Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2018

Storybird

Social storytelling site helps kids create, publish storybooks

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts

Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Character & SEL
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
K–12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (44 Reviews)

Take a look inside

1 video | 6 images

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

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

Bottom Line: A great fit for teachers looking to develop students' writing and digital citizenship skills through storybook creation.

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. Or, use the guides or interactive courses to lead your students through learning something new about writing. These curriculum guides and courses are $4.99 per students and offer structured lessons and activities as well as some extra bonus features (e.g. more challenges and stickers) for students. Note that at the time of this review this section of the site had quite a few broken links, so make sure to verify that these are still available.

With a free 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 that give 30 percent of the books' proceeds directly to the school. To bridge the gap between school and home, parents can take their kids' account with them when the class is over.

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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. Completing writing activities earns badges and crowns, which can be redeemed for stickers or writing prompts.

Storybird offers a community for storytelling and a well-designed interface for matching words to compelling pictures. It can inspire student writing, but not all students will be inspired by the site on its own. Since students and teachers can also read published stories and comment on them, it offers good opportunities to practice digital citizenship. There's 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. This setup really puts the focus on writing. The ever expanding collection of teachers' guides, syllabi, interactive courses, and writing tips cements that focus and makes Storybird a valuable resource for helping students unlock their creative writing skills. 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. Even with these criticisms, Storybird is a unique social platform for sparking creativity, encouraging storytelling, and creating professional-looking storybooks.

Overall Rating

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

Student will be inspired by the fun, beautiful, and whimsical artwork. They'll also find joy in producing and publishing books they can share with family and friends.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
The social features create an art-infused storytelling community. Students get to make lots of choices here; they'll learn by exploring and exercising their creative storytelling 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?
It's an attractive, easy-to-use platform with an extensive FAQ-driven help center.

Teacher Reviews

(See all 44 reviews) (44 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Melissa M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
P.S. 69 Daniel D Tompkins
Staten Island, United States
Beautiful way to engage hesitant writers and accelerate the gifted!
It truly is a surprising and engaging writing tool to unlock creativity in all writers. Students can view, comment and give feedback on each other's work and get inspired by writer's on a global scale. You will quickly see students working on their projects at home as well!
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