'Story Stage' intrigues Chris Drage with its creativity, elan and innovative multi-mouse collaboration
Story Stage is a series of puppet-based literacy resources encouraging groups or pairs of children to work together around a computer to create their own imaginative retelling of traditional stories.
As a teacher, few software titles from large, established book publishers enthuse me. Most tend to be electronic text books with limited opportunities for any creative interaction by the student other than via assessments, quizzes and interactive demonstrations. However, with Story Stage I have had to eat those words.
Scholastic has produced a delightful interactive series of nursery tales which truly involve children creatively at a number of levels. It is collaborative, interactive and highly creative when used in the intended manner.
The CD-Rom series is comprised of: Jack and the Beanstalk; Little Red Riding Hood; Three Billy Goats Gruff; The Little Red Hen; The Enormous Turnip; Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Each CD-Rom offers a different storytelling environment in which up to four children can contribute equally during planning, rehearsal and performance of their work with each pupil using their own mouse.
Story Stage has a number of features which enable children to bring their performances to life. Children can animate character puppets that are easy to control and add props and backgrounds with sound effects, ambient music and “magic” effects. ‘Backstage’ controls such as lighting, sound and stage curtains are also available and audio recording facilities enable children to add their own voices to their work. Pupils’ completed ‘plays’ can be saved encouraging review and self/peer assessment. Each CD-Rom has a fully narrated ebook version of the story for whole class familiarisation and text interrogation.
For me the jewel in the crown of this series is that it enables up to four pupils to work on the same PC at the same time. Each pupil can interact with the Story Stage content (puppets, props etc.) using their own mouse. The Windows Multipoint Mouse Software Development Kit (SDK) lies at the heart of the Story Stage software. Its simple plug-and-play approach means no additional hardware is necessary as standard USB mice work with all Story Stage CDs.
Leaners can 'mash up' the stories for extra creativity and fun
As the pupils work together to make up and perform stories using the animated puppets, props, backgrounds and effects that Story Stage provides, the opportunity is always there for children to discover unexpected ways to be creative and imaginative. It’s no problem, for example, for Goldilocks to cause chaos at the home of the three bears with a little help from Red Riding Hood.
The ability for pupils to mix-up puppets from other available Story Stage libraries, offers endless possibilities for performances that can then be recorded and viewed by peers. The more Story Stage titles you install, the greater the opportunities for creativity as children ‘pick and mix’ characters, props and sounds from the various stories. Teachers can also add comments and feedback, adding assessment possibilities to Story Stage.
Although I have not been able to fully assess this aspect of Story Stage, it can be used effectively with the a SMART Table. From the Smart Exchange website you are able to download some Story Stage resources for Smart Notebook and Table. Story Stage should be installed directly to your SMART Table (currently, it is incompatible with the SMART Table Toolkit). There are four main elements:
- Story Stage 1: Planning Stories – Learn about how stories can be planned and organised
- Story Stage 2: Story Styles – Learn how to make different styles of story
- Story Stage 3: Creating Characters – Create distinctive characters by using voice and movement
- Story Stage 4: Re-inventing stories – Start to plan a different telling of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"
I was always of the opinion that the Smart Table was a great bit of kit looking for the right software… this could be it!
Shipston-on-Stour Primary School in Warwickshire has been piloting Story Stage. Christian Hilton, Headmaster and co-ordinator of the Story Stage pilot, sums ups the practical benefits of using such unique technology in day-to-day teaching: “All the children have really enjoyed using Story Stage. Having their own mouse and working together on a project is something they have picked up very easily.”
By removing the barriers to PC access, Story Stage gives children an equal, active role and provides a very effective learning experience, helping them become collaborative learners too. Thoroughly recommended.
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use 5
Value for money 4
Series of six innovative storytelling and storymaking CD-Roms for literacy work – Jack and the Beanstalk; Little Red Riding Hood; Three Billy Goats Gruff; The Little Red Hen; The Enormous Turnip; Goldilocks and the Three Bears. They allow up to four children to work together collaboratively, each with their own mouse. Price: £60 each.
Scholastic online shop
For more on Microsoft's Mouse Mischief multimouse technology see Dan Roberts' "Mouse magic – classroom innovation that"s free"