2nd Grade Digital Storytelling

The Great Turkey Escape

the great turkey escapeEvery year around Thanksgiving, I’m usually teaching students about point-of-view.  I think Thanksgiving is the perfect time to teach this skill because I always enjoy doing some type of project where the students have the opportunity to describe Thanksgiving from the turkey’s point-of-view!  I usually just let the students write about Thanksgiving from the turkey’s point-of-view and illustrate their stories.  They usually really get into this assignment, and I’m always very pleasantly surprised by the amount of creativity they put into it.  This year however, I wanted a way to make the students’ writing really come to life, and it just so happens that around this time, I discovered a nifty new Web 2.0 tool called ZooBurst.  ZooBurst is a free digital storytelling tool that allows users to create their very own 3D digital pop-up books.  Here’s how we used ZooBurst to make our Thanksgiving stories come alive:

  1. We learned about point-of-view for a whole week before we even began this project.
  2. After my students had a good understanding of point-of-view, we read the story ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey.
  3. Then, I read my students this short vignette that I wrote about a turkey escaping from the oven on Thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving at the Jeter House

Mrs. Jeter loved Thanksgiving. It was her most favorite holiday. She loved getting out of school for 3 days. She loved getting together to eat with friends and family. Most of all, however, Mrs. Jeter loved eating turkey!

Mrs. Jeter liked her turkeys cooked until they were a golden-brown color. She liked for her turkeys to be tender. She liked for her turkeys to be juicy. Mrs. Jeter also loved her turkeys stuffed with homemade cornbread dressing.

Every Thanksgiving, Mrs. Jeter’s mom would bake her a nice, juicy turkey, and every Thanksgiving, Mrs. Jeter would eat it all. She would eat turkey for breakfast. She would eat turkey for lunch. She would eat turkey for dinner. Mrs. Jeter would even eat turkey for her snack.

But, things changed this Thanksgiving. Mrs. Jeter went to her mom’s house to eat turkey like she always does. Her mom had already put the yams, the green beans, the dressing, the gravy, the cranberry sauce, and the rolls on the dinner table. When Mrs. Jeter arrived, her mom went to the kitchen to get the turkey out of the oven. When Mrs. Jeter’s mom opened the oven door, the turkey was gone. They looked everywhere, but the turkey was nowhere to be found.

  1. After I read the students the story, I told them that it was their job to rewrite the story in first person from the turkey’s point-of-view explaining how he/she managed to escape from the oven on Thanksgiving Day. I also told them that we would use their writing to create digital 3D pop-up books.
  2. In their writing notebooks, I let the students brainstorm ways the turkey could have escaped from the oven, gotten out of the house, and gotten away from the house.
  3. Once their brainstorming was complete, I divided them into small groups of 2-3 students and gave them a storyboard to complete.
  4. The storyboard had 8 squares (4 on each side of the paper) for each group to plan out their stories, but I only required each group to use 6 of the squares. I just found a generic storyboard template online that had a box where the students could sketch out their illustrations and lines where they could write out their story.
  5. I gave them the following outline for completing the text of each square: Square #1 – Title of the Story & Authors, Square #2 – “It all started when Mrs. Jeter’s mom took me home and put me in the oven.”, Square #3 – First, … (explain how the turkey got out of the oven), Square #4 – Next, … (explain how the turkey got out of the house), Square #5 – Last, … (explain how the turkey got away from the house), Square #6 – “And that’s how I escaped Thanksgiving!”
  6. Once the students finished the text on their storyboards, they sketched a picture to go with each square.
  7. Then, the students used their completed storyboards to create their ZooBurst books. Using the ZooBurst program, the students were able to insert and arrange digital “pop-up” characters into a page of their 3D book.  The program already provides copyright-free images which was wonderful!  Each group typed the text of their story into the boxes provided beneath each page or “slide” of their books.  The students also inserted speech bubbles above the characters’ heads and typed in dialogue for each character.
  8. Finally, I let the students present their finished books to their classmates.  Be sure to check out our stories below!

This project was definitely a winner and I’d like try it again next year!  There is a paid version of the ZooBurst software, but the free version worked just fine for us.  The only downside to using the free version of ZooBurst is that you can’t add sounds or record your voice and you can’t establish individual student accounts, but other than that, the free version worked really well and was extremely easy to use!  I completed this project with 2nd graders, but I think the software would be easy to use with even younger students.

Group 1 Movie

Group 2 Movie

Group 3 Movie

Happy Tech-ing!


2nd Grade PhotoStory

2nd Grade Safari

animal research projectEver since I’ve been teaching 2nd grade, we’ve always ended the school year with a big animal research project because one of the South Carolina 2nd grade science standards, standard 2.L.5., states that “the student will demonstrate an understanding of how the structures of animals help them survive and grow in their environments”.  When my 2nd grade team first began this project many years ago, we had the students conduct their research using books and the Internet, and we had them create a basic PowerPoint presentation to present their research.

Well several years back, I decided to change the way students presented their research because PowerPoint presentations can often be overused and become a bore.  I decided to have my students create a PhotoStory project to present their information instead!  By now, I’m sure that everyone is familiar with the PhotoStory software, but if not, I’ll briefly explain how it works.  PhotoStory is a free Microsoft software that allows users to use photos, narration, and music to create basic multimedia movies.  The software is basically self-guided and very easy to use—no expert video editing skills are necessary.  The Microsoft PhotoStory software can be downloaded for free from here.

These are the steps I followed to complete the project:

  1. To start the project, I divided students into small groups of 2 or 3, and let each group choose an animal to research. Each group was required to pick a different animal—no duplicates.
  2. Then I had the students conduct their research. They were required to use at least 1 Internet source and 1 book source.  The librarian at our school helped us conduct our research and cite our sources.  I created a “Note-Taking Guide” data sheet to guide the students’ research.  The guide contained questions similar to the following:  What animal group does your animal belong to?  2. What does your animal eat?  3. How does your animal defend itself against other animals?  4. What type of habitat does your animal live in?  While these are a few of the questions I used, these questions could easily be adapted to target whatever animal information you want the students to find.  I also had the students create 2 “quiz” questions to ask their classmates based on the information they gathered about their animals.
  3. I made a “script” for the students to follow while making their movies. Once the “Note-Taking Guide” was complete, I had the students use the guide to complete the script.
  4. After the scripts were complete, the students took several days to practice reading the scripts with their partners.
  5. While we were practicing our scripts, the librarian gathered a variety of copyright-free images of the animals the students had chosen and saved them in folders named after each group on the school’s “Common” drive.
  6. Once the librarian finished gathering our photos, I showed the students how to use the PhotoStory software and how to locate and upload their animal pictures to the software on the Promethean Board.
  7. Then, the students arranged their pictures in the order they wanted them to appear in the movie, typed their text, and used their scripts to record their movie narration. They also added music to their movies.
  8. When the students finally finished their Animal Research Projects, we had a huge “2nd Grade Movie Premier” where they presented their movies to their classmates and other special guests, such as parents and other teachers/administrators. We even served popcorn and juice boxes as refreshments!

I didn’t attach the students’ movies because their movies included pictures and personal information about themselves on the opening slides.  My class had a blast working on this project, and I think that they really learned (and retained) a lot of information about animals and their habitats!  We’ve repeated this project several times over the past few years, but I hope to change it up a little this year and try something new!  We’ll see how that goes!  I’ll be sure to keep you updated!

Happy Tech-ing!