Today’s guest educator post was written by Karen Czajkowski, a high school English department chair and teacher in New York. Karen has used Storybird for several years with students and her young daughters, and has led workshops on how to use Storybird in the classroom. She writes on Storybird under the username czikimonkey.
“With Storybird, everyone can be a kid again, open to the joy that lies in seeing your creation shared within a community that respects and nurtures the magic of storytelling.”
ONCE UPON A TIME, a handful of years ago, I was introduced to Storybird by a fellow English teacher and was immediately hooked. Right away, I started brainstorming ways to get my high school kids (mostly 11th and 12th graders) using my beloved Storybird. Since then, almost every student who has taken my classes has been exposed to Storybird in some way, and most have written their own books.
Many people think picture books are just for little kids, but many people forget that high schoolers are still kids—and the joy of creativity, puzzling out a story, and immersing yourself in a good book never leaves us, even as adults. The art of storytelling and the instant gratification of publishing a gorgeous book appeals to every age.
One year, I asked my creative writing kids to write picture books on bullying, using the amazing classroom features. The students spent a couple of weeks in class enthusiastically teasing out stories, sometimes basing them on their own experiences. The books were wonderful—because the teens hadn’t forgotten what it was like to be a kid, but had some distance from the years they were bullied, the prose spoke in a way that I knew would appeal to little kids. We decided to take our books on tour.
I coordinated with my young daughter’s elementary school, and the high school kids and I took a field trip to first grade classes. The older kids read their Storybirds to three classes of six year olds. Little kids look up to teenagers, so for them it was even more powerful, and my teens loved reading and sharing their work, knowing that it was making a difference. Even my reluctant writers got into it, performing for the little ones, who benefited from seeing confident, strong older kids who knew about bullying and how hurtful it could be. The all-important message of the dangers of bullying was shared in a safe, fun way that still made an impact. Afterwards, the first graders gave the big kids a huge round of applause.
Storybird is a platform that every student can use—from the youngest to the oldest and all ages in between. What I love most about it in the classroom is the way students feel validated and successful when their peers read and comment on their work (I make it a requirement in my classes). They all love to become published authors. With Storybird, everyone can be a kid again, open to the joy that lies in seeing your creation shared within a community that respects and nurtures the magic of storytelling.