Posted in Apps, Augmented Reality, iLesson

Bringing Writing to Life – Literally!

In the last post, I gave you a great free app to get you started on augmented reality.  Are you ready for the next step?  This was my first big iLesson that incorporated AR and the kids LOVED it.  This began as a plain old writing lesson, inspired by a picture I found on Pinterest.  It morphed (as good teaching usually does) mid-lesson into an iLesson.

Found this image on Headproduct's Tumblr page.
Found this image on Headproduct’s Tumblr page.

Students were given the task of beginning a story from this picture from Headproduct on Tumblr.  I found the image on Pinterest and had saved it for a writing prompt.  Students had to begin the story from the point where they saw the dragon in their hand.  It had to incorporate narrative writing characteristics and had to ultimately tell the reader what happened to the dragon.  Otherwise, there were no constraints to the task.

After students edited their rough draft, they published the piece in Word, with a twist.  I used the washed out picture settings in Microsoft Word and loaded a lighter version of the image as the background for the written piece.  Creative publishing is always an easy way to hook writers.  As if that weren’t enough, I decided to have my first go with adding augmented reality to the kids’ writing.

aurasmaWe gave augmented reality a try using the app Aurasma.  It was ridiculously easy to use! Students created a trigger image by taking a photo of their published dragon narrative.  We then selected a dragon Aura from the images provided by the app.  Some came up as just images, but other belched fire or flew across the screen.  After saving our auras, we were done. It was just that simple.  Now, using the Aurasma app, viewers could scan the students’ written work and watch it come to life.  Literally!

The work I got from my students was some of the best writing I’ve seen this year.  But, the best part about this entire assignment?  It was finished in two days.  By two days, I mean two writing classes.  By finished, I mean from rough draft, to edited, to published, to augmented.  Two class periods.  That was it.  A writing task like this easily takes us five days.  Because my students couldn’t wait to add their auras, they whizzed through the assignment (and the typing) faster than they’ve ever worked.  That is just another reason why technology is such a great tool.  In this lesson, it served solely as the ‘hook’.  It was the aspect of the project that kids most wanted to get to, so they worked hard to get there.  And their work paid off!  I’ve uploaded a few of my students’ finished pieces for you to try out.  Feel free to load the documents and scan them with the Aurasma app.  For the best results, make sure to get the entire page into the screen – Enjoy!

Dragon Narrative 1

Dragon Narrative 2



Posted in iLesson

Halloween Narratives with a Twist

With Halloween just around the corner, and the students starting to get hyped up, I strive to find engaging ways to tie the holiday into our instruction.  The challenge is to stay away from some of the routine pumpkin lessons and find a rigorous way of letting the kids expend some of their built up excitement.  We do this by writing Halloween narratives.

Instead of a generic “write me a spooky story” directive, we go at the narrative in a whole new way.  This is the first time our students have been exposed to narrative writing this year, so we begin with a quick day of introduction.  Using our interactive notebooks, students take notes on my side of the notebook.  We define narrative as a story that is usually fiction.  We also note that a narrative has several essentials.  It must have a plot (defined as beginning, middle, and end); characters (with several outlandish examples); and setting (not just where, but the time of day, season, weather, etc.).  As a class we then create a class Wordle (a word cloud) with all of the setting words that we can think of in a 10 minute period.  I print out our class Wordle and the kids paste it on their side of the interactive notebook.  Check out our Setting Words Wordle here!

We use the Unpleasantville Soundtrack to create the basis for our narrative.

The following day, our narrative assignment is explained.  Students are given a 10 minute period to listen to songs selected from a spooky soundtrack.  All of the songs are instrumental.  I use the Unpleasantville Soundtrack found at, but any spooky soundtrack will work.  As of the time of this blog post, that album is free.  Students must select one song from the given tracks.  Based on the title and the theme of that song, students must create a completely imaginary narrative that goes along with the music.  They must at some point in the piece address the title and tie it all together.  As students work on their narratives, they have free access to the iPods to listen to the music, so long as they continue to work.  The room is completely silent for several days as students work through the graphic organizer, rough draft, editing, and final draft phases of the writing process.  They are completely engaged in their work and instead of fighting to get a couple of paragraphs out of these budding writers, I’m getting pages!

We finish up the lesson by having students record themselves reading their own narratives on the Garageband software found on MacBooks.  Once they’ve recorded themselves, I lay down the track they chose behind their voices to create a spooky story.  We end up with a great way of publishing our writing – in an unconventional way.  Though, at this point, I’ll remind everyone to be careful of copyright rules.

I’ve attached a copy of the lesson plan and rubric I use for this narrative lesson.   Halloween Narrative Lesson