There’s no denying that slight twinge in the air and ads everywhere—it’s back-to-school time! As kids stock up on Pokemon-themed school supplies, teachers are preparing lesson plans. And as technology continues to take its foothold in the classroom, that means leveraging ed-tech tools to do what was once asked of just chalkboards, pencils, and paper. Today public schools in the US now provide at least one computer for every five students and the federal government continues its mission to bring Internet connections and online learning resources to its most rural and underserved corners. In fact, last year, for the first time, more standardized tests were delivered via technology than pencil and paper. It’s clear that leveraging technology and increasing digital literacy is on the forefront of educators’ minds. And as we all know, kids love high-tech devices, so you might as well turn screen time into learning time.
If there’s any doubt in your mind that kids benefit from supervised technology in the classroom, check out this Spark Spotlight of a local 4th grade class that used Spark for their end-of-year projects:
To help our beloved teachers prep for the new year, we turned to our own Ben Forta, Adobe’s director of education initiatives. Ben spends much of his time introducing Adobe Spark to teachers and in the process has learned of many ways educators have turned this dynamic, free tool into lessons that last a lifetime. From nurturing young storytellers to teaching a language to testing reading comprehension and cultivating presentation skills, teachers across the country have used Spark to engage students in and outside the classroom. So to that end, here are Forta’s 16 teacher-approved ways to use Spark to foster learning and digital literacy in the classroom.
Speech and language play: Create a Spark Video story with a single picture per page, use big bold clear pictures (ideally isolated on a white or clear background to avoid distractions). Have the child go through page by page recording themselves naming the pictured object. (Note: Many teachers have asked how to create copies of blank or starter stories. You can do this by going to the Projects tab, tapping the project … symbol, and then selecting Duplicate).
Sight words proficiency: Create a Spark Video story with one sight word per page and with no recorded voice. Have the child go through page by page recording themselves reading the words. This can be repeated at intervals so that the children see the progress and improvement for themselves.
Narrative prompts: Similar to the prior ideas, but pick images with an action occurring, and have the student record a single sentence describing what is happening.
Rhyming game: Show a series of pictures, and have the children use Spark Video to record a word that rhymes with it (as opposed to naming the picture).
Playing with shapes and colors: I’ve seen lots of variants of this one, all of which thoroughly engaged the students. Assign a color and/or a shape, and have the students walk around the classroom or yard or school building taking pictures of matches. They can then describing them in a Spark Video story.
Second language acquisition: A variant of the above (this one shared with me by teachers teaching Chinese Mandarin and Spanish to English-speaking kids, as well as by an ESL teacher working with immigrant children) is to show pictures or words that need to be translated, having children record the translations. The same picture can be used on multiple pages so that the child records the same word multiple times, building proficiency while being able to hear the improved fluency.
Story starters: Instead of assigning a topic for children to write about, assign a series of images that they must use. Allow them to create their own captions, add images, perhaps even edit the images, and build a story around them. Specify a minimum and maximum duration if using Spark Video, or a maximum length if using Spark Page, and then have the students share their work with the rest of the class.
Creative storytelling: With so many children (and their families) taking pictures on smartphones and devices, the odds are high that children will have access to lots of digital pictures capturing their summer break. Spark is great for “What I did this summer” type storytelling. Having the pictures stored on the iPhone or iPad camera roll will make this project easy and fun. Have the child take a selfie for the title page with a “Hello, my name is X, and this is what I did this summer” message, and then have them use their pictures to share their summer activities.
Collaborative storytelling: I watched a class of 5th-grade girls in Australia thoroughly enjoy a collaborative storytelling session. When I shared the idea with a teacher, she tweaked it as follows. Use Spark Video and have a student record the first sentence of a story. Then pass the device to the next student to record the next sentence. One by one, every student adds a slide and records the sentence. The student who started the story then records the closing. As for the supporting imagery, each student can pick one for his or her own slide, or that could be a group project. This idea promises lots of giggles.
Book reports: New school year means new books to read and new book reports to write. It’s no secret that some children love reading while others don’t, and even those that do often don’t care for assigned titles and selections. Spark Video (for younger readers) and Spark Page (for higher grades) can make book reports fun, engaging, and a highly personal exercise in creativity.
Essays and written assignments: I used to write essays and written assignments in pen in a ruled notebook. My eldest kids got to use Word and then Google Docs. But that’s not adequate for kids these days, they want a more polished and professional look and expect tools that let them complement their written creativity with equally creative visuals and presentation. Spark Page is superb for this (here’s an example created by my youngest son). Just be sure to specify word counts or document lengths or some other guide, otherwise the kids will spend forever looking for images at the expense of actually writing their assignment.
Class projects: One teacher showed me a wonderful example her class created for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and this idea could be applied to Thanksgiving, Veterans Day, regional or ethnic celebrations, and more. The class created a single Spark Page story about MLK, his legacy, and MLK Day. Each student also created his and her own Spark Video about what they had learned and described what MLK Day meant to them. The teacher then used the Spark Page Glideshow feature to display a picture of each child, and as each child’s face appeared on screen, up popped that child’s Spark Video. (You can embed videos, including those created with Spark Video, inside a Spark Page). The final Spark Page was shared with fellow teachers and parents.
Class reports and blogs: If your class publishes reports for fellow students or parents, Spark can be a fun way to share classroom news and updates.
Classroom signs and posters: Adorn your classroom walls with student ideas, questions, quotes, and more. Spark Post is primarily intended for creating images for social media, but lots of teachers are finding that it’s a quick and fun tool for combining images and text to create beautiful printed signage.
Video journal: Upgrade student journals with video. Each journal entry is a Spark Video slide. If using devices with cameras the student can even take a picture of the work or assignment. Students narrate each journal entry, and at the end of the semester (or year) they’ll have a beautiful video recap of their efforts and progress.
Science fair presentations: It’s not quite science fair season yet, but I’d be remiss to not share this one. Science fairs usually require a presentation of sorts to the judges, and these presentations are usually lost over time. Students can record their presentations using Spark Video, both to help prep for judging, as well as to record their work for posterity. One very innovative teacher went a step further. She created a QR code for each video and stuck them on the science boards, this way parents and visitors could scan each project with their phones and watch a Spark Video of the child explaining his or her experiment.
See real student examples from Beaverton School district:
Want more lesson-plan ideas? Check out some of our favorite resources penned by teachers for teachers:
Creatively Teaching with Technology
Free Technology for Teachers
Class Tech Tips
Technology and Curriculum