Thursday, December 13, 2012

Writing Children's Books in Spanish in StoryBird

StoryBird offers free accounts for educators and has a selection of pre-fab art for writing children's illustrated storybooks that can be read online, downloaded to print, or sent to press and made into a hardcover book.

My students wrote 8 page stories in Spanish 203 this semester.  The creativity of writing a narrative to accompany the art available to them in StoryBird got them out of the rut of writing the same four ideas (description of my mom, my favorite sport, etc.).  We were learning the present subjunctive at the time, so students used the subjunctive in context (a minimum of 8 times) in their story. 

They drafted stories directly in the program.  I gave them 4 days to get them written.  We went over some in class, and students paid attention and acted interested when we went over some of the stories and tweaked the grammar.  After looking at about 10 stories in class one day, I asked students to print out a Word document of their story so I could write on those and edit them for everyone.  I think two drafts were very necessary.  If we wanted perfect grammar, we would have needed a third draft---there were still some errors in the final draft for quite a few students.

Students needed to be able to include accent marks in their compositions.  I sent them to instructions on the Language Resource Center website for setting up the computer to do accents outside of Word.

Grading the first draft was occasionally confusing because I had the text but not the image from StoryBird.  Some students were not brave enough to have me go over their first draft story in class on the projector, so the Word document draft was a way to get feedback to everyone. 

In addition to bringing grammar into context, this assignment stretched students to learn new vocabulary.  They looked up words for the stories since the pictures led them in new directions. Occasionally this led to dictionary overuse and some errors in word selection. 

Here is a Wiki about using Storybird in the language classroom, with example stories in several languages.

Unfortunately, StoryBird does not allow the publication of stories in languages other than English, so I can't show you the sample stories from my class until I get them posted to the Wiki.

If you use StoryBird, comment and share some ideas about how it worked for you!

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