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?