It includes a Teacher Resource section and numerous links to useful online content; including author sites and things like a plot bank.
  3. The Story Starter: This is very simple – it does exactly what you think it would do. You click a link and it generates a sentence to get your story started. Could work in conjunction with a story mountain or a ‘BME’ story plan structure. There is also a version available for younger children but be warned – some of the sentences (on both versions) are not what I would choose to use!

Creating Story Books Online

  1. Zooburst: Zooburst is a really unusual 3D Story book creator that I’m sure pupils will find really cool and (hopefully) inspiring. The 3D pop-up really brings a story to life and gives this site an extra something when compared to other book creating sites. You can rotate around the book in 3D, add your voice to the characters and use a webcam to introduce a bit of augmented reality. You can register on the site for free and there are a number of stories in the gallery you can check out before you get started. I would suggest you have a few goes yourself with it before unleashing it on a class but it certainly has the ‘wow’ factor and could get a few of your reluctant writers interested .
  2. Storybird: If you haven’t checked out Storybird before you need to visit it sometime soon. Again, it’s free to register and they have accounts specifically for classes. What sets Storybird apart from some other sites is the inclusion of beautiful and breathtaking original art – enough to inspire pupils to create wonderful things.  Whatever their age or level, students (well – everyone really) can create something that looks beautiful and can easily be shared with others. Check out the About Us section of the website and get inspired
  3. ArtisanCam Picture Book Maker: This picture book maker is a very simple online book creator that is both unique and beautiful. There are not many options here but the artwork is homely and childlike and it could be useful with younger children.
  4. E2BN Myths and Legends: Free and cool to use, the Storymaker tool available here has loads of options (recorded speech, added sound effects etc.) and you can register for a whole school account. Completed stories can be downloaded and can be short and sweet or far reaching epics. I think the style of clip art included here would really appeal to the boys but girls would enjoy it too.
  5. British Council Storymaker: A fabulous little tool that could be used to inspire older  pupils with SEN or used with younger pupils. It is not quite the same as the other activities listed here but deserved inclusion nonetheless.  This is an activity that guides you through the story writing process by giving you choices, starting with the three different types of story you could write (fairy, horror or science fiction). It’s simple but effective.
  6. Picture a Story: This activity might look a little twee, with it’s old fashioned styling, but it still allows pupils to use the items at their disposal (backgrounds, characters, props) to create a story. Stories can be written or recorded using a microphone (making it suitable for inclusion purposes in a class of pupils with differing abilities) and can then be shared with others via email.
  7. Little Bird Tales: This site is fairly new and was brought to my attention by the fabulous Tim Rylands. All I can say is it looks fabulous and is worth finding out about – check out Tim’s blog for more information (as there’s no point me repeating it!)!
  8. Kerpoof Storybook: Beautifully presented and appealing story creating activity with six themes of story included. Similar to the Myths and Legends site, but a little more modern in appearance, I like this one for a few reasons. Firstly, you can fill the pages with a background colour if you want to, possibly making it a suitable tool for pupils with dyslexia. Secondly, it has really been designed with children in mind and is pretty intuitive to use. You can easily change the size of your font and there are three fonts included. Story characters are included in a range of positions, there are loads of backgrounds and it also has speech bubbles you can add. To access the site fully, so you can save work, you have to register (again – it’s free) and there are lots of other great activities available via the site.
I hope you find something that will inspire your learners in that group of tools. Tomorrow I’m going to share a whole load of online animation tools and comic book creators! There will be something for everyone!

 

Shiver me Timbers!

This week I’ve had a lovely time using 2Create a Super Story  (or 2CASS) with pupils in Year 2. As I’ve said before, it’s a fantastic program to use with pupils as it’s so inclusive, lots of fun and can be used across age groups for all sorts of projects. This week the focus was a little different: Year 2 were recapping copying and pasting skills. I wanted to make this as much fun as possible so decided to link to their current pirate topic and use a program that they’re familiar with. As it happened I also wanted to improve their knowledge and usage of 2CASS as they move towards year 3: we’ve recently invested in a community license project with 2Simple and 2CASS is one of the programs pupils are now accessing at home. A perfect opportunity then to cover quite a few bases with one program.

Now one of my golden rules (in life generally) is to be as creative as possible and I have to say I’ve taken a few liberties with some of the tools and items in 2CASS as I’m using them in a different way to how they’re presented in the program. I don’t think it matters – if you can find more than one use for something then go for it! Here’s what we did…

  • Firstly we choose the scroll setting: I felt this was pretty much perfect for the topic we were covering as it gave it a pirate map feel. We did discuss the other options available but the children agreed that the scroll was our best choice.

  • We filled the picture area with a nice blue colour for the sky. We wanted a similar colour for the water as the other blues were a bit too dark (although some children were happy with them and were able to choose them). By double right clicking the one of the blue colours we brought up the full palette  – this gave us much more choice.

  • We chose the boat animation template from the transport section. We filled it with our base colour (brown) and then removed parts of it with the clear (or, as the children like to call it, magic) pen. This makes a huge difference to the look of the boat. We use the filled rectangle to colour the sail and used it again with the clear setting to give the ship three sails. We added a simple animation of the sails flapping and we used the path follow tool to draw the route of the ship on our background.

  • We then used the fire animation template to create seaweed. The fire movement was perfect for making the seaweed move under the water. We right clicked to select copy and then right clicked to paste the seaweed up to three times .

  • Choosing the shapes option from the animated templates; we used the square to add clip art. I always suggest using this square shape to the children to add any extras to their backgrounds: it means they can reposition and resize things and animate them if they want to – far better than something static on a background. We added suitable weather clip art which some of the children choose to animate. We again used copying and pasting skills to add additional clouds.

  • To add more interest some of the children added some fish, using the filled circle and the pens to make their little creatures as realistic as possible. There is more information on creating underwater animations that is worth checking out  on Simon Haughton’s blog . I also showed the pupils how to move things to the front or send them backwards: this gave them the option of having the fish swimming in front of or behind the seaweed and is a skill they will use in a number of other programs as they go through school.

  • To save pupils having to draw out their backgrounds a second time I showed them how to duplicate a page. This meant they could use the same page, complete with animations, for the next part of the story too – the example included at the end of this post shows how an island could be added with very little effort while making a big difference to the overall look.

  • We created pirates using the same tools as we used on the pirate ship – this time on the human template. When one pirate was complete (animations included) we copied and pasted to create a second and then just edited the outfit. Using the clear pen allowed pupils to add things like peg legs and hooked hands – very effective!
Of course these projects are not finished yet and there are other things I’d like to mention. We talked during the session about which fonts might be appropriate, which led to many children using old fashioned looking fonts they felt were in keeping with the theme. We also had a nice long session to carry out the first part of the project: these things take time and if you want a piece of work to be worthwhile pupils have to be given time to try things out. An unfinished example of our work so far can be seen here and I’m hoping to add a few examples to the fantastic 2CASS Archive soon – a site well worth investigating if you’re using this software in school. Next week we’re going to be adding even more detail to our stories and I can hardly wait!

 

 

Looking through the spectrum

Trying to engage children through the medium of ICT is, in most cases, easy to do. There are so many different ways of making ICT engaging and ‘wow’ that children usually find software and activities that they just love to use! Game based learning, for example, is a fantastic way of inspiring writing and a great way to introduce or extend a topic. Computer generated art is another popular avenue – there is just so much choice and so many things that are freely available that a child is bound to find something they adore and want to create with and share. I could go on (I’m sure you could too). Yet one of my favourite jobs  is finding and discovering ideas for pupils with SEN. Once they take to something they really have the ability to run with it and take it to unusual places – and that’s something I can really relate to.

At the moment there are a number of great online resources that can engage and are accessible for these pupils: Poisson Rouge , Help Kidz Learn and Tes IBoard are just a few sites I think are fantastic. There’s also a great range of inclusive new equipment, with Easi Speak mics , V-Tech cameras and BeeBots among the favourites. There’s also the amazing Story Stage from Scholastic and Storybird (both of these can link to developing social skills as well as enhancing their curriculum). There’s so much available for these pupils in the realm of ICT at the moment, but what I’m really excited about is the current selection of products from 2Simple.

Pupils seem to have a fine time using 2Paint a Picture and 2Publish+. Even the youngest pupils can enjoy activities like creating repeating animal skin patterns. In an attempt to link their efforts in ICT with a more hands on activity, you could print out the designs and use wooden animal stencil to cut actual animal shapes out of the appropriate skin patterns. Which brings me nicely onto…

…2Design and Make. The mix of ICT and DT is a marvellous thing! Pupils can create houses and vehicles for a street scene, coloured dice for maths activities and masks for role play. There’s nothing quite like getting the scissors and glue out and making something with your own two hands and the pupils just cannot wait to print out their efforts and bring them back to the classroom to stick together. And I’m all for that 🙂

2Simple have done it again!

I’ve felt very honoured this week to have had the opportunity to have a good look at the latest excellent piece of software from the bods at 2Simple: 2Create a Superstory. Now I know I use 2Simple software a lot and talk about the benefits of it all the time but 2Simple have really outdone themselves with this – it’s a wonderfully versatile addition to their collection that seems to take elements from a number of their previous applications and wraps them all together in a fantastic, diverse, cross curricular bundle! Pupils can create interactive books and activities that include animations, original art or photos, text and sound. These activities are then saved as a .2CAS file (allowing projects to be returned to and edited if necessary) and also as an .SWF file, that could easily be in a included in a VLE,  school website or wikispace.

This was the opening menu that met the pupils on Friday - it's already been improved!

Earlier this week I posted a guest blog for 2Simple, outlining the fun I had using it with my grandchildren and that fun is continuing. The beauty of 2Simple software is that one piece links directly into another, with many familiar icons. This makes it suitable for pupils of all ages. I’d suggest storyboarding ideas before letting children loose on the software – although there’s lots of fun to be had. Yes –  the stories can be very simplistic at first  and may need refining. There are, however, any number of templates, backgrounds and other elements that lend themselves to both fiction and non-fiction work. I can see many uses for this throughout the curriculum with different age groups and think it will revolutionise the way that even the youngest pupils are able to present their work (although isn’t that exactly what 2Simple have managed to achieve consistently with all their products?). In fact I predict that 2Create a Superstory is going to be a runaway success!

Tell me a Story

There are a number of free applications that allow pupils to log on and create mini stories or books online. These applications can really help develop creativity or can just give pupils a new perspective and ideas to carry through to their other creative work. These applications do not take very long to set up in class: just set up a free account and off you go.

The most recent and definitely the most visually appealing (in my opinion anyway) is Storybird: just sign in, choose and artist or a theme and get creating. It really is that simple. Drag your chosen art onto the page and start writing about it. The application automatically generates a front cover (although you can edit this). Storybirds can be made by an individual or can be collaborated on: maybe one child could start a story and another could finish it, or children could share ideas on a joint project. You could even work on them with children from another school (as I hope to do in the new year with my media club pupils). Finished Storybirds can be embedded into class blogs and shared  with others (via email and a number of social networks). However you use it I’m sure it will enrich your classroom experiences and enthuse your pupils.

Another great free online tool, specifically developed for myths and legends work, is the E2BN Myths and Legends site which contains a fabulous free Story Creator application. With this you can choose backgrounds, add images (including uploading your own) and even add recorded sound.

Unlike the Storybird application, which I feel could be easily used by all pupils including those with SEN, the Myths and Legends Story Creator is probably best suited to those in KS2. It’s not as straightforward to use and some pupils may have difficulty understanding all the options available to them. That said, however, it is a brilliant free tool that should be utilised by teachers. Created stories can be shared with others via the Myths and Legends site.

While we’re on the subject of stories a site that I found very inspirational was Penguin books We tell stories, which contains 6 takes on different classic stories/story types. Year 3 pupils particularly enjoyed using the Fairy Tales themed one last summer but the others are all excellent and innovative in their own way. Penguin have since developed We Make Stories with schools in mind. This isn’t a free service (although you can sign up to a free trial) but might be something you feel is worthwhile in your own classroom.

All this fabulous story making stuff got me thinking. What if I wanted the children to create stories, in a style similar to Storybird, but wanted them on a specific theme relevant to what was going on in class? My initial though was to maybe contribute some art to the Storybird site but, as a stop gap while I consider this some more, I created a few Story Creator PowerPoints. They were easy enough to make: just lots of art around the edge of the slide for pupils to drag onto the background (obviously they also have the option to resize, flip, rotate etc.) and some text boxes to type into. So far I’ve created  Christmas Story Maker 1 (based on the nativity), Christmas Story Maker 2 (just some Christmas fun) and a few others.

I thought that maybe one of the advantages of this method was hat the children could use the characters as a starting point but could also insert other images (from clip art or elsewhere) and change the backgrounds fi they wanted to extend the possibilities for their story. I created the On the Farm Story Maker (as seen above) thinking it could link into some of our traditional tales work at school (e.g. retelling The Little Red Hen) working from my original idea (Story Maker 1) which I created just for fun. The templates aren’t difficult to make, I made a master slide and used Ctrl+D to duplicate it, and you could link the stories to all sorts of things. I was thinking of making a few factual ones linked to humanities topics, specifically thinking of pupils with SEN but I’m sure others would enjoy using them too. I’m also going to make some linked to our Foundation Phase topics so that class teachers could use them on the IWB as a collaborative tool; maybe with a small group or the whole group. Why don’t you have a go and see what you can come up with?

The Christmas Story

It’s that time of year again. Time to go over ‘the greatest story ever told’ with children of all ages and record it in some way. You can use 2Create a Story to allow pupils to record their own version of the Christmas story. I know it sounds like I enthuse about 2Simple software a lot (maybe because I do!) but it has a huge impact on the type of work younger pupils, and those with SEN, are able to create when using ICT. A quick tip I always encourage children to click the edge of the frame first – it allows them to set a background colour before starting to draw and can make a big difference to their finished piece of work.

The application makes it easy to add simple effects (both visual and audio) to their stories and it’s very straight forward and intuitive to use if you’re already a user of other 2Simple programs.

its also a good idea to have a collection of sequencing images that could be imported into 2Publish+, using the layout setting (or other programs). The ability to copy, paste and import into this program really extends your opportunities to use it in a cross curricular  and structured way. After all, not all pupils are adept at drawing their own images in small boxes on the page (although the range of tools does give a lot of scope for this).

The final ICT based activity I want to share is a book-style PowerPoint Show with type on slides and individual word banks on each slide. This uses the same set of still images as above; I considered adding animations but felt this might be too distracting, so still images it was.

This activity is probably the most appealing choice for older pupils; I think the fact it is in PowerPoint format possibly helps it feel a little more age appropriate.. I also think that the addition of mini word banks is also key as it means pupils do not require a word mat to assist them. Try it out and see what you think.