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Collaborative StoryBook- Florida Explorers

In Florida, the fourth grade curriculum calls for students to learn about the explorers of the 15th and 16th century who came to its coast and influenced the history of the state. As the teachers and I were sitting together to plan the upgrade of the unit, we looked at the instructional goals, standards and objectives, reminded ourselves of 21st century skills and literacies we wanted to incorporate into the lessons for students to be exposed to, practice and “live and breathe”.

I shared with Mrs. R. the Explorer Mixbook project I had co-taught with a teacher from another school. We decided to also create a storybook, using Mixbook again, where students contributed different parts from a common storyline. In contrast to the previous project the story would be a narrative fiction with historical facts intertwined instead of a non fiction book. During one class, students collaboratively worked on ideas for a possible storyline and how each explorer would be represented and how groups would be able to research and contribute their portion of a story.

Brainstorming a storyline

Students started getting their creative juices flowing and kept coming up with more and more ideas to add to the list. Excitement in the class grew larger by the minute. The classroom teacher saved the notebook page with the ideas jotted down as an image and uploaded it to their classroom blog. She extended the brainstorming session by asking her students to add their storyline ideas as comments to the blog post. The class would vote on a final storyline once back in class. Here are a few comments:

This is going to be a cool project! Here is a idea for the story part : One day of school, the entire 4th grade find notes in there binders to go to Old St. Augstine to go back in time. To solve mysteries…….. explore new lands. but the question is : WHO sent them ? Our class is in our classroom, and we are learning about explorers in Florida. We all fall asleep and have the same dream. Our dream is about us meeting explorers. They tell us important facts and cool stuff about them.

Thats cool Brianna! I really like it. Now here is my idea…….. We are searching up explorers and all of a sudden the explorers come out of the computer screen. When they do, they tell us all about their lives/adventures. Then we all wanted to know more since we all liked it. They all told us some facts about themselfes. It was so much fun that we felt like we were actually travaling with them when they were telling us about their adventures/stories/travels. We all said goodbye and then all of a sudden, they went back onto the comuter screen. We all wish that they would come back soon! Thats the story I think we should do. :)
Once the class decided on a final storyline, we created a Google Doc and invited all students to edit. We started out with a beginning sentence and asked students to log in from home to add at least one more sentence. They were not to delete a previous sentence, but continue writing the introduction of their Explorer Story. They were also asked to insert a comment if they had an idea how to expand a previously written sentence by a classmate. In class, we read the collaboratively written paragraph and edited and expanded where necessary. We also asked the students to start thinking of visuals, images that would complement their story and could be inserted into their storybook.

Collaboratively writing the introduction and conclusion

Students then started their research about their assigned explorers. They also looked for creative commons or public domain images that they could upload and use for their storybook. Once found, they uploaded the images to Mixbook. For a step by step tutorial how to use Mixbook, take a look at the following chapter of my Digital Storytelling book.

Uploading Public Domain images to Mixbook

Students took turns to create and design the layout of their individual pages and then inserted and formatted the appropriate images and text.

Layout & Text Entry

Upgrade to 21st Century Skills

Upgrade to 21st Century Literacies

Upgrade to Digital Learning Farm based on Alan November

Mixbook - Create Beautiful Photo Books and Scrapbooks! | View Sample Photo Books | Create your own Photo Book

Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. Ashley Zenk says:

    I think this looks like a really neat idea and something that I could bring down to the level of Kindergarten with a little bit of help. I am honestly really excited about looking more into this program!

  2. Beth says:

    I really love the way you have integrated the steps of the writing process into a collaborative activity using the different technologies. Why do you choose Mixbook for the product? I am a curriculum writer for my school district and am definitely going to incorporate an adaptation of this lesson (we don’t quite have the freedom to use classroom blogs, yet!) into our 3rd and or 4th grade Reading/Writing/Information Literacy content. I think it will be a great way to address our indicators, which are based on the Common Core State Standards. Thanks for all of your wonderful ideas–you are a wealth of great information.

    • @Beth,
      I chose Mixbook, since I worked with them before and am very happy with their service. Mixbook also allows for collaborative work on one book. Another reason for choosing Mixbook is the option for embedding the electronic version of the book on the classroom blog and allowing the parents to directly purchase a hardcopy through Mixbook’s website if they desire.

  3. Bill says:

    I really appreciate the uses of technology and 21st Century skills to enhance instruction, student understanding, and motivation. Through the examples you have shown you can almost feel the enthusiasm for learning that your students must have had while undertaking the learning of the 15th and 16th century explorers. It really leads to a variety of lessons that could be undertaken using this program.

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