Digital Literacy Tool: Common Craft Style Video

Digital Literacy


I had my class try a new style of presentations called Common Craft Style Presentation for my digital literacy project. Common Craft Style is a video presentation in which the narrator uses pictures and a script to explain a concept. My students had finished a research unit of opinion writing and I thought they could turn what they had written into a Common Craft Style Video.

By visiting Commoncraft you can find out more about this style of video presentations. I did not subscribe to the website because of the pricing. A subscription will gain you access to thousands of cutouts to use in your presentation. Since I teach 5th grade, I was confident my students would be more than willing to make their own pictures to support their opinion essays.

Since my students already had worked hard on writing essays, they already had a script ready to go. For this particular assignment students were already in research groups. Students researched whether or not schools should have uniforms, if there should be zoos, if people should drink diet soda, and if schools should teach cursive writing.

I introduced this style of video presentation by showing a tutorial video I found on YouTube. Check it out by clicking here.  Students were very excited to try it out. They quickly began planning what pictures they would use to support their essays. Once students knew what pictures they wanted to use I had them spend a week practicing reading and sliding pictures in and out. This part proved to be extremely helpful, not only for the presentation, but many students were making additional revisions to their essays because it was hard to read. For my students, hearing someone else struggle with their essays opened their minds to the revision stages of writing, which sometimes can be a challenge for my 5th graders.

Over the course of the week students collaborated to make their presentations. I have them posted below. I used my iPad camera app to record the presentations. I didn’t realize until after I published the video to YouTube that you can see the borders in our videos. This was something that was extremely hard to see using the iPad, since these borders do not show when viewing the video on the iPad.Perhaps using some type of video editor would work better next time. Nevertheless, I am happy to use these videos to show that using technology in the classroom takes patience and courage. My Common Craft Style Videos aren’t perfect, but I am proud of my students and myself for taking a risk at trying this type of presentation. What matters most is, my students had the chance to create something new and I am happy to have given them the opportunity.

Both my students and I really enjoyed making these presentations. I found that using the Common Craft Style Video Presentation was a great digital literacy tool. The only materials needed are a recording device, pictures, a script, patience, and a willingness to try something new! Some people can use it for a step by step narrative, or a descriptive video. It is amazing the things students will create if we just give them the chance to explore and create!

Here is the Should we Drink Diet Soda Common Craft Style Video

Here is the Should there be School Uniforms Common Craft Style Video

Here is the Should there be Zoos Common Craft Style Video



Every year I read aloud The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo to my class. I love this book because of the emotions it evokes. Edward goes on a journey throughout the book and students were keeping track of his emotional rollercoaster in their reader’s notebooks.

I wanted to incorporate digital storytelling with this read aloud experience, so I posed the question, “What would Edward Tulane’s instagram page look like?” My students became wide-eyed, as instagram tends to be a “hot topic” amongst my 5th graders. I asked students to think of the major events in the book and to illustrate a picture that depicits it. We also used hashtags to evoke the emotion in which Edward was feeling at that time. Students drew their pictures on paper then shared with the class. I had a couple of students take the photos on the iPad and upload to iMovie to showcase this journey. Students used various hashtags to show what Edwards was feeling. #toomuchlove was used to show how annoyed Edward was with Abilene at the beginning of the book, #Iamloved to show his emotions at the end of the book, #nakeddirtylonelysad was used to show Edward at the bottom of the sea. #longgone was used to show the scene where Edward was kicked off the freight train. Other hashtags used were #coughing, #playingtheharmonica, #notagirl, #inthedump. It is below for you to see.

I was quite impressed and found that iMovie is very easy to use with the preloaded trailers and easy to use functions. My students were able to add sound and zoom in and out of their pictures. Some of the pictures go fast and my students found difficulty showing the entire picture, but overall I think it came out great. The biggest problem I had, was transferring it to the computer. If you have a Mac, this is quite easy, if not, good luck. In the end I ended up emailing it to myself, then saving it to my computer. I then had trouble uploading it to my blog because wordpress does not upload the file types. A much easier process is to simply upload the video to YouTube, then embed the video in the blogpost. This is what I did and found it to be very simple and stress free!

Overall, iMovie is easy to use to showcase student work in this way!

Growth Mindset

Have you ever wondered why some kids will spend hours upon hours playing video games? They repeatedly fail, but yet are determined to succeed. I often wonder why some of these kids can persevere in this situation, yet not in the classroom. For my  Ed. Research class I chose to research the mindsets. If you haven’t heard about the growth and fixed mindsets I suggest you read this post. Carol Dweck is a professor of psychology at Stanford University and  has been conducting research for decades now on how people perceive intelligence. Click here to visit a website on the mindsets.

The idea behind the mindsets is simple. If you believe that hard work and effort contribute to success, you are said to have a growth mindset. If you believe the opposite, that people are born with certain intellectual traits which make them successful, then you are believed to have a fixed mindset. These mindsets relate to school, relationship, and work. It is definitely a “hot” topic and something which I believe could change the way many teachers think about perseverance in their classrooms.

I have copied a list of resources for you to consider when learning about the mindsets below. Feel free to check them out.

Professional Readings


Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools by Mary Cay Ricci

*This book is helpful for those who are thinking about implementing growth mindset in their classrooms. It includes anecdotes from teachers, strategies for teaching perseverance and resilience, parent communication, as well as lessons to get started.


Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

*This is a must read if you want to learn more about the theory of the mindsets. Carol Dweck does a wonderful job of relating the mindsets to life in general. Teachers and parents both could benefit from reading this book.


Children’s Books that have Growth Mindset Messages


Fish in a Tree By Lynda Mullaly Hunt

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

Thank you Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco


These are a few of my favorite resources. Feel free to comment any resources you have found to be helpful teaching or learning about growth mindset.


I’ve used the Padlet tool and found it is a great way to collaborate and share ideas. Padlet is an online board where teachers can post classroom materials and students, who have access, can post as well. Students can post their thoughts, links to resources, as well as post projects they have completed. It is secure and teachers can set their privacy settings to allow anyone to view or require a password to enter. We used Padlet to share our ideas about the text weekly. Last fall my class participated in the Global Read Aloud as we read One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. During my read alouds, I have students share their thinking by turning and talking as well as writing in their reader’s notebook.


Padlet was great for various reasons. Padlet gave my students a chance to build ideas off of one another. I posted weekly questions regarding our characters and students would sign on and hold a conversation with one another. It was really powerful because I was able to hear from my shy students. Padlet gave these students a voice whereas in the class they tended to shy away from sharing their thoughts. My shy students contributed meaningful ideas about the text which everybody was able to hear. It was also great because we were able to collaborate with other classes across the country who too were reading the same book. This was a new experience for my students. I saw students put a lot more effort in their entries when we used the tool compared to when I had them write in their notebooks.

I’ve only used Padlet to build conversations amongst my students in reading thus far, but I have heard other teachers use it as an exit ticket, as a way to share projects, and for math challenges. If you have tried Padlet I am eager to try new ways to use this great tool. Please share your ideas!

Mystery Skype

Within the past few months, I started doing Mystery Skype with my 5th grade class. For those who don’t know, a mystery Skype is a geography game which many students across the world are participating in! To sum it up, 2 classes in different parts of the world connect via Skype. The 2 classes are unaware of the others’ location. The classes take turns asking yes/no questions until they guess the other classes’ mystery location. We have only played against people in the United States, thus far. Some of the locations we have skyped include Delaware, Maine, and Missouri.

My students 100% love this activity. It’s a great way to sneak geography into the curriculum. While students are researching the mystery location, they are using a multitude of skills. Students think critically as they use answers to asked questions to narrow down the mystery location. Students practice their listening and speaking skills as they must listen to the clues given from the other class before deciding on their next question to ask. Furthermore, students are collaborating through their various roles while working to achieve a common goal!

Our first mystery Skype wasn’t the best. It was a little chaotic at times. If you are going to try this, you have to be ok with this. Students will get better over time and with practice. It’s important to debrief after the call with the class and discuss what went well, and what needs to be improved. We do this every time, and my students are very reflective. They suggest new jobs, how they can communicate better, and they think of what they learned from the other class. This is one of the reasons why I love this activity! My students become problem solvers as they reflect on how to grow from the experience. What great lifelong learning skills they are applying!

After the 2 classes guess the others location, the 2 classes typically connect and teach, or share, something interesting about their school or state. Today we finally got to do this! I was so impressed with my students taking an interest in learning about another state! My students were very curious about the weather, since our mystery location was in Maine. My students were blown away to find out they still go to school when it is -30 outside! Even I was amazed by that! This was a great example of learning through technology and being connected. I can’t wait for our next Mystery Skype to see what else we will learn about the world around us!

Below are some helpful links to Mystery skype resources that I have found.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts on Mystery Skype and if you have other resources to share as well! Twitter is a great resource for Mystery Skype as well! So many teachers are willing to help newbies learn. All you have to do is send out a tweet with the #mysteryskype!

Preparing Students to Become Lifelong Learners

I recently fell in love with the book Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty. The story of Rosie is so inspiring and uplifting, it delivers a strong message; if at first you don’t succeed, try again.

I’m proud to admit, I’ve been no stranger to failure. Some of my biggest lessons learned have come from failed attempts. Whether it be trying a new recipe, teaching a complex lesson, or putting together a bookcase from Ikea! These all things which I have failed! However, they are also things which I have succeeded at. I have been blessed enough to know from an early age that if I don’t succeed on my first attempt, I have to try again.

In the book, it took Rosie a while before she learned this valuable lesson. She even missed out on creating something amazing. I thought of the students in my classroom and wondered how can I teach them to become resilient to failure? Is it through perseverance? If it is, how do you teach perseverance?

At the end of the day I want all of my students to become successful, but I also want them to see failure as the first steps to success. I hope I will find the answers to these questions because resilience and perseverance are important skills in order to be lifelong learners.

Working Mom Guilt

This week I was hit hard with working mom guilt. My 4 year old son, Michael, was having difficulty at school and the first thing I did upon hearing the news from his teachers, was blame myself. Michael, who is a sweet, sometimes timid, playful, energetic, average 4 year old started “acting out” at school. At first I thought this is a phase and is something all 4 year olds go through.  All kids are going to “test the water” at some point in their lives and I kept telling myself that my kid was doing just that; testing his teacher’s and my own limits.

For the most part, Michael has always behaved. The mother in me couldn’t let this go. Why now? What has changed? And then bingo, bring on the guilt! My going back to school at night equals less time with Mommy, which equals Michael “acting out” at school, which equals my fault. Hence, working mom guilt.

So what do I do? I actually contemplated dropping one of my courses, to spend more time at home with my son. After talking it over with my support system I decided not to. The best advice I was given was that everything I am doing is to better our future. If I quit, what message will I be sending to Michael? I’m not sure the answer to that question, however I do know the message I am sending by making this small sacrifice and staying in both my night courses.

I am instilling hard work and dedication. I am showing my son what it means to be a lifelong learner. I am showing him what it means to work hard for something you want. Why should I feel guilty about any of this? I should feel proud that I can teach my son, firsthand, the definitions of hardwork and determination. And that is what I am going to continue to do.

But, why do I still feel guilty!?! At the end of the day I know these things, but it doesn’t help me deal with the guilt. So what is the answer? How do I balance being a mom with being a teacher who is pursuing her education.

I don’t know the answer. All I know is that I am going to continue to talk with my child, teach my child, and make the most of our time spent together. So, cheers to another snow day! I’m looking forward to baking cookies, playing board games and being with my child. And when he is exhausted and needs a nap, that’s when I’ll worry about Tamara, the grad student.

Life is about finding that happy balance.