A few weeks ago, I was brainstorming a lesson with a 7th grade Life Science teacher at my school. She had a unit on symbiosis coming up and she wanted to assess the students in a new way. We bounced around a lot of ideas: green screens, music videos, cartooning sites but what we landed on was StoryKit. StoryKit is a free app from the folks at the International Children's Digital Library (which is a great resource in itself if you aren't already familiar with it!).
My job was to introduce the tool which was easy because StoryKit is so intuitive. I just walked the kids through the features and made a silly story as a sample. Students literally had no technical questions or problems. If there weren't sure how to do something, they quickly figured it out or asked a friend. It was seamless.
Their stories were fantastic. The teacher assigned a symbiotic relationship to each group of students. The task for the group was to write a children's story that told a story about that relationship. She made a model first to show them and reinforced Language Arts skills by using the same story graph that their Language Arts teacher had used with them earlier. Kids came up with adorable ideas and clever plot twists to demonstrate what they knew about symbiosis. And the best stories would go in person to an elementary school to read to a class. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Sloth and Algae Reunite
Lola and Charlie
Sandy and Randy's Adventure: Lost at Sea
What I learned from this lesson:
- The simplest apps are often the best
- Having a real audience for school work results in better school work
- Asking students to explain what they know in simple terms demonstrates whether they know or understand an idea
- 7th graders are their best selves for 2nd graders
- Kids learn when we tell and share stories
And guess what app the 2nd graders asked to use next time they could use iPads?