In the year that I taught language arts before moving into the social studies department one of the challenges that my students faced in writing short stories was coming up with ideas to get started. I held a lot of brainstorming sessions with those students. Today, there are lots of apps that can help students generate creative story ideas. Here are five worth taking a look at.
Things to Think About is a free iPad app that offers 100 writing prompts created by students for students. The prompts were created by 2nd through 5th grade students in Jackson County, Michigan. The app itself was built by two high school students in the same county. Things to Think About has writing prompts spread across twelve categories. Each prompt has a picture drawn by a student. A short audio recording of a student reading each prompt can be heard too.
Write About This is an iPad app (free and paid versions available) containing visual, text, voice writing prompts for students. Students can respond to the writing prompts they see by writing directly in the app or anywhere else that you want them to write. Write About This allows students and teachers to create their own writing prompts too. To create a writing prompt you choose picture from your camera roll, type a prompt, then record your voice to go along with the prompt. Prompts and responses to prompts can be shared via email. Sharing via email is disabled by default. Sharing can be activated in the app’s settings. The free version of Write About This contains 50 prompts. The paid version of Write About This (currently priced at $3.99) has nearly 500 prompts.
Shake-a-Phrase is a fun iPad app (currently priced at $1.99) for elementary school and middle school students to use to start stories and practice recognizing parts of speech. Shake-a-Phrase has three basic modes; shake it, story starter, and quiz mode. Each mode has five themes; animals, monsters, fairytales, sports, and random. In “shake it” mode students shake their iPads to have complete, but random sentences appear on their screens. The “story starter” mode presents students with a new random story prompt each time they shake their iPads. In both of these modes students can favorite sentences and prompts to refer to later. Shake-a-Phrase’s quiz mode presents students with random sentences in which they have to identify nouns, adjectives, verbs, conjunctions, and prepositions.
Brainstormer is an iPad app (current price $1.99) that started out as a website in 2009. The web version has been replaced the the iPad app that quickly generates story starters for you. The basic Brainstormer app has three wheels of words and themes that you can spin. You can spin each wheel separately until you have a combination of words that you think you can use. When you have selected a story starter you can share it with others through email, Twitter, or Facebook. That’s all there is to the basic Brainstormer app. You can add more words and themes to the app through in-app purchases of “character creator” and “world builder.”
Sentence Builder from Abitalk is a series of iPad apps designed to help elementary school students learn to construct sentences. The app asks students to build sentences about the pictures that they see in the app. Each picture is accompanied by a set of words that students drag and drop into place to write the sentence that they hear read by the narrator. For example, in one picture children will see two people running and they will have to write the sentence that they hear the narrator read. Sentence Builder will tell students if they have written the sentence correctly or not. Sentence Builder allows parents and teachers to create their own lessons. To create a lesson start by selecting a picture from your iPad’s camera roll then write out the sentence that you want students to create. You can use your own voice to narrate the sentence or use the app’s native voice for narration. Sentence Builder Free is a free app for Kindergarten through grade 2. The full version of Sentence Builder costs $2.99. The full version offers more pre-made sentences, more complex sentences, and more word choices.