Tech Talk: Digital Storytelling

Having trouble keeping up with all of the 21st century technology? LITI student Bethany offered to share a few tools to help you stay up-to-date with integrating technology into your literacy curriculum! We’ll begin with digital storytelling.

The Power of Digital Storytelling:

Digital tools make it possible for students to construct multidimensional stories that are conveyed through a combination of hyperlinked, multidimensional words, images, motions, and sounds. In digital storytelling students are expected to use writing to construct a story. They are then asked to communicate their ideas and stories to engage the audience through speech, visuals, and/or music. Using technology to create stories keeps students motivated and engaged. Some great websites to use for digital storytelling are:

 Storybird: Storybird provides students with the option of choosing to create a picture book, Longform eBook, or a piece of poetry. Picture books are great for short, visual stories. Students get the choice to write the story and then find images to match or they can create stories based off the images as a source of inspiration. Longform books are a helpful way for students to practice the craft of story, plot, and character development in a chapter book. Students can work on their poetry and match beautiful illustrations to their words.

 Little Bird Tales: Little Bird Tales is intended for younger children and is a place where students can use their imaginations to create stories. Each page can be filled with artwork, student’s voices, and text. Students can draw their own images or upload ones they already have. Little Bird Tales is a way for students to write/type out their own stories and then have the opportunity to share and narrate them.

GoAnimate: GoAnimate is a way for students to creatively tell stories mainly through animation and narration. They may put short phrases into the video, but the rest of the storytelling is done through animations and the student’s voice. It would be important for the students to prepare a written piece first, so that they know what their story is about, what kinds of visuals they would need, and what they would say.


Brain Breaks: Fight the Fidgeting!

Thanks to Laura H. for this guest post!

As teachers, we know how important it is for students to have opportunities to get up and be active throughout the day. Whether your students are getting the “wiggles” out, meditating, doing deep breathing exercises, stretching, playing a game, or practicing a quick zumba routine, all brain breaks serve a similar purpose which is to re-energize and re-set so more learning can take place. Brain breaks can be relaxing, fun, or both! Brain breaks can be so useful and necessary for both the teachers and students alike. I’d like to share a few examples of brain breaks I have seen in classrooms that worked wonders in getting students re-focused and re-charged.

Brain Breaks with Technology Technology-Free Brain Breaks
GoNoodle! A free website where you can create an account and avatar for your class and watch your avatar grow up and change as you participate in brain break activities! The brain breaks range from incredibly silly songs and coordinate dances from Koo Koo Kanga Roo (essentially the modern-day Wiggles), Kidz Bop zumba routines, exercises in practicing compassion, yoga, and deep breathing exercises! The categories of brain breaks are guided dancing, free movement, stretching, sports and exercise, kinesthetic learning, coordination, and calming.

·  Just Dance YouTube videos. With any video from YouTube, you need to be careful with what advertisements might pop up but students love the guided dance moves to popular music. “What Does the Fox Say” and “Boom Boom Pow” were fan favorites in my kindergarten class last year!

·      Simon Says

·      Yoga

·      Deep breathing exercises paired with stretching

·      Jump skip counting (jump every time you count a number)

·      Freeze dance

·      Pattern clap (create clapping sequence, students copy you, pick a student to create a clapping sequence, all students copy him/her. Can be silent and very calming!)

·      Play switcheroo (while sitting on the rug, pull names from jar of popsicle sticks, the names that are called switch places on the rug, sing song while moving. With younger grades, incorporate decoding with reading the names & figuring out who needs to do the switcheroo. Can be helpful/re-energizing to switch spots temporarily!)

Jobs for Now and Later

Happy Friday! Especially happy with this wonderful weather and an upcoming spring break from classes. Some of you are asking about jobs…

Sure, take some break time to polish your resume, write a cover letter, or even prepare a portfolio or “look book” of sorts to take along on interviews. Yet most NYC DOE principals say it’s  too early for interviews and that they wait until after testing (early April) to turn attention to hiring for next year. So start to prepare, but don’t even think about panicking now!

However…we do have several schools looking for leave replacements to begin in the next few weeks! This is a great way to get a foot in the door of these terrific schools. Full-time students, no doubt it would be a challenging balancing act, yet for the last month or so of classes you could probably make it work. Please let me know if you are interested.

Guest Post – Novel and Play Recommendation

Thanks to Dana for sharing this post:

41AVVhtHugL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_During the fall semester, I took an elective course called the Nature and Needs of Gifted and Talented Children. Throughout the semester, we took part in book clubs, where we each read different novels that had something to do with giftedness. One of the book club books I read was, The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night Time by Mark Haddon. In the book, the main character, Christopher, has Asperger’s syndrome and is a genius in certain areas. Because he has a social disability and is also considered to be somewhat of a savant, Christopher is “twice-exceptional.” The book is extremely enjoyable, emotional and powerful, as the reader catches a glimpse into the life of an extraordinary boy who is unable to empathize or understand other people’s thoughts and feelings. Through Christopher’s narration, the reader is able to see his amazing memory, attention to detail, and also, his difficulty to interact with others.


Then during the winter break, I was lucky enough to get tickets to see the Broadway play version of the book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. In my opinion, the play was written and produced flawlessly, truly portraying and transforming the book into action. I felt every single emotion possible as I watched Christopher interact with others and the world around him. My favorite part of the play was how Christopher’s special education teacher, Siobhon, partly narrates the story along with Christopher. Siobhon is a caring and thoughtful teacher who fully considers all of Christopher’s needs, abilities and feelings. Christopher’s teacher became somewhat of a role model for me as an educator, as I hope to be as caring, thoughtful and patient with my own students and their diverse needs.

Overall, I highly recommend both the book and the Broadway play to all, especially for educators. It gives a peek into the life of an intelligent boy with certain struggles that he simply cannot help or change. Even if you plan to solely work in general education, I truly believe it is important to consider and think of all students and the individual needs and struggles they may have.

Big lights will inspire you…Making the Most of NYC

If you’re like us (Cinzia and Becca), you probably came to NYC brimming with excitement for this standout year you will spend here in the Literacy Program. Or maybe you came with the intention of staying here for an extended amount of time. Either way, we think this post could be of help to you!

It’s thrilling to be part of the city that never sleeps, and as a grad student you feel that camaraderie with the city because you will not sleep either. 🙂

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you navigate the sometimes murky waters of grad school, while also trying to take full advantage of this wonderful city:

  1. You need a balance in your life; there are only a few more months before graduation- devote time to academics AND activities you enjoy!
  2. When life gets hectic, stick to a schedule. Making a schedule helps balance your time between work and play. Try to include one activity a week that you are interested in doing while in the city or challenge yourself to explore a new neighborhood every weekend. Don’t let the time pass you by!
  3. It’s ok to say no to things. We come to grad school with the intention of grabbing every opportunity in front of us, which you should! But, you also shouldn’t be afraid to say no to things when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  4. Make yourself do things. Even if you have loads of reading to do, take a break and a breath. Consider reading in a different setting, like the Bryant Park Library, at a museum café, or in a new park. Take time to go see a Broadway show (discount lottery tickets at some theaters), go to the movies (check out the movie deals from student affairs), grab some friends and go out for festive beverages! Whatever it is, you don’t want to graduate and look back on your experience and only remember the four walls of your apartment building, or the Russell Library. You are in the most wonderful city in the world, and you may only be here for a limited time. Take advantage!

How will you spend your last 3 months at Teachers College as a student living in New York City?

Stop thinking about it and just do it. 🙂