Allow time for students to create several family stories
After getting the ball rolling by creating a class idea web/mind map, book some computer time for students to practice their story writing skills. Students will create several stories about their families. Stories need not be long or complicated. Students will create a separate story for several of the ideas that are part of the class mind map.
Family Stories Activity: To prepare your students to participate in this activity you may need to teach basic computer skills such as using the mouse, the keyboard, logging onto the computer, accessing an internet browser and so on. Some students will be familiar with these elements, others may not be. Following that, I suggest exploring the various story making tools as a class if you have access to a computer&projector or a SMART board. Visit the following sites and walk your students through creating a story on each site. Depending on what you think your students are capable of, you may want to only give the option of using one or two story making sites/programs throughout the project. If you do want to offer your students choice in what program they use, I would suggest easing them into the tools by teaching them gradually throughout the duration of this activity.
Now it is time to let your students explore and create their family stories using these tools. There are several ways to approach this portion of the project:
1) You may want to focus on one "Family" sub-topic at a time. Following this approach, have all students compose a story on one topic (all the same) every time you book out the computers. For example, on day 1 students will create a web story on "Who Is In My Family". The next time you have computer time, students will compose a story on "My Extended Family", and so on. This approach could coincide with the suggested lessons (see "Lesson Ideas"), meaning that after each lesson that focuses on a family sub-topic, students could be given computer time to create a story transferring what they discussed in the lesson to create a story on their own experiences/family.
2) After creating the class idea web/mind map, post the completed map for students to see during their work periods (either on a SMART board, via computer&projector, or as a paper copy). Allow students to create stories on "My Family" in whatever order they like based on the sub-topics in the web.
Post Stories to the Class Blog After each story is completed upload it to the class blog. It is a good idea for a project like this to create pages on the class blog for each student so that the stories are easy for family and friends to view. If you are using a site like kidblog.org, you can have separate 'blogs' for each child. See the "Class Blog" page to learn more.
Peer Feedback and Comments Because blogging may be a new concept for your students, I suggest setting aside a class or two to walk students through the process of accessing your class blog and viewing their own stories as well as the stories posted by their classmates. Students can practice their typing and writing skills by posting comments on their peer's work. Viewing work done by their classmates can spark interest in new online tools or ways to interact with a tool and may result in collaboration and peer to peer teaching. These sessions could get noisy, but its probably good and on-task noise!
Story Maker Site Reviews: Bookr: With Bookr, students look up pictures using flickr and add text. The downside to this tool is that the students may not have the search skills to find photos of what they want. It is likely that picture and text may end up disjointed. Storyjumper: Create stories with preset scenes, characters and props, or upload pictures to create a story. Easy to use, just click and the image will enter into your story. You can change the scale and add text. The down side to this program is that the images are very simple and unexciting. Littlebirdtales: With this site you can create your own drawings with simple draw tools. Or you can upload images to create a story. Add text and add audio. I think the audio feature is what makes this tool so much better, students can practice reading their own story back to them and record their voice for others to hear. Storybird: Create stories using preset artwork. Lots of art to choose from, but the story has to involve art from only one artist. Simply drag the artwork onto the page and add text. The only difficulty with this site for this project is that there may be limited art depicting images of families. Toondoo: A simple comic strip creator. Login and go to 'create a toon'. This site has various character options including many people (men, women and children). The characters and scenes are vibrant and cartoony. You can make some changes to characters expressions and posture. Add text boxes to create narrative and dialogue. FunnyTimes: Yet another comic strip creator. Very simple drag and drop approach, limited characters to use. Add text boxes to create narrative and dialogue. Pixton: Another comic strip creator. With Pixton you have more control over changing the details of your comic characters, such as expression and posture. I would say that this site may be a bit too involved for most grade ones, but if you have a technologically savvy student they may enjoy the challenge. Add text boxes to create narrative and dialogue.
*Note: On the sites where you can use pre-set characters to drag into your stories, some of the preset characters include men carrying weapons and women in suggestive clothing and poses. It is difficult to find a site without at least a few of these preset images. Rather than avoiding these sites, take this opportunity to involve your students in a discussion of appropriate and inappropriate internet content, and what is inappropriate to include in their family stories. If they are going to continue to grow as technologically literate learners, these issues should be discussed in a safe space (school) where students can feel comfortable asking questions and discerning their boundaries.