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Storyboarding: Pre-Writing Activity

The more we podcast and have our students create video clips or other digital storytelling projects, the more we need to teach storyboarding as part of the process. Being able to pre-visualize how your story will unfold is becoming a vital skill to have for storytellers.

Storyboards are defined as:

Graphic organizers such as a series of illustrations or images displayed in sequence for the purpose of pre-visualizing a motion picture, animation, motion graphic or interactive media sequence, including website interactivity.

In the book by Roger Essley "Visual Tools for Differentiating Reading & Writing Instruction: Strategies to Help Students Make Abstract Ideas Concrete and Accessible", he says

Storyboarding, or picture writing, is the origin of all written languages, used by ancient cultures before text evolved and as a natural bridge to text. The Chinese language was built using pictographs. Egyptians used storyboards, or hieroglyphics, first etched in stone and later written on papyrus, to organize a complex society and to rule the ancient world.

Pre-Writing is defined as

Pre-writing is the first stage of the writing process, typically followed by drafting, revision, editing and publishing. Elements of prewriting may include planning, research, outlining, diagramming, storyboarding or clustering.

I have experimented with several storyboarding tools, from the paper and pencil method to iPad apps. Students and I are both finding the creation of the storyboard extremely helpful as we are collaborating on creating podcasts and movies.

I created a Word Doc, that is easily edited with the title of the storytelling project and printed out to be distributed to students. (Download the Word Doc Template)

Storyboarding Template Created in Word

We have also asked students to directly use their writing journals to storyboard their ideas for a script. Students use their storyboard to write their script in sequence and to supervise and help as we edit the movie together.

Individual Storyboarding in Journal

Storyboarding in Journal

One of my favorite places to create a storyboard together with the students in on the SmartBoard. We use the Notebook software to draw the different scenes that will need to be filmed and which actors will be participating in each scene.

Collaborative Storyboarding on SmartBoard

The following storyboard was also created with the SmartBoard Notebook. This time we used screenshots to illustrate the images we were imagining for the green screen background replacement.

Collaborative Storyboarding with Screenshots

We printed the storyboard out for all students to have and to use as they were going to write their parts of the script. It helped them understand their individual role in the collaborative whole of the story. Once we finished recording the script (which often happened to be film completely out of sequence) , I made it a point to involve students in the editing process.

As the storyboard area of iMovie was displayed on the projector, students were using their paper storyboard printout to help me drag and drop individual video clips in the correct order , add sounds, transitions and text. The storyboard made it possible to pull all the individually written scripts and out-of-order filmed video clips into a coherent sequence.

I am just starting to experiment with storyboard apps on my iPad. I am sure similar apps exist for the Android market or other tablet computers.

Storyboards Premium allows you to create a background scene, insert actors and text.

StoryPages HD allows you to draw your own board and add text in a different pane. You can move different pages in order on the page grid and email the final board as a pdf file.

Our Art teacher, Shana Gutterman, collaborated with us by teaching a lesson on storyboarding techniques to the students.

For more examples of storyboarding, take a look at the following article and posts:

  • R.Alfonso's blog EETT & Making Movies
  • What Are Storyboards?
    Storyboarding, or picture writing, is the origin of all written languages. Storyboards are widely used because we know pictures combined with text offer a rich synthesis of information that can entertain and inform. The pictures in picture writing can be simple cartoons, photographs, or sophisticated technical diagrams. This technique can be an invaluable tool when differentiating reading and writing instruction....
  • Differentiated Instruction: Developing a Storyboarding Classroom
    Tips on how to use visual tools, such as storyboarding, to differentiate instruction in a reading program....

Listening- Comprehension-Podcasting

As a former World Language teacher, I know of the importance of hearing the target language as much as possible. In order to internalize a new vocabulary word, you have to hear it at least 70+ times. By hearing I mean not only the sounds of the letters that make up the word, but also the context the word is embedded in... the melody of the sentence that embraces that word... the words that lead up to it and the words that follow it to make meaning and conclude the sentence.

When learning a language, it is especially important to attach a feeling to a word in order to make meaning of how it will be used in the future with maybe other words surrounding it than the ones originally learned. It is equally important to give language learners the opportunity to practice using the words, sentences and melodies and help them be comfortable in pronouncing them and feeling and hearing them come out of their mouth.

Recording a podcast and the EDITING of the podcast is a great tool, especially for language learners to play with the mechanics of the language. It gives the learners the opportunity to see their voices, read the sounds, manipulate the sequence of sentences, sounds can be deleted, edited, emphasized and re-arranged similar than a word processing program can do this with the written word.

Our second graders were learning the story of Purim a few weeks ago. Their teacher and I planned to have the students record the story as a podcast to be shared with their parents on their classroom blog. Students had had experience with podcasting the previous year as they produced Flat Stanley and a Magic Tree House podcast as first graders.

Their Jewish Studies teacher worked with each of them to write individual parts in Hebrew to create a script of the Purim Story. Collaboratively the class had to make sure that the entire story was told between them.

Then we started recording them in Garageband. We recorded each student's sentence, but were careful to record the sentences completely out of order.

The children loved listening to their recordings over and over again. Once all the parts were recorded it was time for the students to edit the podcast file and move each clip into the correct order to tell the story of Purim.

Putting audio clips into order

We connected the computer to the SmartBoard which allowed students to come up to the board to use their fingers in order to find a certain place in the recording, play, pause, start, listen and decide to which position the clip should be moved to.

Listening Comprehension

Again, I would like to emphasize that this project was NOT about using Garageband (the tool). It was NOT about producing a podcast (the genre) . This lesson was about writing a script, listening, comprehension, collaboration, speaking skills, and fluency in the target language. The tool allowed us to manipulate sounds, re-listen, think critically and logically about the best way to present the story- all in the target language. The genre allowed us to share our work, amplify our reach, gain an authentic audience and motivate students to create and be creative.

Even if you don't speak Hebrew, take a moment and listen to these 7 and 8 year olds. Listen to their fluency, melody and motivation in their voices. Maybe you want to leave them a comment to let them know you "heard" them.

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Bats From A-Z

This following blog post was written by Mrs. B's 2nd graders as part of the important process sharing with an authentic audience and reflecting on the process. They posted it on their class blog, however, that blog does not allow for comments from non-registered users. They would really love to receive comments, so feel free to leave a comment here, if you would like to let our 2nd graders know what you think of their work.

by Mrs. B's 2nd grade

It all started with a story. We read "Fast Food on the Fly," a story about bats, in our Wordly Wise book. We were so interested that we decided to write reports about different kinds of bats. We each chose our own bat, and they were all from Australia. We used the computers to research our bats, and we made a bat cave in the hallway where we displayed our reports.

We decided to create an ABC video to give people information about bats. Mrs. B and Ms. H showed us an example. Then we took a bat quiz. Next, we worked with a partner to brainstorm ideas using the alphabet organizer. We printed out the organizers with all of our ideas. Some letters were easier than others so we had to do more research to come up with a fact for each letter.

Once we decided the best fact for each letter and assigned the letters we used Pixie to write and illustrate our ideas. We went over them and checked to make sure they were correct and looked good. Then we recorded ourselves reading our facts. Finally, we published our video, and we are so excited to share it with you!

Some Reflections:

Image from Peter Pappas

Ayden: We met our goal by finishing the video and teaching everyone about bats. I learned facts about bats that a lot of grown-ups don't know.
Elad: I did this before when we did the values report because I had to look in a book.  I can use this again when I do another report or project.
Eliana: It was important that we taught people new information about bats. I learned to work together without arguing.
Griff: I see a relationship with this project and the president reports because we had to research on the computer for both. In both of them we were teaching people. I feel that I learned a lot about bats. I see that there is so much I didn't know about bats.
Jona: Our class did really well. We edited and revised it. We had to take our time in order to make it really good.  We used the computer and used typing skills. I learned more about bats and I liked using technology.
Natan: We worked well together.
Mrs. B: I was very pleased to see the growth from our very first project, the fire safety and prevention video, to this project. I think you are going to be very prepared for 3rd grade.


2nd Graders Talk About Blogging

Mrs. B's second graders talked about blogging today. Listen as they share some of their favorite things about blogging as a class.


Sharing Our Learning

We have written previously  about Alan November's "Roles for Empowered Learners." Silvia's recent blog post on Langwitches Blog, "What do you have to lose?" speaks of the importance of educators sharing their work.  In it, she references this quote, from Ewan McIntosh: "Sharing, and sharing online specifically, is not in addition to the work of being an educator. It is the work."

We know that students thrive on meaningful work and an authentic audience. We also know that when students reflect on their work, teach others, and use language to describe their process, learning is deepened and reinforced. Does it not stand to reason that students, as well as their teachers, have a strong impetus to share their learning, and to share their learning online specifically,where they have the potential for a wide audience, interaction and feedback?

Mrs. Stein's 2nd grade class did just that with their blog post, Trading Card Experts. After creating several trading cards, each one the extension of a reading assignment, the students felt that they had developed sufficient expertise to become tutorial designers.

A classroom blog provides an easy forum for students to reflect and share in this way. The process of collaborative writing is extremely rich with opportunities for developing students' skills in both reading and writing. When students are sharing what THEY know, interest is high. Students, proud of their accomplishments, know that this is important writing. They want to get it right.

The wordpress blog provides authentic reinforcement of the writing process. 
After starting a new post, we clicked  "save draft." When we next worked on that post, we chose "edit post." As students read their writing aloud, they began to understand the importance of hearing how the writing sounds. The revision process came to life as respectful suggestions were made, discussed, and decided upon by group agreement or popular vote. Finally, students gathered together at the SMARTboard, to click "publish."

Learning is sharing and sharing is most definitely learning. No longer do the four walls of a classroom define the learning environment, and no longer do the students work for the "audience of one." Students are engaged in meaningful learning when they share their work publicly as participants in a global community of learners. No longer is the writing process a series of posters on the wall or words repeated by a teacher. No longer does "publish" mean copying over your work in your nicest handwriting using magic marker.


Using the classroom blog for reflection and sharing represents one example of the kind of upgrade recommended by Heidi Hayes Jacobs in Curriculum 21.



What is…What will be obsolete…for Second Grade?

At the beginning of most calendar years, especially at the beginning of a new decade, century or millennium, we tend to take a closer look at our past and future than perhaps at other times. In the past few weeks I came across the following two articles:

You're Out: 20 Things that became Obsolete this Decade by the Huffington Post and Things that Babies born in 2011 will Never Know by Money Talks News are listing books, travel agents, video tapes, cassettes, watches, CDs and other items that will have or will become obsolete.

The above mentioned articles came to mind, as I was in one of our second grade classrooms getting ready to talk to 7 & 8 year olds about being promoted from merely commenting on their classroom blog to co-authoring a weekly blog post to document their learning and to be able to share it with their parents. Their classroom teacher and I had discussed that students would receive a weekly "Job Assignment" as the "Math Blogger","Science Blogger", etc. and that these jobs would rotate among all students just as the other class job responsibilities.

Class Jobs & Responsibilities I

As I was in their classroom waiting for the students to finish a previous activity, I was looking at their prominent bulletin board displaying students and their corresponding class job.

  1. Morning Opening Leader
  2. Teacher's Helper
  3. Pencil Sharpener
  4. Line Leader
  5. Door Holder
  6. Line Monitor
  7. Paper Collector
  8. Paper Passer
  9. Board Cleaner
  10. Book Organizer

Miss Stein wanted to keep the list of jobs to ten, one for each student in the class. The class started with a discussion about which current jobs they c(sh)ould be eliminated based on necessity and importance within the classroom community. Most students seemed to agree that the "Book Organizer" and "Pencil Sharpener" could be eliminated. I threw them a curve ball by asking them:

What classroom jobs could possibly not exist anymore in 50 years? What kind of classroom jobs would simply NOT exist anymore when their grandchildren would be going to school?

We looked at each job title individually:

  1. Morning Opening Leader- Could still be around.
  2. Teacher's Helper- Could still be around.
  3. Pencil Sharpener- I held up my iPad and my stylus and they immediately made the connection. Then I showed them how I use the NoteTaker HD app to take notes and how I could switch between different colored pencils as well as their thickness. They agreed that I was not in need to sharpen pencils anymore.
  4. Line Leader-Could still be around, IF kids still were going to a physical school every day to learn. I reminded them of our Skype calls and how we could have class with children who lived in different cities, states, countries or continents. There would be no need for a line leader.
  5. Door Holder- Virtual classrooms would not have a door anymore that needed to be held open.
  6. Line Monitor- No students would be lining up in a virtual classroom to walk one behind the other to the lunchroom, resource or monitor needed.
  7. Paper Collector- I pulled my iPad out again and showed them how I could simply e-mail or share my notes with the teacher and she could do the same. We imagined how every student in 50 years would have some sort of device that allowed their teacher to simply have access to their work without the work having to be "collected"
  8. Paper Passer- Passing out paper would also be obsolete, since teachers could share any "papers" or assignments via their device with students.
  9. Board Cleaner- One click... board is wiped clean
  10. Book Organizer- I showed the class my iBook and Kindle app and how I access any book on my shelf. Close the book...and it is "neatly" stored and even remembers the last page I read.

Class Jobs & Responsibilities II

Take a look at the new bulletin board, that their teacher created for her class the following day. Since her second grade is not a 1:1 iPad class, nor holds virtual class for her students, some of the original jobs are [still] valuable and necessary in their classroom. The new added jobs are:

  1. Science Blogger
  2. Spelling Blogger
  3. Reading Blogger
  4. Writing Blogger
  5. Math Blogger

Miss Stein created a "template" blog draft with an outline of a format including the different subject areas. The bloggers of the week will be writing daily in the draft version to document and reflect on their lessons and their learning in different subjects. They will collaboratively revise and edit the draft as a class before publishing and sharing the post. For me, this "blogger" job describes beautifully (at an appropriate developmental stage of a second grader), one of the roles to develop empowered learners that Alan November lists as "Official Scribe".

I am looking forward to seeing their progress as they get comfortable with their new class job as bloggers, practicing online writing, documenting, reflecting on their learning, sharing, collaborating and so much more...

Adapted from Alan November (pp.188-193), Curriculum 21 (ASCD, 2010) by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.


Teaching Others About Hannukah

Our 2nd graders connected with Mrs. Donnellon' first grade class from Booton, New Jersey. We wanted to share the history and tradition of Hannukah. We prepared with their Jewish Studies teachers to be able to articulate and explain the history behind the holiday. With their General Studies teachers, they looked up the geographic location of our Skype partners, estimated and then measured the distance between Florida and New Jersey.

We lit the candles on the hannukia and shared that we light the candles from the left to right, starting with the "newest" candle first.

Two of our girls were documenting the connection with a digital camera and a Flip video camera.

Students then sang the Dreidle song:

Sivivon, sov, sov, sov
Chanukah, hu chag tov
Chanukah, hu chag tov
Sivivon, sov, sov, sov!

Chag simcha who la -am
Nes gadol Haya sham
nes gadol haya sham
Chag simcha who la-am

Dreidel,dreidel, spin, spin, spin
Chanukah is a great holiday.
Chanukah is a great holiday.
Dreidel,dreidel, spin, spin, spin.

A Happy Holiday for everyone,
A great miracle happened there,
A Happy Holiday for everyone

Not only did Mrs. Donnellon's class tried to sing with us, but also learned to dance to the song.

Then it was time to teach the rules of playing dreidle. One of our students showed each letter on the dreidle and explained the rules of the game.

Both classes then were divided into groups and started playing the game. We moved the laptop with the webcam onto the floor, so our connection partners could view us better.


Preparing Students for Commenting with Wall Blogging

All of our classroom teachers are working hard on their classroom blogs. They are using the blog as a platform to allow parents to have a peek into the classroom. It is a communication tool between school and home. It has been a steep learning curve for some to write, post, embed and upload in this new media until it is becoming a daily routine.

I wrote about this learning curve and process of teacher blogging before. My vision includes a step ladder approach as teachers are moving from a purely informational, static, one-way-communication site to a global communication center.

Step Ladder of Blogging

I am proud of how our classroom teachers are continuing to work hard and move forward in the blogging process.

A few weeks ago, our second graders created a video tutorial to teach their parents how to navigate their classroom blog. They are excited and self-motivated to check their classroom blog from home to see if their teachers posted something new. Both teachers and students are now ready to take the next step with the ultimate goal of making a global learning community out of their blog. These 7 & 8 year olds are ready to start commenting!

Taking the idea from the "paper blogging"activity, which originated from the No Matter, There blog, the second grade teachers and I decided to prepare students for commenting with "wall blogging".

In class, teachers had read two books about pilgrims to the children. Outside of the classroom, teachers prepared a wall as a designated "wall blog". They used push pins to "post" a handwritten piece of paper about their reading and added a few questions at the end. They also wrote a poster with "commenting guidelines" in addition to two images and books and a Venn Diagram poster (to compare and contrast the two stories).

Blogging Wall

Blog Post

As a class, we read the post and went over the commenting guidelines.

Commenting Guidelines

The teachers had also prepared some pre-made comments and students had to decide if they were appropriate comments following the guidelines or not. If they were not, they helped re-write the comments to make them appropriate to be pinned to the wall blog.


Then it was time for the students to comment. Each one of them received a colorful sentence strip and was instructed to then answer one of the questions from the original (paper) blog post or to comment on one of the comments that were already pinned to the wall.

Adding Comments to our Blog Wall

Writing Comments

There was a lively buzz going around. The students wrote great comments and it was amazing to see how their minds worked as they were trying to figure out the "best" spot to place their comments. We wanted to make sure that comments who answered the same questions were placed in close proximity to one another. We also talked about the "nested" aspect of comments.

Wall Blogging

We talked about the difference between writing on a piece of paper and writing online. What does it mean when you underline a word on a piece of paper and what does it mean when a word is underlined online?

The wall blogging exercise did not involve ANY TECHNOLOGY! It was all about reading comprehension, writing, categorizing, comparing, contrasting, reflecting, documenting and collaboratively working towards exploring a text. The students will now be able to transfer these skills to a new medium.

A new medium that allows students to practice the skills mentioned above in addition to:

  • be able to do this from home
  • learning how to read and write in an online environment
  • connect and share with a worldwide audience (not just the people who physically can stand in front of our wall blog)

Planning + Collaboration =Success!

I am so excited to share this fire safety PSA created by Mrs B's second grade class.This represents an example of what can be achieved with good planning and collaboration between teachers and students.

The idea for this came from an email notification about The Fire Safety Project, a video contest for students. Mrs. Bernard and Mrs. Hernandez agreed that this would be a worthwhile and appropriate project for the class.
We spent several classes in the classroom, planning.
Planning is key-
First we watched some fire safety public service announcements. The students took notes on the fire safety and prevention tips. We talked about what makes a video interesting, what makes a video stick in your mind, how to best communicate through this medium. We also discussed the idea of a PSA- using your movie to teach others.
Then we brainstormed ideas for our movie. Through the brainstorming process students considered several different concepts and ideas for the video. They really took ownership- discussing, deciding, revising- until they agreed upon a slogan and 5 safety and prevention tips.
We filmed pairs of students saying "Stay safe, Be cool. Don't be a fool" and students created individual storyboards to generate ideas for filming the 5 tips. Finally we created a whole class storyboard:
We used the storyboard as a guide as we filmed each scene.
Student ownership-
This project completely belonged to the students. The students came up with each and every idea for how to film the scenes, what to say, what props to use. If they didn't think it was right, they did it again, changing, adding, subtracting, improving. I can not emphasize enough the involvement and ownership of the students in each and every decision. They showed patience, perseverance, creativity and an impressive ability to work together as a group.
Process and Product
The process worked, and the students are so proud of their video. Whether it wins the $10,000 prize or not, they have achieved success.


2nd Graders Create Video Blog Tutorial for their Parents

Every classroom at MJGDS has it's own blog space this school year. Teachers are using it at various levels for parent/school communication, student work, two-way communication with commenting, documentation for classroom happenings as well as the hub and archive of classroom images, videos and audio.

Second graders have created tutorial video for their parents and grandparents that explains a few "blog" specific vocabulary words as well as highlights and models how to find information and navigate the classroom blog.

Alan November, in his chapter of the book Curriculum21- Essential Education in a Changing World by Heidi Hayes Jacobs talks about six new roles to empower student learning. One of them is "Tutorial Designers".

Our 7 year olds  enthusiastically jumped on board. We started out with a lesson about specific blog vocabulary we wanted them to use during .

Blog Vocabulary

Their teacher made a list of all the words as well as the areas we wanted to highlight in the tutorial. Students then were assigned specific words or parts. We started to brainstorm, as a class, the introduction to the tutorial.

  • What would we say to get parents interested in watching the tutorial?
  • How would we welcome them?
  • How could we show them how to get to the classroom blog?

Collaborative Brainstorming

Students had very specific ideas and were adamant about certain words, their order and the way they wanted to say them.

Organization for Tutorial Video

The following day, in class, students wrote a short script of what they wanted to say using their assigned vocabulary words.

The Writing Process

Their classroom teacher reminded her students about the writing process during each step along the way by pointing to the bulletin board on the wall.

  1. Pre-Writing
  2. Drafting
  3. Revising
  4. Editing
  5. Evaluating
  6. Publishing

Students then were assigned to practice their "part" as homework for the following day when we would be filming them with the Flip camera.

We had a blast creating the video (just hang around until the end to watch the bloopers :) ).

Here for your viewing pleasure: