Building literacy with Storybird

Three years ago, students at Te Kura o Kutarere school in New Zealand were struggling with language arts. “Most of the boys in the class weren’t keen on writing, but they did it because they had to,” says Susan Lee, a teacher at the bilingual Maori/English primary school. Many students were reading below their grade level, and kids weren’t motivated to write, or share their work with others.

Then the school introduced Storybird, and things began to change quickly. According to principal David McShane, students advanced from a Level 1 to a Level 3 literacy level in one year. By New Zealand standards, that’s the U.S. equivalent of jumping from a grade 2 reading level to grade 5.

Staff and administrators at the school created a documentary called Finding Our Voice about the impact of educational technology on this small Maori community. Watching their film, we’re reminded of the power of storytelling to inspire children’s imaginations and motivate them to succeed.

Once the class began using Storybird, reluctant readers and writers were asking when they could get onto their laptops next to continue their stories, and Lee was able to introduce concepts to the curriculum that she had not previously been able to teach.

This is the first time that we’ve covered narrative as a genre. It’s one that I avoided at the beginning of the year because I thought that the kids didn’t have the skills to do that. Now I can see that they do, and they’re loving it.

Using Storybird to improve literacy skills

As the e-learning program continued at Te Kura o Kutarere, literacy levels kept climbing. And bringing technology into the classroom was also bringing the community together. Students were proud to share their work online, and some were able to send videos to family members living overseas for the first time. One student who was struggling at the beginning of the 18-month program jumped a total of seven grade levels in literacy to become the top achiever in his school.

With the introduction of e-learning and Storybird, all of a sudden he’s producing amazing stories… I’ve never had a primary student writing at level 5. [cf. grade 9]

Finding our voice

For Susan Lee, teaching also got easier as kids became self-motivated while using Storybird for the writing process. “The focus has moved away from classroom management… it’s more about students being independent and responsible for their own actions and producing results rather than [focusing on] who can be quiet while I talk.”

Storybird case study

Students who weren’t so good at managing their own work have completely turned that around—[they] can’t wait to get onto the laptops to carry on with their story, they can’t wait to share it with others, and they want it published so the world can see it.

You can watch Te Kura o Kutarere’s 17-minute documentary, Finding our Voice, free on Vimeo (Storybird starts about minute 4), and hear more from Susan Lee about the New Zealand Ministry of Education’s e-Learning initiative on their website.

Storybird Studio classroom tools for teachers

We love hearing about the positive impact Storybird has on students—and educators—around the world. If you have a story from your own school, share it in the comments below or email us at

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