Tuesday, November 19, 2019

7 Great Places to Make and Find Story Starters

For many people the hardest of starting a writing assignment is choosing thinking of things to write about. This is particularly true when it comes to starting creative writing assignments. Fortunately, there are many good tools and websites that teachers can use to generate writing prompts. Likewise, there are lots of good websites that offer creative writing prompts for students. Here are some of my favorite tools for creating story starters and favorite sites for finding story starters.

500 Prompts on The Most Dangerous Writing App
The Most Dangerous Writing App is a website that provides a blank canvas to write on for a minimum time of your choosing. The catch is that if you stop writing before the time is up, you lose your work. 500 writing prompts are provided for those who need a little inspiration to get started. In the following video I demonstrate how to use The Most Dangerous Writing App
. Update: November 2021, this tool is no longer available. 

Create Story Starters in Google Sheets
Flippity offers a few templates that can be used to create random story starters. One of those is a mix & match template that can be used to combine words or phrases from up to ten categories. Click the shuffle button in the mix & match template to generate a story starter. This video provides a demonstration of how that template works.

Flippity also offers a random name picker Google Sheets template. While it was designed to randomly select a student's name from a list, you could list story prompts instead of names in the sheet and have it display a random story prompt every time the picker is shuffled. Here's a video about how it works.

Flippity MadLibs is another Google Sheets template that can be used to create story prompts. As the name implies, it can be used to create MadLibs-style fill-in-the-blank stories. Watch the following video to see how it works.

Emojis as Writing Prompts
Update November 2020: This tool is no longer available. 
Emoji Prompts uses emojis as writing prompts. To generate a prompt just go to the Emoji Prompts site and click the blue "and then" button to add emojis to the screen. Students can write stories inspired by the combinations of emojis that are displayed.

Writing Sparks
Writing Sparks offers timed writing prompts to share with your elementary school students. Students can respond to the prompts by writing on paper, in a word processing document like MS Word, or by writing on the Writing Sparks website. The Writing Sparks website provides students with templates to complete as they respond to each writing prompt. In the video that is embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to use the free Writing Sparks service.

Scholastic Story Starters
Scholastic Story Starters is a great tool that students will enjoy using to create short, creative fiction stories. Scholastic Story Starters offers four story themes; fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, and scrambler. To create a story on Story Starters a students picks a theme, enter his or her name, chooses his or her grade, and spins the big wheels of prompts. The student can spin the wheels until he or she finds a prompt he or she likes. After the prompt is selected the student can write his or her story using the letter, postcard, notebook, or newspaper format provided by Scholastic Story Starters. When the story is finished it can be printed.

Microsoft Forms Now Supports File Collection

Microsoft Forms offers a good way for teachers to create online quizzes and surveys. Over the last couple of years Microsoft has steadily added more and more features to it. File collection is the latest feature to be added to Microsoft Forms.

File collection in Microsoft Forms lets you create questions that students or parents respond to by uploading a file. Microsoft Forms supports the collection of audio, video, image, PPT, Excel, PDF, and Word files. You can specify the file type that you will accept as a response. You can also specify a maximum file size that you will accept through your form. I learned about this new feature through a Tweet from Mike Tholfsen. His Tweet including the demo video that is embedded below.

File upload is a new feature and is being rolled-out to Microsoft Forms users over the next few weeks.

Applications for Education
The file upload option could be a great way to collect samples of your students' work in one place. This could be a great way to have students turn-in things like spoken responses to questions. Have them record with a simple tool like Vocaroo then upload their audio recordings to your Microsoft Form.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Collaboratively Create Maps on Padlet

Padlet has been in my list of top collaboration tools for nearly a decade. I started using it with my students back when it was still known as Wallwisher. There are many ways to use Padlet from simply providing a place to share text notes to using it as a place to collect video samples from students. Late last week Padlet added another way that teachers and students can use Padlet. That way is to collaboratively create maps.

Padlet's new mapping tool is rather easy to use. To access it simply open your Padlet account and create click "make a Padlet." You'll then be taken to a list of template options including the new map option. Select the map option and you're ready to start building your custom map.

After selecting the map template you're ready to start adding multimedia markers to your map. To add a marker you can either drag one onto the map or use the search tool to have a marker added to a specific location.

The markers that you add to your map can include all of the types of media that you can add to any other Padlet wall. That means you can add pictures, videos, text, links, audio, and even documents to the markers on your map. Padlet even has built-in tools for recording video and audio. Students could use those options to record themselves talking about the places that they're adding to their maps.

Finally, like all other Padlet walls, the maps you choose to make in Padlet can be made collaboratively. There are a handful of ways that you can invite students to collaborate on a map. Those invitation options include sharing a public or private link, using a password-protected map, invitation via email, embedding the map into other websites, and sharing via QR code.

If you have never tried Padlet, watch my short video tutorial to learn how to get started.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Nebraska where I'm visiting my good friends Kris and Beth Still. Some of you may recall that Beth and met more than a decade ago when she organized the NECC Newbie Project and chose me to be the "newbie." Since then our friendship has grown and our families have become friends too. Every fall I come out for a visit. My school's director is kind enough to let me go (thanks, Paul).

This week all of the presentations for the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference were chosen and the final schedule will be out soon. If you haven't registered for this free event, you can do so right here.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. How to Add Audio to Google Slides - Updated
2. More Than 30,000 Historical Maps for Student Projects
3. Fling the Teacher! - A Fun Review Game from Classtools
4. A Classic Geography Tool - Overlap Maps
5. Get Instant Feedback on Your Presentations With Presenter Coach
6. How to Create Image Overlays in Google Earth
7. How to Create a Multimedia Timeline Through Google Sheets

I'll come to your school in 2020! 
2020 will be my tenth year of speaking at schools and conferences. Send me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to learn more about how we can work together.

On-demand PD
On PracticalEdTech.com I have seven professional development webinars available to view whenever you like.

Thank You for Your Support!
Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides FreeTech4Teachers.com and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.
  • My YouTube Channel - More than 16,000 are subscribed to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 300 Google tools tutorials. 
  • The Practical Ed Tech Podcast is where I answer questions from readers, share news and notes, and occasionally talk to interesting people in education. 
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  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last twelve years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing. 

5 Wakelet Tutorial Videos

Over the last year and a half or so Wakelet has become quite popular with teachers. Part of that popularity is due to the versatility of Wakelet which continues to increase every time a new feature is added. Some of the things that teachers, myself included, are doing with Wakelet include using to for collaborative bookmarking, gathering feedback from students, and making simple digital portfolios. Over the last year, I have created a series of tutorials on how to use Wakelet. Until now I haven't put them together in one place. What follows are my five Wakelet tutorial videos.

How to Get Started Using Wakelet

Watch my video below to learn how to get started using Wakelet.

How to Add Google Drive & One Drive Folders to Wakelet Collections

How to Make an Instructional Video in Wakelet

How to Embed Wakelet Collections in Google Sites & Edublogs

How to Use Wakelet to Collaborate and Gather Feedback