In thinking for this month’s writing activities, Leah suggested that since it is December, that we might want to incorporate the use of greeting card sites as a way for beginning writers of English to get practice writing short messages while using the Web. You all probably use these and have your own favorites. Here’s a list of e-card sites. This idea reminded me of an oldie but goodie site I used with students to work on sentence-level writing and dialogue. DFilm.com http://dfilm.com/moviemaker/make.html allows users to select characters, scenes and music to create a cool animation that can be emailed to friends. I still use the site to create my own greeting cards. It is so much fun and easy to use! There are of course others such as http://www.xtranormal.com, with those wide-eyed characters, that can turn typed text into speech. And don’t forget Bill Zimmerman’s http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Comix. It is great for teachers because they can create comics on topics related to their classes and print them out for handouts.
- Introduce the class to the DFilm (or another mentioned above). Show them how to navigate the features of the site and model what you would like them to produce by creating a short animation with the whole class. (Especially if you have some students who are inexperienced with the Web, I suggest that each person is on a computer creating this first animation together with you as you go step by step.)
- After the class sees the potential of the site, it is great if students step away from the computer for a bit and create a stick figure storyboard. That way they can get feedback on their writing before they produce something, whether from other students or you. This can be particularly important to do ahead of time since there is a tendency when students get into the movie maker to think more about which characters and music to select and pay less attention to writing dialogue.
- But realistically time may be short, so before they go to the site, at least have them think about who their audience is (who they want to send it to) and what is the purpose (A fun holiday card? A romantic story for Valentine’s Day?)
- Many learners, especially English language learners, struggle with phrasing of holiday greetings, so go around and support students when necessary.
- Although students can send the animation in DFilm directly, I like to copy and paste the url of the movie in the body of a regular email just to make sure friends get it and it doesn't get caught in an email spam filter.
- As a wrap up, have students send the animation to you. If you have a projector show them to the class, having students narrate, or role play if appropriate. Alternatively have students send one to at least one other student in the class. Then each recipient replies with some comment about the animated card or skit they just received.
Have you tried this activity in your classroom? Do you have a favorite e-card site? Tell us about it in the comments! And don't forget to sign up to receive our blog in your e-mail or RSS feed.