Sunday, April 20, 2014

Adopting Boom Writer For Elementary Students

I really like Boom Writer. It's a site that has a huge bank of story starters in a variety of genres. Boom Writer gives you the first chapter of a bunch of different stories. And then it's up to you to write the rest.

What I really don't like about Boom Writer is the following:
1) You have to type the stories.

I think this is a big problem with adapting cool writing tools like Boom Writer and Write About This.
When kids are still learning to write, and just learning to type, they aren't nearly as good at writing when they are typing. That's my personal experience with my students as well as with myself. Some some other opinions that corroborate mine can be found here and here.
This just isn't always conducive to good story writing

So it's important for me to adopt any cool app or online writing tool to paper. I've written how I adapted Write About This before.

2) Everyone is in direct competition with each other. I think gameification sounds really cool. I'd love to implement it full speed ahead. But I have a fundamental problem with extrinsic rewards and public competition in Elementary. I don't see the difference between a Leaderboard and putting up a poster with all the kids names on it to show how many gold stars each has received. At its worst its public humiliation. Boom Writer really only awards the best and doesn't humiliate the non-best, but I've been reading a lot of gamification literature lately and it's on my mind.

But the source material of Boom Writer is awesome. More than anything I think it gives the students the opportunity to learn what it takes to complete a real story. So we write our chapters on paper. The students choose their genre, get the first chapter and review the rubric for the chapter. But the rubrics I make only focus on one thing: answering the questions that are formed in the first chapter. They have three chapters to do this, and it's not easy. We talk about the pitfalls of answering the questions too soon or too quick, and brainstorm ways to do it creatively.

I won't list the first chapters here because Boom Writer would probably not appreciate that too much. But here are the titles, a quick summary from the website, and the rubrics I made for each one. To access the first chapters, just register with Boom Writer.

Gone! by Nancy Viau
Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery
Summary: Dorie and her older sister Meg love to surf. Catching that "perfect wave" is a rush and Dorie is desperate to get out and ride a few. But with the appearance of a mysterious green light on the water, Dorie's world gets turned upside-down.

Hunted by Ella Kennen
Genre: Myths and Monsters
Summary: Elliot is like a human lie detector, which comes in handy when potential pop quizzes might be assigned. He's never been wrong yet, and that's just one of the things that make Elliot an interesting  foster brother. Elliot has another special skill and now he's being hunted. 

Monsters Need Heroes Too by Mike Grinti
Genre: Fantasy
Summary: Corin can't wait to be summoned to a magical world where he can be a real hero and save a kingdom. Then his best friend Julie is summoned away right in front of him! Luckily for Corn, he gets summoned, too. Unluckily for him, he seems to have been summoned to fight for the bad guys... a group of trolls!

Mr. L's House by Helen Kampion
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Summary: Just before dawn, Eva is woken by a strange noise and discovers an eerie light around Mr. L's house. She's never spoken to Mr. L, but rumor has it that he can supposedly read minds and predict the future. Eva's twin sister Lacey doesn't see or hear anything, so Eva decides to investigate herself. What she finds however is the last thing she expected.

PowerKid by Greg R. Fishbone
Genre: Action/Adventure
Summary: Terry believes that his father is the masked superhero, PowerGuy. It's the only explanation for his absence, his mother's reluctance to talk about superheroes, and the way his mother moves  them around so frequently from town to town. Terry aspires to be a superhero as well, but will things go the way he plans?

The Great Treasure Hunt by Ashleigh West
Genre: Action/Adventure, Mystery
Summary: It's been a lazy summer for Keith and his best friend Jake until, through a clumsy accident, they make a discovery which could turn out to be the greatest adventure of the summer!

The Shell Game by Diane Bailey
Genre: Mystery
Summary: It's easy to spot a tourist in the city. New Yorker Abby knows the shell man's game and knows only a tourist could be conned by the act. She warns the foolish tourists, but before the shell man can finish his trick, the police pull up and suddenly the street is empty. That is except for one of the shell man's bags, and what Abby finds inside is more than she could have imagined. 

World's Greatest by Johnny Riley
Genre: Humor
Summary: Kenny Jenkins set the Guiness World Record for crab walking at one-point-seven-three miles. Everyone else just rounded it to two miles and treated Kenny like some sort of superhero, but Tommy wasn't buying it. Tommy was sick of all the hype about Kenny and his stupid crab walking skills, and is determined to become the World's Greatest at... something.

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