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Sunday, June 21, 2015

5 Online Tools for Creating Picture Books

My recent about Jellybean Writer, an online picture book maker, was one last week's most popular posts. If you missed it, I have a description of it below along with four other good tools for creating picture books.

Using pictures as the basis for a story can be a good way to get students to write a story. The pictures can serve as prompts for writing the story. All five of the tools listed below have that capability.

Picture Book Maker allows students to create six page stories by dragging background scenes into a page, dragging in animals and props, and typing text. All of the elements can be sized an positioned to fit the pages. Text is limited to roughly two lines per page. Completed stories are displayed with simple page turning effects. Stories created on Picture Book Maker can be printed and or saved as PDFs.

MyStorybook is a nice online tool for creating short storybooks. MyStorybook provides blank pages on which you can type, draw, and place clipart. Your storybook pages can also include pictures that you upload. After signing into your MyStorybook account you can start creating your first book. Click on the text fields to edit any existing text in the title and author fields. You can add more text by clicking "text" in the editing menu. To add a picture of your own select "items" in the editing menu. At the bottom of the "items" menu you will find an option to upload your own images. MyStorybook provides lots of stock imagery that you can place on a page or use as the background to a page. If you want to branch-out beyond text and images, use the drawing tools on your pages.

Storybird provides templates and artwork for creating digital stories. To use Storybird you simply select a theme (layout) then drag and drop the drawings you like into your story. Once you've selected drawings for your story, you then write in the text of your story. Using Storybird, anyone can create great-looking digital picture book stories regardless of your drawing skills or lack of drawing skills. Storybird can be used on your iPad. The video embedded below demonstrates how.


Storybird Editor from Storybird on Vimeo.


Alphabet Organizer is a great little tool from Read Write Think that students can use to create alphabet charts and books. The idea behind Alphabet Organizer is to help students make visual connections between letters of the alphabet and the first letter of common words. In the video below I demonstrate how to use this tool.



Jellybean Writer is a free tool for creating picture books. Students can import pictures from their computers then write captions for each image. A variety of layout templates, background colors, and fonts are available to Jellybean Writer users. All stories can be saved online or downloaded and printed. If picture books are too simple for your students, they can skip using pictures and select one of the text only templates for the pages in their books.

10 Good Apps & Sites for Creative Writing Projects

Developing fiction stories comes easily to some students. For others it can be a struggle to come up with ideas for fiction stories. The apps and sites in the PDF embedded below can help students start creative stories. A few of the tools in the document will also help you provide your students with feedback on their stories.


Click here if cannot see the embedded document.

10 Resources for Teaching and Learning About Weather

It's a rainy Sunday morning here in Maine. I'm sure the rain put a damper on a few picnics today. It certainly caused a change in my plans for the day. But at least the rain inspired me to look back at some of the many resources for teaching and learning about weather that I have reviewed over the years. Here are ten resources for teaching and learning about weather.

The History of the Barometer. This TED-Ed lesson covers the history, development, and use of barometers in forecasting the weather.




Why Are There Clouds? is a relatively new Minute Earth video that explains how clouds are formed and how they rise or fall in the sky. The nice thing about Minute Earth videos is that a list of references is included in each video's description on YouTube.



Thirstin's Water Cycle takes students on an animated and narrated tour of the water cycle from water, to vapor, to clouds, to rain. Thirstin's Tour of a Water Treatment Plant takes students on a narrated tour through a typical water treatment facility found in the United States.

Waterlife is an interactive story about the water cycle in the Great Lakes. Waterlife is a twenty part story through which students can learn about the role of water in our lives. Through the story students learn about things like fishing, pollution, invasive species, wetlands, and the politics of water conservation. When students select a part of the Waterlife story they will be able to hear narration, see visuals, and read the text of the story. Some parts of the story also contain links to external resources that student can explore.

Scholastic's Interactive Weather Maker is an activity in which students adjust temperatures and humidity levels to create rain and snow storms. Students simply move the temperature and humidity sliders until rain or snow begins to show up in the scene on their screens.

The Smithsonian Science Education Center's Weather Lab is a simple online activity designed to help elementary and middle school students learn about weather patterns. In the Weather Lab students select an ocean current and an air mass then try to predict the weather pattern that will result from their choices. The Weather Lab provides an overview of the characteristics of each air mass and ocean current. Students should use that information in making their weather predictions.  After making their predictions the Weather Lab will tell students if they were correct or not. In the feedback given to students they will find links to videos for further learning about each weather pattern featured in the Weather Lab.

The following short explanatory video from Presh Talwalkar explains how windchill is calculated


Wild Weather Kitchen Experiments is a short series of instructional videos produced by The Open University. Each of the four videos in the series features a short lesson followed by directions for an experiment that you can carry out to see the lesson's concepts in action. The four lessons are on avalanches, tornadoes, floods, and dust storms.

Television news reporters like to use the word "extreme" whenever we have a lot of rain or snow in a short amount of time. Is the weather really "extreme" or is that just our impression of it? The following Minute Earth video takes on the topic of how extreme weather affects our thinking about weather patterns in general. I found the video to be interesting from a psychology perspective. The video is embedded below.



The following episode of Bytesize Science embedded below explains how snowflakes are created.


Videos like those in the list above are excellent candidates to be used as parts of flipped lessons. VideoNotes, Vialogues, and EDpuzzle are solid tools for hosting discussions around shared educational videos.