The strategy lessons housed within this unit provide ideas and resources for lesson planning and managing a classroom. They include resources such as websites I’ve found useful over the years, activities that have improved my classroom environment, and tools that engage students while assisting with planning. It is my hope that you will find them to be just as helpful in your own classroom!
I’ve wanted to find a site for student publishing for years, honestly, but could never find just the right one. I needed one that was free - or very low cost - as the only budget to support it was my own. And while there are several sites out there that allow students to “write” (type) for free, I never found one that allowed them to publish for free. Here’s the difference (or at least the difference I was looking for) - publishing sites have more features (such as creating cover pages) and allows a bit more control of the creative side when thinking about adding page elements such as text features. After much searching, I came upon the site StoryJumper, which is nearly perfect for what I need. Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started and have your class working in no time!
1. Creating an account. First, you need an account. Signing up is free and painless. Simply go to the signup page, enter a few pieces of information, and you’re in! Once you sign in, you’ll be directed to your main page called, “my.” This is where you can create your classes, see the books you’ve created, check on orders, and update your account settings. You can access this page from any other by clicking on the yellow dot or “my” at the top left hand corner of each page.
2. Creating a class. On your “my” page, click “Set up a New Class.” Choose a class name and the password that all students will share. Then choose the length of time students have to work during each class period. Once this time expires, the class is closed and students can no longer work on their project. I originally set this for the exact time of my language block. I later found that setting it for an extended period, say an entire school day, allowed students to work on their projects outside of my classroom (during free time in other classes, during indoor recess, etc.) without me restarting the class. However, this might not be wise if you are using a shared lab and students forget to log themselves out before leaving. Others potentially could access their work.
Last, enter your student names. You can choose to create screen names yourself or allow the site to do this for you. I chose the auto create, which assigns each student a screen name that consists of an adjective and an animal, such as yellowzebra, funnybadger, or slybear. (I think my students liked this part as much as publishing their books!). You decide if you want students to have access to projects at home or not by leaving that final column checked or by un-checking the boxes. For my first project, I chose not to allow home access as I wanted to make sure students were familiar enough with the site before taking off and completing the assignment incorrectly at home. However, I’ve opened up this option on other assignments.
3. Being prepared to begin. Before you begin using the site, be sure to print student login pages for each of your students. You can do this by going to “my” and clicking on “print” next to each of your class names. Also, be sure to login to your account and click on “start” so that students can use their login information and begin working. Remember that you can stop the work at any point by clicking “stop.” Students’ work will be saved before logging them out of their accounts.
4. Monitoring student work. To see student work in progress, log in to your account and click on your “my” page. Then click on the class you’d like to review. It will list students enrolled in that class and show their created books. Click on a book to begin. You can see the digital version by clicking on “Read” on the bottom of their cover page. Scroll through the pages to see what they have accomplished so far, help make revisions, answer specific questions, or to show their work to the class using a projector. You can also print a paper copy or order a hardback published version. Also it is here where students can change the privacy setting of their work to “Share, ” which allows users anywhere to read their text and/or modify it.
5. The “create” page. Here is where students choose the structure of their work. There are several options including book books, treasure maps, and themed books such as trains, space, magic, and oceans. For my assignments, I always have students use the blank book form. However, for their “fun” or personal books, they can use whatever form they’d like.
There are endless options for publishing including different types of fonts, text boxes,scenes, and props. Students could create a new book every day for months and never makethe same product twice. You can also upload your own photos if cameras are available to your students.
There are so many options that it might, at first, seem overwhelming. However, I foundthat students picked up on how to use the tools even faster than I did. In fact, I’m including avideo of a student explaining how he created an amazing cover for one of his projects.
6. The “explore” page. This is where students can read books created by other students not in their class. Only those pieces that have specifically been shared publicly are listed here. Some are available to be read only while others can be modified.
Detailed instructions for these and other steps are located on their classroom support page.
It is my hope that your students will enjoy this site as much as mine do. It really helped motivate those reluctant writers and especially those who are artistic. For examples of how to use the publishing tools or to see finished products, check out my “Publishing: For the Digital Age” lessons.