The Gingerbread Man Doesn’t Escape Common Core

Gingerbread Man with bow tie near stack of other cookies says,
Students illustrate the text.

Continue reading “The Gingerbread Man Doesn’t Escape Common Core”

My Children Stories on Storybird

I studied creative writing at UCLA’s extension program back in the 90s with two published children’s authors. It was my outlet for creativity. Since then, I’ve written several children stories and poems, but they have remained unpublished sitting in a basket beside my desk (except for two educational ones that I sell on TeachersPayTeachers). 

Currently, I’m using Storybird’s monthly challenges as my impetus for getting a new story out every month even though it’s not for profit. I just started in October of 2017.  My Halloween story didn’t quite make it in on time to earn a badge for the challenge. I’ll keep posting new ones here on this page.

OctoberMy Tale for a Halloween Treat

African American girl speaking to a frog near a pond
Art by KDMaz on Storybird

Summary: Paula reveals her thought process as she writes a Halloween story for a school contest. Meet Polly and Pollard in their adventures in a town near a forest with a witch, a fairy, and some hairy seeds.

NovemberGrandma Doesn’t Speak English

Grandma sitting in a rocking chair while she knits with grandson playing with a dog in front of her.
Art by Victoria Usova on Storybird

Summary: Love removes all language barriers in this story based on a visit to grandmother’s house. She doesn’t speak English, so she gets the children’s attention by saying ‘mira’ which means ‘look’ in Spanish.

DecemberThe Do Over Wish

Barn owl in snowy forest flying towards you
Art by Frimages on Storybird

Summary: Two twelve-year-old cousins go hunting for quail but end up wishing for a do-over when they shoot a barn owl. This leads them to make a pact to only hunt animals for meals or personal safety.



I’d love feedback on my stories either here or on Storybird, which is free to join.

Doctoral Internship: Creating Machinima for Language Learners

CAMELOT. This semester, I participated in the CreAting Machinima Empowers Live Online language Teaching and learning (CAMELOT) project funded by the European Union’s Lifelong Learning Programme.  The purpose of the CAMELOT project is to provide language-teaching resources for English as foreign language instructors, as well as to share the technological and pedagogical expertise on creating and adapting their own machinima for the classroom.  Machinima are screencasts of animation in virtual worlds to create movies.  I interned for a grantee in the project, Heike Philp of let’s talk online, sprl.  My primary goal was to learn the craft of machinima in order to assist with the production of machinima in Second Life™ (SL) utilizing Camtasia Studio video production software, as well as to produce supporting how-to guides.  My personal goal was to become adept at producing media for young children.


Orange tabby sitting lotus style next to lady at campfire
Irish Pub on EduNation in Second Life

MENTOR. I received wonderful guidance from Heike Philp, my intern supervisor.  She spent numerous hours with me inworld and in webinars hosted on Adobe Connect.  We met in a SL sim she owns called EduNation.  Sometimes we sat around a campfire to discuss the various issues I was having in SL.  Other times, Heike or her co-moderators led trainings, machinima screenings, or live film shoots. They invited us to collaborate in group projects.  The volunteer moderators of the workshop provided ongoing activities beyond the confines of the 5-week training.  For example, the sixth week, we were challenged to create a lesson plan to accompany our machinima for a CAMELOT competition in the SLanguages Symposium on February 28th.

SECOND LIFE. To create machinima, you need characters.  You can ask others to star in your production or serve as extras in the background.  In my case, I decided to become a character in my own simple production.  Ms. Philp bestowed upon me a great gift of Linden dollars to purchase a new avatar.  Now I am a grey cat that looks lifelike and makes cat sounds.  I love it!  I wanted to be a cat that had animated features for filming purposes.  I had previously selected a tabby cat avatar from the freebies but found that it did not have the same movement capabilities of human avatars.  Now with this new Zooby cat skin, I can do several actions like sit, clean myself, nap, run, purr, and meow.  I want to use this avatar cat in a machinima about my children’s story, Kanimambo, Charlie Makako (Thank you, Charlie Monkey).  This is one of the stories that I hope will be selected for future CAMELOT projects.  In the story, one of the things that the cat does is dance.  I tried the different gestures provided in SL affordances.  I can move his legs from side to side, as if he’s dancing.  I can also change the cat’s physical attributes to make it look more like a monkey (e.g. elongate tail), which is one of the characteristics of the cat’s character.

Here are two of the machinima I created this semester:  (I hope to add more to these to embellish the story.)

1.  Adventures with Charlie

2. Cast Party at the Castle


Your blogger,

Sandra Rogers

Filming in Second Life to Create Machinima

Meeting of avatars in Second Life
I’m the grey cat avatar.

Photo of MachinEVO moderators providing a training session in SecondLife in EduNation.

This is one of my first film assignments as part of the MachinEVO workshop. I was in a group filming a story about a magician on a ship. It’s a humorous story, so I used some corny  music (Sorry, Gsus) for the sinking ship scene. I was already familiar with the screencasting software, Camtasia Studio. The toughest part for me was trying to maneuver the screen shots in Second Life from a live action shot. I’m at the mid skill range in SecondLife.

My participation in this workshop is part of my on-the-job training for my doctoral internship with let’s talk online in Belgium. Heike Philp is the coordinator of my internship and moderator of the MachinEVO workshop. I just finished five weeks of robust training with her and her co-moderators! We even had a film showing and cast party afterwards. I created a few other machinima during this time that I will share in different posts.

The moderators shared many different resources, tips, and demonstrations. One tip I followed was the use of for free background music. It offers fee-based and free MP3 downloads. They have a great collection of music. It was easy to register and start using it right away.

Sinking Ship set to electronic guitar version of Titanic:

Use of SecondLife for Educational Purposes

Avatar sitting on a crescent moon
I’m over the moon for SecondLife!

SecondLife (SL) could be used in numerous ways to promote student learning. For example, a quick screencast of an avatar presenting the topic would be a great way to gain the learner’s attention. Perhaps the screencast could serve as an advance organizer with an abstract of the content to be presented related to the past unit content. Last semester, I used SL as a backdrop for creating a mini-introduction to a lesson for the USAonline Student Orientation course. This was a less expensive way to gain attention than the fee-based avatars like SitePal.

Secondly, SL is a great format for second language learning. The multi-modal environment allows for rich language experiences. For example, learners have the text-chat and voice option; they have destinations already set up for social interactions; and instructors can set up student-created projects in a designated sandbox. A unique project that the Electronic Village Online (EVO) workshop participants created in SL were machinimas. These are movies made in SL. They even had an awards show as a culminating event. SL is definitely where movie magic can happen to transform users into a fantasy world with outrageous outfits, superhuman abilities, and all sorts of real and unreal critters.

Lastly, I think the richness of the visual graphics and affordances of the movement allow for some great opportunities for storytelling. It dawned on me when I looked at the photos of me on the moon, that I could use these photos to create a children’s story in ebook format. I’ve taken courses on how to write children’s stories and have several completed ones. However, I don’t know how to illustrate them nor do I have the money to hire someone to do it. I plan to publish one on an app in Google Drive called BookieJar. I think I might try to set-up some photos in SL that go along with my story line. I just need to find out the legal issues of using photos taken in other people’s sims (simulated environments).

I am aware that there is a dark side to SL. As with any open source, multi-user platform, educators need to be vigilant of students in virtual environments. One teacher provided a safe virtual platform by using a sim-on-a-stick. This refers to an educational SL version that can be downloaded to computers without going to the public site.  The teacher built  (or added to an existing sim) a simulated trip to mars for his elementary students. The teacher filmed the in-world and real world experience for the girls. It’s awesome!  View his video to see how the students helped each other and used a how-to guide: external link:

Note: This is the first in a series about SL.

Are you interested in selling educational products on TPT?

Cover page of story titled, A Chance To Grow
I sell children’s stories, activities, and other K-12 educational products online. is a great way for educators to sell their own material.  They’re an open marketplace for educators to buy, sell, and share their self-made educational products.   Here’s my store on TPT I currently have 50 educational products for sale.  Examples include a podcast project, learning center signs, language prompts with photos from American life, and literature studies.  The majority of my products are available in English and Spanish editions.

You have to become a member to make a purchase.  Membership is free. Additionally, you will have access to thousands of free downloads from each teacher—that’s the sharing component of TPT.  If you’re interested in selling products on TPT, then please use my referral link.

Read my WordPress page about being a materials writer for TeachersPayTeachers. I’m selling products on TPT to help pay for graduate school and to get hands-on experience as an instructional designer of educational products. This activity is also helping me learn about the Common Core State Standards, as I try to align my products.  For example, check out the fictional story I wrote about the life cycle of various animals and plants a young chick encounters on a walk around the farm.

Also, some teachers (not me) make a substantial income on TPT. Read about TPT’s number one seller, Deanna Jump. Thank you for visiting my store! If you purchase something, please leave feedback.

A Chance To Grow: The Story of a Hungry Chick

Cover page of story titled, A Chance To Grow

When I taught first grade, I created this story to synthesize the various life cycles of plants, animals, and insects. I thought it was important to highlight more than the life cycle of a butterfly, which is usually addressed in first grade. Students need lots of examples and nonexamples in order to fully understand a concept. Granted my story is a fictional tale of a chick in search of food. For example, the characters (a seed, a caterpillar, a tadpole, and a chick) are personified. Therefore, this is not a scientific text. Nevertheless, the young chick encounters the various characters at an early stage in their life cycle. Whether he eats them or not depends on his appetite.

I wrote this story a while back.  Fortunately, I now have a venue to sell it as a learning product on Teachers Pay Teachers.  This 10-page product includes a story, a glossary, and vocabulary pretest.  It hasn’t been illustrated; therefore, students can create their own illustrations. Only the title page, page borders, and student glossary have clip art.  Students are provided space to illustrate the story on each page to match the meaning of the text. The purpose is to have students illustrate and read it to their parents or other students in the school. This would make an excellent literacy center independent project. Moreover, it’s a great way to integrate science into language arts.

To aid the reader, fifteen vocabulary words are boldface typed within the story with definitions provided on the glossary page. The glossary includes hatch, Luna moth, cocoon, sprout, bud, famished, tadpole, bullfrog, bulging, rooster, hen, mature, coop, ruffled, and roost. The vocabulary pretest has illustrations and real photos of some of the vocabulary and asks students to match the word with the image. The pretest is a great way to activate students’ prior knowledge.

Here’s a sample page from A Chance to Grow: The Story of a Hungry Chick:

Next, the chick found a large striped seed on the ground.

“Please do not eat me,” said the seed.  “For I have not had a chance to grow.  My mom says that I’ll grow up to be a giant sunflower just like my sister!”

“My mom said I could eat flowers,” said the starving chick.

“Well, you’ll have to wait until I sprout, grow leaves, and bud into a flower!” said the seed.  The chick agreed to wait and went to search for other food.

You can use this product in two different ways in the language arts or ESL class. For example, you can distribute the pages among groups and have the students illustrate the part of the story on their page. Then the teacher can compile them into class books for the class library for the students to read and reread. On the other hand, you can use this activity as an individual assignment and have the students illustrate their very own booklet. If they illustrate their own booklet, they can add a statement to the dedication page below that of the author’s. This product is aligned with the following Common Core State Standards.

Common Core Standards:  Speaking and Listening 


Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

Kindergartners: #5. Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.

Grade 1 Students: #5. Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

Grade 2 Students: #5. Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories or recounts of experiences when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

Grade 3 Students: #5. Create engaging audio recordings of stories or poems that demonstrate fluid reading at an understandable pace; add visual displays when
appropriate to emphasize or enhance certain facts or details.