Examining Pourquoi Tales

What is a pourquoi story? Ask Mrs. Garcia’s second graders and they’ll be able to tell you that it is a type of story that tells why something is the way it is. In fact, pourquoi means why in French. Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories is a classic work of this genre. One well-know tale is How the Camel Got His Hump. Many cultures have pourquoi tales that have been passed down through the ages.

In a collaborative effort with technology and art, Mrs. Garcia’s students explored some of these stories using the “making smaller circles” principle (zooming in on details).

Josh Waitzkin, an eight-time National Chess Champion in his youth, attributes his success to learning techniques he developed to bring his mind and body to peak performance. In The Art of Learning, Waitzkin reveals his self-study to define techniques to maximize student achievement. One of those techniques he calls “making smaller circles.”

photo(2)Mrs. Garcia introduced her students to the pourquoi genre by discussing the elements found in this type of tale. She shared the camel story from Rudyard Kipling, complete with a camel stuffed animal. As she talked, Mrs. Garcia asked the children to pretend they had a magnifying glass to use to zoom in on just the camel’s hump.

zooming in

Zooming in!

The students also played the “I Spy” game which is a fantastic reinforcement to understanding how to zoom in on details. In addition, the students wrote clues about an object to allow their classmates to guess. Each additional clue provided more details.


What is my object? Guess my clues.

After looking at a variety of books, the students then decided on a pourquoi tale. They examined main characters, problems, outcomes, etc and wrote their rough draft.

block change paper

Determining Problem, Block/Change, and Outcome

At this point, the students were ready to begin their illustrations. Mrs. Black, our art teacher, worked with the children on how to look at the “big picture” then zoom in on the smaller details. Each child had a picture of their object and a black “window” that was used to helped focus in on a specific part. Oil pastels were used to create the colorful illustrations.

image 3

Focusing on the armadillo’s head


How the chipmunk got its stripes

For the technology part of the project, I used the Book Creator app (available from the App Store and Google Play) to create an ePub book to share with parents. I love this app because it is extremely easy to use and it has a wealth of features!

Normally, I would have each student create a page in the app then email it to me where I would combine all into one class book. However, because we wanted the formatting to be the same throughout the book, I typed the students’ work and then we recorded each child.



After photographing the completed drawings and adding them to the corresponding page, I previewed the project with the students. I wanted to make sure each picture went with the correct story and that the drawings were inserted in the direction the child wanted. (We had to change a few!)

Checking for proper orientation of illustrations

Checking for proper orientation of illustrations

Below is the link to the finished book. While on an iOS device, click on the link to download then choose to open in iBooks. To read the book using the Google Chrome browser, click here for instructions. The file is large so it may take a few minutes to complete the download.

Pourquoi Stories: Making Smaller Circles by Mrs. Garcia’s Second Graders (ePub book)

New! The Book Creator app now allows the book to be exported as a video file. Here is a link to the book in the video version.

Video overview of the process

Extension ideas from Mrs. Garcia:

After the children completed the examination of their pourquoi stories, Mrs. Garcia asked them to create their own tales. They also worked as a class to write poetry.

Pourquoi tales from students

Pourquoi tales from students






Alliterations in Book Form

book creator newMy favorite app happens to be Book Creator – I absolutely love how easy it is for students of all ages to use! And, I am a HUGE believer in having kids write in all types of genres. Students are thrilled when their book is “published” for all to see.

Recently I worked with the 4th graders to create an Alphabet Alliteration video using the Drawing Box and ChatterPix Kids apps (see Alphabet Alliterations post for more details).

The videos are great but I thought that our younger children would love to read an interactive alphabet book at their own pace! So I pulled the ChatterPix videos into the Book Creator app. What a fun way this will be for the 4th graders to share their alliterations with the younger grades!

Click here (or on the picture) to download the book to your iOS device. Then choose to open in iBooks.


Apps in a Flash: Using Book Creator

photo(2)Today’s Apps in a Flash workshop focused on the Book Creator app. Book Creator is available for iOS (free and paid versions) and, as of a few days ago, for Android ($2.00 at the moment)!

Because our Apps in a Flash workshops are only 15 to 20 minutes long, I created a “Book Creator: Tips and Examples” book for our teachers. Just click on the above link, download, and open in iBooks.

We had a small group for our workshop but still brainstormed several ideas for using the app. Instead of using an index card for the exit ticket, we worked on a Padlet wall. Feel free to add your ideas to the list!

Celebrating Dr. Seuss

hatDr. Seuss week at our school is a HUGE undertaking! Our librarians design some wonderful activities that certainly excite our students! But, it doesn’t stop with the library – Dr. Seuss is celebrated across the curriculum and we definitely have creativeness shining in the lab.

We started the week with Crazy Hat Day. The second graders and one third grade class visited the lab to draw their rather interesting hats using the Microsoft Paint program.

On Wednesday, some very wacky first graders (and teachers) arrived. We read Wacky Wednesday, by Dr. Seuss and discussed how we could draw our own wacky pictures. This was the first time our little ones had used Microsoft Paint but we ended up with some wacky pictures!

Silly Sock Thursday arrived along with our kindergartners. Since it had been such a wacky week, the students used a wonderful website from the Bronx Zoo called, Build Your Wild Self. The funny thing was that the website didn’t quite work as expected. Students would click on an item to add to their wild self and they would get something completely different! We decided it was just a wacky thing happening since it had been a wacky week.

build your wild self

Look at our silly socks!

Mrs. Moore's Class

Mrs. Rea's Class
Throughout the week the fourth grade classes rotated between the computer lab, music, and art. In the lab, we read Oh! The Thinks You Can Think! by Dr. Seuss. The students were asked to think of an invention of any kind (a new animal, a different food, something that could help them in some way . . .). The pictures were drawn in MS Paint (We prefer this over apps for our more detailed drawings). I uploaded the illustrations to my Picasa account because we wanted to use the Book Creator app to make a class book and we had to get their pictures to the iPads.

The next step was to choose the book size (we used landscape for this) add the picture, text, and narration to the app. Once each child had finished their book, it was emailed to me. I combined all into class books.

Mr. d’Auteuil’s Class Book of Inventions
Mrs. Malone’s Class Book of Inventions
Mrs. Wright’s Class Book of Inventions

Be sure to open the links on an iOS device with the iBooks app (free) installed. Click on the book link above (while on an iOS device). Download and choose Open in iBooks.

The book can be read on a Mac or PC but you must use the Google Chrome browser with the Readium app. (Instructions on Reading ePub Books with the Google Chrome Readium App)

Friday arrived with students forgetting to dress in their uniforms! Oh, yes . . . pajama day! Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book was the focus for the day. Two third grade classes came to the lab and, after looking at some quite unusual beds, they designed their own dream bed.

What a busy but fun week!

(*We had several absences when I saw the students so if you don’t see your child’s work, that would be the reason!)

Fraction Stories with Second Graders

What better way to illustrate understanding of math concepts that to apply that knowledge creating word problems? That’s exactly what Mrs. Shapard’s second graders did using the Book Creator app!

Toward the end of the fraction unit, Mrs. Shapard asked her children to write a story using the concept they had just learned. As I rolled the iPad cart into their room, the students were busy handing out manipulatives to use with their stories. There were cubes and teddy bear counters and pattern blocks and more. Of course, these had to be played with before we could even begin rewriting their stories!

The students received their iPad and opened the Book Creator app. We chose the Landscape design in order to have enough space for pictures and text. Each student would create two pages. Page one (the cover) would have the story problem typed along with an illustration drawn using the Pen within the app. The second page would provide the answer using text. Our original plan was to use manipulatives to represent the answer. That proved to be a bit tricky. They could draw their answer but when asked to transfer that knowledge using a different medium, there was slight confusion.

  • “How do we put these together?”
  • “What should I use to show my answer?”
  • “I can’t make the blocks look like my drawing.”

The students’ comments and questions were valid – the blocks, bears, etc did NOT look like some of their illustrations so this part wasn’t making sense to them. Therefore, we slightly changed the original plan to offer a choice – represent the answer by either manipulatives OR drawing with the pen tool.

Shapard 2

The students are becoming experts with the Book Creator app. As soon as they completed their drawings, they immediately found a quiet corner to record.

Shapard 1

Since we decided to create a class book, the students were to email their book to me. (Since my iPad is an older version, I don’t have the luxury of being able to Air Drop – An awesome feature!).

Once I received the books from the students, it was a quick and easy process to combine each into the one class book. (One thing to remember – there may be extra blank pages that will need to be deleted. Since we were limited on class time, I deleted the extras after putting the book together. Students could very easily do that step.) I then uploaded the book to Dropbox so that it can be downloaded by others (see directions below).

Mrs. Shapard’s Class Book: Fraction Word Problems (Read the directions below to download to an iOS device or to a computer using the Chrome browser.)

Below is a video of the process (this is also included in the back of the class book).

Directions to download book to your iOS device (iPad, iPhone, etc):

  • You will need the iBooks app (free) installed on your iOS device.
  • Click on the book link above (while on your iOS device).
  • Tap on the download button.
  • Choose Open in . . . and then choose Open in iBooks
  • The book is now in iBooks on your iOS device.

Directions to read the ePub book on a computer:

“It Could Have Been Worse!” – Making Predictions using Book Creator

It Could Have Been Worse by A. H. Benjamin is a fantastic book to help students with the skill of predicting! It is a delightful story about a mouse on his way home who escapes all kinds of predicaments that he knows nothing about – however, he thinks that he is having a terrible day due to many falls and tumbles as he unwittingly escapes danger.

I read part of the book to our first graders and asked them to predict what might happen next. We talked about using picture clues to help with predictions. Once they had an idea in their minds, I told the students that we would be using the Book Creator app to make a class book of all the predictions.

iPads were handed out and the book was set up for their predictions. We used the square format, added a name, and wrote a sentence or two about what they thought would happen next. Then I showed the children how to draw right in the book with the pen choice. I love this feature – yes, tools are limited; there is no fill bucket but it is SO easy to draw directly in the app!


The students then recorded their narration and were guided in emailing the book to me. Two of our classes were extremely fortunate to have several TCU students visiting that day. The college students were a tremendous help to the first graders. In fact, I had planned two 40 minute sessions to complete the book but, with all the grown-up help, the children were finished in one period!

1st graders making ebook

This was the students’ first experience with creating their own page in Book Creator and I guarantee, it won’t be their last!

Enjoy their class books:

Mrs. Hutchinson’s Book

Mrs. Kee’s Book

Mrs. Orehek’s Book

Directions to download books to your iOS device (iPad, iPhone, etc):

  • You will need the iBooks app (free) installed on your iOS device.
  • Click on the book link above (while on your iOS device).
  • Tap on the download button.
  • Choose Open in . . . and then choose Open in iBooks
  • The book is now in iBooks on your iOS device.

Directions to read the ePub book on a computer:

Catching Our Dreams

Mrs. Garcia's Dream Catcher Bulletin Board

Mrs. Garcia’s Dream Catcher Bulletin Board

Mrs. Garcia’s second grade class discussed dreams and how they would try to accomplish them. However, what children wish for doesn’t magically occur. The students researched possible ways to make those dreams come true.

When the students came to the lab, they drew their dreams on the iPad using the Drawing Box app. (I like the paid version because there are more tools,) When finished, the children learned how to save the drawing to the camera roll so that it could be used for the second part of the project.

The next step was to create a new book in the Book Creator app. This is one of my very favorite apps! It is simple to use for all ages. Students can email books to me and these can be very quickly combined into a class book. Love it!!

The students easily inserted their photo into Book Creator, recorded their narration, and then emailed the book to me. I compiled the individual books into one class book which was uploaded to Dropbox so that it could be shared with parents. (See below for instructions.)

Apps used to create and publish the class book.

Apps used to create and publish the class book.

Chasing Our Dreams Class Book

Directions to download books to your iOS device (iPad, iPhone, etc):

  • You will need the iBooks app (free) installed on your iOS device.
  • Click on the book link above (while on your iOS device).
  • Tap on the download button.
  • Choose Open in . . . and then choose Open in iBooks
  • The book is now in iBooks on your iOS device.

Directions to read the ePub book on a computer:

Working on a Collaborative eBook

Jane Cooper, one of our second grade teachers signed up for a fantastic collaboration project that Kristen Wideen (a teacher in Winsor, Ontario) initiated. The Global Community iBook Project asks teachers from all over the world to contribute a couple of pages about their community.

The information is written in the Book Creator app for iPad and then uploaded to Kristen’s Dropbox account. She will then combine all the pages into one book.

Mrs. Cooper’s class has learned a LOT about Fort Worth but quickly discovered that it was really difficult to squeeze everything into two pages! After much brainstorming, they were able to choose just a few topics. On Tuesday, they worked together to begin the process of adding pictures and descriptions to their book.

Here is a brief look at the process:

There may be another book in the works – the students have so much information to share that they are seriously considering creating their own book about Fort Worth. We’ll see what transpires!


ABC Weather with Second Graders


photo by K. Arrington

Mrs. Shapard’s second graders have been learning all about weather. When she mentioned that to me, I suggested taking what the students had learned to create some type of an “ABC Weather” project.

We brainstormed different ways to do this and ultimately decided to create a video using the Drawing Box and Explain Everything apps on the iPad minis.

The students were assigned a letter (or 2) and then did some research. Sometimes you really have to stretch to come up with ideas for a few of the more obscure letters!

The first step was to illustrate the letter chosen. I like the Drawing Box app and much prefer the paid version as it has so many more tools. Almost everyone finished in a 40 minute session. Drawings were saved to the camera roll (Photos) for the following step.

Next, we had to import the pictures to Explain Everything. Since this was the first time the students had used the app, I went over the tools and gave them some practice time before we continued with their weather project.

ShapardAfter a few minutes, they were ready to begin. The students tapped on the + to begin a new project. They were guided through the process of inserting the picture and setting it as the background (so it wouldn’t move around). Then the recording began! This part took longer than expected – not because the technology was a problem but because it was difficult to find quiet places to record. And, for some, absolute perfection was desired so any tiny mistake called for a do-over! After recording, the video was saved to the camera roll and air dropped to me. The students and I LOVE air drop! So quick and easy.

EE to video to vimeo

Apps and process for publishing the Weather video

I pulled everything together in iMovie and uploaded the video to Vimeo. (Click here for direct link.)

But, the students weren’t finished!

“What about making an eBook?” announced one child, then another and another!

So, we now have a video AND an ePub book made with the Book Creator app. Yes, it’s the same information but the students were excited to share their work in different formats.

All students chose the square format (necessary for all to be same size if combining books), added their picture, changed the background, recorded their narration, and emailed the book to me. From there it was easy to combine all the books (absolutely LOVE that feature of Book Creator).

Drawing box to Book Creator

Apps Used to Create the Class Book

Click below to read the ePub book on your iOS device or with the Google Chrome browser.

Our Weather ABC Book by Mrs. Shapard’s Class

Directions to download books to your iOS device (iPad, iPhone, etc):

  • You will need the iBooks app (free) installed on your iOS device.
  • Click on the book link above (while on your iOS device).
  • Tap on the download button.
  • Choose Open in . . . and then choose Open in iBooks
  • The book is now in iBooks on your iOS device.

Directions to read the ePub book on a computer:

Let it Snow!

It doesn’t snow much in Texas – our last major blast of winter weather resulted in the worst ice storm this area has had in many years. Unfortunately, you can not build a snow man from ice!

Looks like snow but it was slick, solid ice!

Looks like snow but it was thick, slick, solid ice!

So, we did the next best thing – we “built” snowmen (and snow women) using Microsoft’s Paint program. The students drew their snow people by answering questions on a Snowman Glyph 2014. (This is adapted from a glyph I saw years ago. Unfortunately I don’t remember where it was found.)

What surprised me is that their were several students who had never built a real snowman! But, if you don’t travel to snowy places, you often have to wait several years before we have enough snow in Texas to build even a miniature snowman!

After the snow people were finished, I uploaded the illustrations to animoto. Enjoy the videos.

Second Grade Snow People:

Third Grade Snow People:

Fourth Grade Snow People:

Two of our second grade teachers wanted to take the project a step further by incorporating writing. They had their students write cinquain poems which they copied into the Book Creator app. (As a side note, this is an AWESOME app and super easy to use!).

Typing the Poem

Typing the Poem

Since the pictures had been drawn on computers, I had to upload them to my Picasa account so that the students could save the image to the iPad. They had no problems at all doing this.

Once the pictures and text were in the app, each student recorded their poem, then emailed it to me.



One of the best features of Book Creator is that books can be combined if they are created in the same format. We chose landscape for this project. All of the individual books were then easily combined into one book. I did have to delete some blank pages – quick and easy though.

Finally the books were uploaded to DropBox – ready to share. Directions for reading the books on your iOS device or through the Google Chrome browser are listed below.

Mrs. Shapard’s Snowmen and Snow Women Cinquain Poems

Mrs. Cooper’s Snow People Cinquain Poems

Directions to download books to your iOS device (iPad, iPhone, etc):

  • You will need the iBooks app (free) installed on your iOS device.
  • Click on the book link above (while on your iOS device).
  • Tap on the download button.
  • Choose Open in . . . and then choose Open in iBooks
  • The book is now in iBooks on your iOS device.

Directions to read the ePub book on a computer: