User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Posts Tagged ‘language arts

Video Game Design with Elementary Learners

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In order to support interest and passion driven learning (all – I mean all – of my students play video games) as well as address cross-curricular content area integration of language arts, science, and technology standards, I had my gifted elementary learners, grades 2 through 6, do a semester long project on video game design.

Standards Addressed

English Language Arts Common Core State Standards

  • Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).
  • Make connections between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text.
  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
  • Reference –

Next Generation Science Standards

  • Define a simple design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process, or system and includes several criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • Generate and compare multiple solutions to a problem based on how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the design problem.
  • Reference –

ISTE NETS for Students

  • 4a – Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
  • 4b – Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.
  • 4c – Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process
  • 4d – Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
  • Reference –

Unit Overview

The overview for this unit:

  • Introduction to Storytelling
  • Storyboarding with Storyboad That
  • Storyboard Presentations, Feedback, and Revisions
  • Create a Video
  • Design a Logo

Introduction to Storytelling

The following video and articles were reviewed with the learners:

Storyboarding with Storyboard That

Learners used Storyboard That to create the storyboards for their video games.

Storyboard That is a graphic organizer and storyboard creator . The program provides pre-made scenes, characters, text boxes, shapes, and other images to choose from,  Students are able to drag and drop these items into their chosen layout. Scenes are organized into locational and thematic categories (e.g. school). Characters are organized similarly and can be customized with hair color, eye color, and other edits. Text boxes allow the student to give voice to their characters. Shapes and additional images add props to the story. (

It was continually reinforced that their storyboards needed to include strong characters, settings, and plot.


Learners presented their storyboards to their classmates. Their classmates asked questions and gave feedback using the questions from How To Write A Good Game Story

They made revisions and additions based on the feedback they received.

Create a Video Game

Learners were then given the choice to create their video games using one of the following platforms:

Create a Logo for the Game

Finally, learners were asked to design a logo for their games. To add another element of fun, learners decorated sugar cookies with their game logo.


The Adventures of Jack by a 6th Grade Boy


His video game was created using Sploder:

His Game Logo:


Save Mother by a 4th Grade Girl


Her video game was created by Bloxels:

Her Game Logo:


Sam and the Dark Lord by a 2nd Grade Boy


His video game was created using Sploder:

His Game Logo:


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 5, 2017 at 12:00 am

Maker Education Meets the Writers’ Workshop

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There is a current breath-of-fresh air movement (in my opinion) in some education circles that is known as Maker Education or the DIY Movement.  I wrote recent post on this topic, STEAM and Maker Education: Inclusive, Engaging, Self-Differentiating.

The hands-on, interdisciplinary, student-interest driven nature of Maker Education has always been a focus in my classroom environments.  Because of the current interest in Maker Education, I wanted to revisit and share a semester long Maker-Enhanced Writers’ Workshop project I did with a group of gifted elementary students a few years ago.

script rehearsal

Students began by developing their characters and plot – I am used selected sections from the free downloadable Young Novelist Workbook to guide them in this process.

Character Development

Each learner developed a character using the Young Novelists Workbook to guide the character development.  Their characters were further developed through drawing them,

IMG_1468 2. . . making masks of them,

IMG_1150. . . and creating 3d characters out of junk materials, hot glued together. DSC00664

An option for Character Development using a web tool is Scholastic’s Creature Creator –

Plot Development

Students were asked to group themselves by similarity of their characters.  They had to clearly be able to articulate the commonality among their characters. [Interestingly, many of them really attempted to group themselves by similar characters rather than working with their friends, which I expected.] Groups contained two to four writers.

The groups spent several weeks of the Writers’ Workshop developing their story plot using the activities from Young Novelist Workbook I, as the teacher, acted as the sounding board and feedback giver.  Representatives from the different working groups would come to me to pitch their stories and would return to their groups to report on the feedback I provided.

3D Setting

In conjunction with their plot development, students created a 3D storyboard setting with “natural” objects. They then “wired” them with PicoCricket to have programmable movement, lights, and sounds.



PicoCricket is no longer available, but learners can do similar electronic upgrades to their setting using Makey Makey, Arduino, or Hummingbird Kits.

An online version of the story’s setting can be created using or Minecraft.


Students made eBooks using their story line and plot from in the Young Novelist Workbook, scanned sketches and images of the characters, and the pictures of the 3D setting.

tikatok image(Note: We used Tikatok. They changed their user agreement and we lost all of the books.)

Options for student eBooks include: Storyjumper, Mixbook, and Big Universe (plus others).

Theme Song

A theme song was written and recorded for their stories.  It was introduced as having them develop a song for their stories like a TV theme song. They used Songsmith UJAM is another option for students to record their own story theme songs.

Here is an example from three 5th graders’ book the Three Islanders:

Readers’ Theater

Reader’s theater scripts were written in a scripting format using a Word program.  Students practiced reading their scripts and then created a podcast using a web tool such as or  See ReadWriteThink’s Readers Theatre about the logistics of creating one.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 28, 2013 at 12:50 am

The Magic of the Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

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I have written about the power of Comic and Animation Technologies in the Classroom.  Because of the Academy Awards, I was introduced to the beautiful, animated The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore that has so much potential for classroom uses.  What follows is the 15 animation and a description of the iPad storytelling app that tells the interactive story.

As is my tendency, I tweeted and Facebooked my excitement for this animation and others responded.

Extension Activity with an Interactive Storytelling iPad App

Through the creators’ ingenuity, they developed an amazing iPad app to go along with the video.

There are lovely filmic perspectives on each page, hand drawn illustrations that fade to 3D digital animation and the interactivity makes you feel like you are part director of your own animated short (The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a Game-Changing eBook App).

The app includes pages of the story with text and 3D animated illustrations with an option to have audio narration of text.

The text can be translated into various languages.

Each page also has a “secret” embedded interactive that the user needs to discover.  This one is a keyboard where the user can follow along and play Pop Goes the Weasel.

Further Reading

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 26, 2012 at 11:00 pm

5th-6th Grade Civil Rights Project: Technology-Based Activating Event

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The learning expedition for the 5th and 6th grade this year is civil rights.  The teachers in the three classes started this expedition by having the students study literature and view media (Little Rock Nine) related to civil rights.  During these initial activating events, students identified vocabulary related to civil rights.  The teachers requested that their students create covers for their binders during their technology class.  They asked for Word Clouds of their vocabulary words and a related quote to be included within this cover.

Content Standards Addressed (Idaho)


  • Demonstrate increasingly sophisticated operation of technology components.
  • Locate information from electronic resources.
  • Use formatting capabilities of technology for communicating and illustrating.
  • Publish and present information using technology tools.

Language Arts:

  • Use words and concepts necessary for comprehending math, science, social studies, literature and other Grade 6 content area text.
  • Read grade-level-appropriate text.
  • Apply context to identify the meaning of unfamiliar words and identify the intended meaning of words with multiple meanings.


A Google Presentation was set up with sharing permission set for anyone to edit (plans to change to view only once their pages are complete). This permitted all the students in the class to work within the document without the need of an email to log in.  This would not only result in student binder covers, but also in an embeddable presentation of all student work for that class.   A template was developed that included a block for the Word Cloud image and text box for the quote.  The individual student names were included on the slides so the student could find and work on his or her individual slide.

Students came to their technology class with lists of their civil rights words.  Two types of Word Clouds were introduced to the students:  ABCya Word Cloud and Tagxedo.  I introduced Tagxedo during the first group but didn’t realize that Tagxedo needed Microsoft Silverlight to operate.  Due to the block on the system, any additional software needs to be downloaded by the network administrator.  ABCya Word Cloud became the back up tool.  But the third group (another day), got the opportunity to test out Tagxedo.  The students loved producing the word cloud into a shape of their choice.


To find a relevant quote, the students were directed to go to Thinkexist: more than 300,000 quotations by over 20,000 Authors. When students located their quotes, these were copy and pasted into their slide.


So with this few hour exercise, the students learned how to

  • engage in language arts content standards through a technology interface
  • convey their vocabulary words in a visual format
  • creatively play with words
  • download an image
  • insert an image
  • search for and locate a relevant quote
  • copy and paste the quote from a website into a Google doc
  • work collaboratively on an online document

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 24, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Integrating Technology This Week: Resources Discovered, Re-Discovered, or Created

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One of my hobbies and frankly, passions, is finding free, exciting, and engaging resources to enhance the curriculum at my K-8 school.  Here are my finds for this week:

Language Arts

Got Brainy – Got Brainy features user-generated visual-based vocabulary definitions.   These include Brainypics (photo/image definitions) and Brainyflix (video definitions).  Students can create and submit their own Brainpics/Brainflix for their own vocabulary words.  If there is enough school-wide interest in this project, we can create our own site of student visual definitions.

International Children’s Digital Library has a digital library of outstanding children’s books from around the world.  The search engine for these online books include categories based on age level, genre, types of characters (kids, imaginary, animals), length, and picture-chapter books.

Tools for Educators offers free word search generators, word search makers, worksheets and programs for preschool, kindergarten teachers, elementary school teachers and language teachers to make word search puzzles to print, games for lessons, lesson plans and K-6 printable materials for classes.

Zooburst is a digital storytelling tool that lets anyone easily create his or her own 3D pop-up books.  I tried it and what I liked is that I can upload my own images into the 3D book.  I think the students are going to love it.


PBS Kids: Sid the Science Guy is a science web site appropriate for our K-2 students.  It includes three discovery zones: the Super Fab Lab at Sid’s school, the playground and Sid’s family kitchen.

National Geographic Creature Features allows kids to search through photographs and videos of all kinds of animals. The photographs are stunning.  This was used with 1st and 2nd graders this past week, all easily staying occupied for their 45 minute technology course.

Golems is a 3D recreational physics simulator.  Some of the older students, Junior High, have expressed an interest in 3D rendering.  I plan to offer this as a choice project later in the year as the Junior High students will be asked to identify technology projects they would like to produce.

Production Tools

Google Apps in the Classroom is a Google site I created that contains an aggregate of Google Presentations on Google Docs, Calendars, Sites, and Maps/Earth.  We have Google Apps for Education for our school.  These resources will, hopefully, get more teachers to utilize these resources.

Stupeflix Studio is a video creator similar to Animoto.  Pictures, video, titles, and music are mixed together to create a video.  They are planning a version for educators.  Animoto has become a very popular tool for the teachers and students at our school.  It will be nice to offer them another option for video mash-ups.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 10, 2010 at 3:23 pm

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