Memory Lane Takes on Technology

For me, taking a stroll down Memory Lane means digging through boxes of old photos.  Determining the date the photo was taken is easy as most of them have the date printed on the white border around the picture.  The coloring of the photos are  a bit off, some photos are bent, others have a sticky backside from being pulled out of an album.  Then I have my own children’s photos to stroll through.  My first born’s photos are similar to mine being in boxes or albums, the color and clarity much richer than the old photos from the 70’s.  But when I search for my third born’s photos, well that is a whole new story.  Her photos are all on my computer.  All digital.  Instead of being piles in a box, her photos are “piles” of digital photos in a folder on my desktop.  Some are organized by dated folders, but not many – that is a job for another day.  Realizing that this is how most people store their photos, I wanted to teach my students a way they could bring their memories to life.

This is the third year we are creating a digital memory book.  Each year, it gets better and better!  This project takes about 5 months to complete and a lot of the work happens at home, on the student’s own time.  By the end of fifth grade, our students will have a digital memory book that spans from birth to the end of fifth grade.  It is a keepsake that I think most parents will treasure for many years to come.

Each month, students are assigned a specific time period of their life.  They are asked to come to class by a specific date with photos from that time period on their iPads.  This letter is sent home each month to parents to make sure students are prepared on the date we have set aside to work on the books.  Along with the letter is the organization sheet the students fill out for each photo selected.

The first step is to create a title page for the first time period “birth to preschool”.  Students use Keynote to create this page and can include photos if they choose.  Once the slide is created, they screen shot it and then drop it into iMovie along with all of their photos from those early years.  The next step is to create music to be played during the title page.  Using Garageband, students can compose their own music or record themselves playing an instrument.  I tell them to think of the memory they are going to tell about and have the music reflect the mood and tone of that memory.  The last step is to write about a single memory from that time period using their knowledge from our recent memoir unit in writing.  Students record themselves reading their memory in iMovie.  This is great way for students to practice their fluency 🙂

Each time period should last about a minute with the whole memory book lasting about 7 minutes long.  When “books” are completed, we have a gallery walk and allow time for others to view the books.  The final step is transferring the memory books onto a flash drive for the students to take home and be able to treasure their elementary years for many years to come.

Now that…Is Positively Techie !








Summer Learning Part 1: Stop Motion Animation

Summer Break is finally here for me.  I spent the last three weeks teaching four classes of summer school.  I taught stop motion animation, coding with ozobot robots (two different sections of age groups), and a circuit design class.  And let me tell you, not only did my students learn a lot, I leaned a ton as well.  I developed  classes to offer that I was not an expert in.

I did that on purpose. 

I am a believer that letting students see you take risks, see you NOT being an expert in everything, see you being a learner like they are, is a powerful tool as a teacher.

I first tried stop motion animation this past school year with my fifth graders.  I basically downloaded the app on their iPads and had them “figure it out”.  Their task was to create a visual to promote their “Shark Tank” invention. The students LOVED it, so I thought it would be a great enrichment class to offer for our District’s Summer Learning Program.  I took a different approach with my summer students than I did during the school year.  After all, I actually had time on my hands, 15 hours of dedicated time to let students explore, be creative, take risks, and create.  (Super exciting :))  Below is an outline of what I did for the three weeks:

Day 1-2
Day 3-4 Start working with group

  • Brainstorm ideas on possible story topics
  • Discuss Story writing – focus on Premise
  • Discuss Story Writing – focus on outline for story – 3 acts total – beginning, middle, end
Day 5
  • Storyboard/ write script
Day 6
  • Continue storyboarding/ script
  • Create characters
  • Start working on setting
Day 7
  • Continue working on setting
Day 8
  • Play around with app
Day 9-12
  • Take pictures/film
Day 13
  • Drop animation into iMovie
  • Record voice over
Day 14
  • Continue with voice over
  • Create theme music in Garage Band and drop into iMove
Day 15
  • Share movies with class and on YouTube



Student movies:

I modified lessons from the site: .  You can find the lessons in PDF form here.  These lessons were extremely helpful for me to gain a starting point.  I would also recommend The StopMotion Handbook if you are interested in learning more about stop motion animation.

The outline above reflects how the three weeks played out. I definitely feel that the first days spent discussing animation and story writing are key to a successful end product.   I was surprised how many days it took for the students to “film”, some groups needed more time.  Also, some students left early on the third week, so they were not able to complete the voice overs and theme music. 

I was impressed with the movies that the students made.  Their creativity, risk taking, and teamwork was evident every single day during summer school. 

Now that….Is Positively Techie!

Feel free to share your resources and ideas for using Stop Motion Animation.  I would love to build on my resources :))

A Few of My Favorite “Techie” Things

There are so many websites and apps these days, it is hard to keep up with them all!  There are some that come and go quickly and others that stick around for the long haul.  My favorite type of tech tools are ones that are used for creation purposes, easy to use, and can easily be shared globally.  I have a few that I use consistently each year because they have all of those qualities.

The first tool is Storybird.  Storybird is a FREE website where students choose artwork for the pages of a book and then write a story based on those pictures.  Here is my Storybird book called Dreams.  As you can see a simple story can have a big message.  The creativity, critical thinking, decision making, and writing are all a part of the process to create a thought provoking story.  Adding on top of that, the opportunity to share their story with the world, a real live audience, takes it to the next level.  I set the stories as public and I have my students share their stories on their blog.  One more thing I LOVE – parents can purchase the book as a hardcover or softcover.  Not only is this tool amazing for writing instruction, students enjoy reading each other’s books – along with the hundreds of thousands of books written by children and authors around the world!  So EXCITING 🙂


Speaking of reading…another website I find my students engaged in often is Newsela.  Newsela is a website FILLED with non-fiction articles.  The articles can be changed to several different Lexiles so every article can be enjoyed by your struggling reader to your strongest reader with the click of a button.  Teachers can assign specific articles and levels to their students or students can choose on their own what they’d like to read.   Newsela also offers text marking tools, quizzes at the end of articles, and open-ended questions for students to answer.  Articles are categorized by subjects such as “Money”, “Kids”, “Art”, and “Science” to name a few.  Newsela has recently updated their site with Text Sets.  Text Sets are a group of articles related to a specific topic.  You can create your own Text Set for a topic you are covering in your classroom or use someone else’s Text Set that has already been created (and tweak it to make it perfect for your classroom needs).  I have used Newsela in two ways this school year.  Each week students are required to read an article of their choice.  Then students create a Google Slide with the title of the article, four detailed facts (as bullets) that support the main idea, and their opinion or thoughts on the article.  Students have also written a blog post ( about an article they read and commented on each other’s posts.  I plan on assigning more of those posts in the future.


News-o-matic is an app that has non-fiction news stories written by children for children.  We were fortunate enough to have a trial period at the end of last year with this app and my students LOVED it!  They loved reading the stories so much, that several of them had their parents buy the app for their personal devices at home.  The stories include fun visuals, video clips, maps showing where the story takes place, puzzles and much more!  Unfortunately, it is an expensive app so we don’t have it this year. However, it is definitely worth looking into for your classroom!


The last tool is a fun way for students to create a summary of ANYTHING…Tellagami is an app that allows your students to choose a background, create a personalized Gami, and either type in what the Gami says or record themselves saying what they want their Gami to say.  Once the 30 second video is created, students can email it to themselves and use the link to put their video into their blog post.  In the past, students have used this tool to give a quick summary of an object they took a picture of and use it as the background.  For example, a summary of a book, a description of a plant cell, a historical photo, or an explanation of a piece of art they created in art class.


There are so many wonderful tech tools to enhance instruction in the classroom and unleash your student’s creativity out into the world.  Allowing yourself the time to explore new tools and take the risk of trying something new and unfamiliar in your classroom can lead you to find some of YOUR favorite “techie” things.  So go ahead….Give one of these a try!

Now that is Positively Techie 😉