Storybird

Story Bird is a website where you can create your own story. Totally free! It leaves place to imagination and creation for both students and teachers. It is a very user friendly website, simple and filled with varied options of images. Anyone can use this website without having to search on Google how it works. The images and pictures are divided in simple categories that are easy to understand for both younger and older ones. There are three types of stories that can be created: picture book, long form and poem.

You can create an account in not even two minutes. Once you are signed in on Story bird you must simply start by clicking on ‘Write’ then you can choose the theme of the story you are about to do. Once you have chosen the theme that you want, you select the type of story (picture, long form or poem). The first, picture book has several pages where you can put images and text. The image can either take the whole page, three quarters of the page or half. While the text takes the empty space left, if there are some. The second, long form is one single page, with once again different images that are centered with text underneath. To create a separate chapter you can simply insert a divider, identified with three diamonds. The third, poem is a single page where you can write your text and add one image.

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This story website is useful in an ESL classroom because it gives the opportunity for teachers to write stories adapted to their students level of learning, but also give the possibility for students to practice their English. A teacher can ask students for example (maybe more elementary) to create a book with family members, such as Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Cousin, etc. Students can have the possibility to be creative and have fun, while doing an English project (wow, isn’t that amazing, students enjoying English!). Having the students practice some basic but important words. If need be, when students are having a hard time for any types of words, such as verb tense, the teacher can create a story to have them practice exactly what they need. Teachers can use these stories to explain and demonstrate: grammar, syntax and spelling in an interesting way. Such as Chad Sansing says, bringing a purpose for writing is essential for any classroom use, here for an ESL class. An ESL teacher can easily present this to the whole class if they have a Smartboard© or a simple projector. If a teacher knows that it will be useful for future groups that he/she will have, it is possible to get a printed version of the book. Since second language courses are not what interests all students, having an interactive and original presentation will keep them interested. Since teachers can add students to their group, they can help edit the English in the story, and then have the students read it over. It is their own work; they will be interested in reading it over and seeing how improved it is. In an ESL classroom it is good to go over what students have learn, teachers can see what they have learned or even have them do simple book reports on it. Storybird can give the possibility to students to practice their English in a fun way, without actually realizing that their English is being evaluated and practiced. If you want to make your students read your story you can either show it in class on the website or make it public where they can go see the story themselves as homework. Having the students write stories and show them to their parents after can make students even prouder and create a good story. It can easily bridge house life and school life together, as agrees Mr.Avery a 6th grade teacher in Massachusetts.

Some disadvantages are that on the side of creativity is that the images are character theme based, so the images are mostly all the same. This makes Storybird somewhat limited since you can’t download your own images. Another disadvantage according to me is that you cannot save the document in a PDF format, it can only be online or you have the possibility. An interesting part is that you can order a printed copy.

I myself as a future ESL teacher would use this to teach English in Elementary because it brings about children imagination and creativity while having the chance to develop and improve their English skills. I think that it is important to find interesting ways to teach a second language to students to motivate them.

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Use of the Ipad in an ESL Classroom

Based on today’s generational habits, schools don’t have any other choice than to adapt themselves. Therefore, textbooks and worksheets have been taken over by iPads and computers. Most teachers that have been teaching for several years do have a hard time getting used to it, but the ones just starting are motivated to try new technologies. Worksheets and textbooks are not completely obsolete, but they have given place to new material.

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iPads are very useful in any classroom, from a science to a language course. It gives students a fast access to a thesaurus and a dictionary, which is very practical for an ESL classroom. With the dictionary or thesaurus application right in front of them, students will get used to looking up words instead of putting their hand up each time they have a question. An advantage of working with iPads is that students can hand in their projects/homework automatically and ”the pupils learn more efficiently as they get instant feedback” – Anne Laure Bazin (assistant head teach at Mont Bay Academy in Cornwall). That way, students still remember what they handed in and can understand better the corrections without reviewing everything.

It is also more simple for teachers because they can share more easily their resources with other teachers. It is more practical since the teacher can take the attendance and send it directly to the school direction. Ipads have the advantage of offering a variety of different applications, that can offer classroom management help, quizzes , games, storytelling, note taking, audio recording, dictionary, etc. Since all students learn differently it is useful to have an iPad that the teacher can customize according to each of their level of learning (ex. Download a podcast or an image). Ipads are useful for an ESL classroom because a simple tool like MeteoMedia can help students (maybe this time elementary students) with getting to know their weather expressions. All the students have immediate access to a lot content. The fact that students use Ipads in their ESL class and not in their other classes, makes this one more attractive to the students. Often English, is not the class that students like to participate in, this might motivate students to participate and speak the target language. ESL teachers can create their own interactive material that works best for their students, because they know them very well. A teacher can also share their notes or make students follow a power point presentation while the teacher is giving the lesson. Having the chance to be in direct contact with notes and move them around according to their own way of learning, helps students learn instead of memorizing. Such as Brandi McWilliams (English Teacher) said: ”They don’t just memorize the book, they don’t just spit it back our for me, they know it because they’re involved in it, they’re visualizing it, and they’re making a movie in their head about it.” Getting students involved, helps them learn better.

I think that yes it does have a lot of advantages but I feel like students forget how to write. What I mean by this is that since everything is autocorrected by an iPad application, the student doesn’t understand his mistakes and can’t concentrate on improving them. Students become dependent of the iPad, so they, according to me, forget to read real books! Another disadvantage is that often in a class, there are always plenty of students that do not have their iPads with them, either because they forgot it, they are being repaired or even waiting to be repaired.

ClassCraft for ESL Teachers

Before talking about the target website, Gamification must be approached. Gamification is basically the use of game design elements in non-game contexts, which differentiates if from serious games. It is the use of games into classroom contexts to help teachers with regular class routines and to motivate students. Nowadays  technology takes a lot of place in children and teenagers life, but also young adults. Therefore, schools have no choice but to adapt to this situation; this is where gamification becomes of great use. Gamification gives the possibility to motive students to participate and do their homework because the results appear on the board.

ClassCraft is a classroom management website/application. The application is available on the Apple Store and on Android. The application for Iphones and Smartphones is available only when you register for the premium version (which offers more). ClassCraft is played in more than 1900 classes, in 50 countries and played in seven different languages. This application/website is a combination of Class Dojo and World of WarCraft, a computer video game. It is similar to Class Dojo but incorporates many elements from video games, which makes it less childish. The application/website is available in several languages, such as English, which makes it easily adaptable for an ESL classroom. I created myself an account, it seems complicated at first because there are a lot of options. It would probably be a bit easier for someone that games often, since it is based on a computer game. One practical option is that each time you open a new section of the website there is a mini tutorial that you can watch. There is also a demo class when you log in for the first time in order to try it out.

Similar to Class Dojo, you can give and take off points based on students behaviour in class. Instead of accumulating points for themselves only, students are in teams, that way their point accumulations affects more than one person. It is possible for the teacher to give XP (points) simply for attending class, this way it does motivate students, whether in elementary or secondary because they know that if they show up they give points to their team. In their teams, students have to accumulate experience points in order to level up.

There are four different types of points that students can accumulate: Health, action, experience and gold points. The first, health points (HP) are like the characters life level, if it attends zero, it dies. The teacher can make sure that all students get a new amount of HP every day, to make sure that no characters die. They are taken off based on the students behaviour, such as: arriving late to class, disturbing the class or incomplete homework. The teacher can decide at the beginning (and change during) the amount of points lost in those categories. The second, action points (AP) are points that permits the use of power and abilities. Abilities can either be won or given as a privilege by the teacher for good behaviour in class. The third, experience points (XP) permits the characters to level up and get power. For example, finding a mistake in class notes or even giving a correct answer t a question in class. With the amount of points given by the teacher on the website it gives student experience points. The last one, gold points (GP) is money with which they can buy what they need, for example powers or even a new gear. When players are about to die, their partners have to share points with them to keep them alive, because they need all teammates to finish the game. The fact that they are in teams is very helpful and interesting, as stated by Joseph Pang, a grade 7 teacher of English: ”One of my best moments from implementing Classcraft was seeing one of my most disengaged and socially awkward students working together with his teammates to complete quests”.

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There are three different types of characters: Warrior, Mages and Healers, which can be either male or female. The website doesn’t have many restrictions on the amount of powers given to each characters, there are basic settings but the teacher can modify the points. For example, a Warrior has more HP points and less AP points, the teacher can decide to give more HP than AP or even make them equal. As oppose to Class Dojo where the avatars are assigned randomly, here students can choose which or the three they want, the sex as well as their skin color.

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ClassCraft is good for an ESL classroom, because often it is a class that students don’t think it is important to attend, but if they know that when they are absent they penalize their students, they will be more motivated to come. The expectations are clear to the students because everything is written on the classes craft. It can be useful in the way that each time a student speaks in their first language they lose points, but also the other way around. This will motivate students to speak the target language. It is useful in any type of class, of course it was not created simply for ESL courses. It has the advantage of having the possibility to schedule the game from one month to a full year. It is user friendly, by letting the teach enter each students by important a spread sheet list, instead of one by one on Class Dojo. Cite his SS reaction. It is useful for ESL teachers because you can create your own lesson, writing in both the first language and second. I created myself a classroom and a lesson. When you create the lesson you choose the title and give a description, then you decide how many XP(points) students’ get for doing this particular activity.

Overall, it is an interesting website, but you have to look a lot before finding all that you can use.I like the fact that it is not too childish and that it can be for both elementary and secondary, therefore you don’t have to work on 2 different classroom management websites if the year after you have a contract in the other age category. It is very useful to get the students attention and make them want to be in class. Students seem to pay more attention and participate when there are points given. Jeff Noonan, an experienced ESL teacher, made a conference at SPEAQ on Campus ULaval, in which he gave comments on his students’ response: ”they respect the games rules which helped with classroom behaviour because I was not the one enforcing discipline, the game was” – Noonan. Yes it is a very interesting website, but once again today people complain that children spend all their time on video games. Therefore, it is once again making them connect and play with a video games. But, if we forget all this, yes it is very useful for teachers.