Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2016

Storybird

Social storytelling fun; artwork inspires, but limits creative freedom

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Teachers say (42 Reviews)
$avg_user_learning_rating
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Grades
K-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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5 images

Pros: A huge collection of curated art provides kid-authors with distinct and inspiring illustrations.

Cons: Students can't add their own art to stories, which limits creativity a bit.

Bottom Line: For anyone interested in kid-authored storybooks, this is a great resource.

Basically, users will get out of Storybird what they bring to it. Bringing a purpose for reading or writing is essential for classroom use. It's easy to imagine using Storybird as a free-write station, to prompt various writing tasks, or as a platform for peer workshopping. With a bit of creativity, storytelling can also be linked to a variety of school subjects including history, science, and even math. Follow the developer created monthly challenges that inspire students to think about different narrative techniques, a particular illustration, and more.

With a classroom account, teachers can create assignments, and review and comment on submitted stories. They'll also be able to arrange for purchase of any student created work, including organizing fundraisers which give 30% of the books' proceeds directly to the school.

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Storybird is an online social platform (and Chrome app) for storytelling. Students act as authors, pairing their words with site-curated, licensed art. Students can compose text, but they can't upload their own art; they must use Storybird's curated collection in their picture books and illustrated poems.

After signing up or logging in with teacher-provided credentials, students can read published stories or create their own. They can repost favorite stories to their own Storybird account feeds, “heart” stories they like, and comment on them. Students can explore what their classmates have written in the class library or click on the Read tab to browse stories using a variety of filters. When students are ready to create their own, there are three possibilities: picture book, long form (think chapter book), and poetry. To get started, students choose which format they want, then browse Storybird's art collection to find illustrations that go with (or inspire) their writing. After students choose the art, the editor launches and lets students choose which illustrations to use, add text, and create as many pages as needed to complete their story. The poetry setting resembles magnetic poetry: students work with one illustration and a collection of word tiles which they arrange to form a short poem. Authors navigate between pages using a slider at the bottom of the screen, and drag and drop one picture per page or chapter. Students can save and publish stories from the editor and can invite collaborators to work on stories with them.

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Storybird offers a community for storytelling and a well-designed interface for matching words to compelling pictures. It can inspire student writing and provide opportunities to practice good digital citizenship, but not all students will be inspired by the site on its own. Students and teachers can also read published stories and comment on them. There is a clear distinction between a private classroom community where stories and comments are shared only with users associated with your class, and the public forum. Stories and comments shared with the public are moderated and curated for readers and teachers interested in specific genres.

While there's no cost to set up an account, add students, or create and share digital storybooks, students can buy copies of the "storybirds" (picture books) they publish. There's also the possibility for teachers and schools to set up fundraisers where family can purchase students' work. Artists receive royalties from sales of books that include their art. It may be a bummer for some that students can't put their own art into Storybird creations, or use their own words in the poetry format. Other students, for example those who want to illustrate their stories but lack confidence in their own artistic abilities, will appreciate the variety of unique images in Storybird's collection. It can be a little awkward to browse through all the illustration options in the editor, which may frustrate or limit some. And, in the poetry format, students are forced to use a collection of provided words, which makes it more like a word game than a true opportunity for pure creative expression. Yet, overall, Storybird offers an easy to use format for sparking creativity, encouraging storytelling, and creating professional looking storybooks.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

Artwork is fun, beautiful, and/or whimsical in a variety of themes and styles; students should find something that inspires them. Students who love to write or tell stories will love the opportunity to produce and publish books.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4
The social aspect of the site creates an art-infused storytelling community. Students get to make lots of choices here; they'll learn by exploring and exercising their creative story telling muscles.
Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
4
The site provides an attractive platform and an extensive FAQ-driven help center.

Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Kat C. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
4
Don't fly away just yet!

I love Storybird! My students are hooked and we can't get enough of the great art. We use all the features, poems, short stories, and chapter books. I think one day they will allow students to upload their own art and that will really round out the tool. One way that I could also see it evolving is to give peer editing access in teacher classrooms. As the teacher, I would like to be able to assign stories to students for peer review.

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