It’s Back-To-School time, and teachers all over are prepping for another year in the classroom. Back in prehistoric times, when I was in school, that meant sharpening lots of pencils, trying to get last year’s chalk mark remnants off the board, obtaining a stack of clean projector transparencies and duplicator carbon sheets … ouch! Teachers these days do much the same, although we’ve (thankfully) traded much of that ancient technology for shiny laptops, Chromebooks, iPads, and desktop computers.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the good fortune and privilege of meeting thousands of passionate educators the world over, and many have shared the innovative ways that they are using our FREE Adobe Spark for Education in their classrooms. I love sharing all this goodness, and so here is my 4th annual list of teacher-shared Spark classroom ideas:

  • Welcome message: Use Spark Video to create a welcome message for students and parents. Include photos, videos, contact information, and more. Use a selfie for the title screen image. Some teachers find that Spark Video is also a great way to share and explain classroom rules and policies with students (who are most likely to watch a video than listen to you talk). Actually, you can take this one a step further and embed your Spark Video in a Spark Page, that way you can include actual working links to contact info, classroom resources, and more.
  • Classroom signs and posters: Get your classroom ready and adorn the walls with inspiration, ideas, questions, quotes, and more. Spark Post has images sizes specifically designed for printing, and lots of teachers and librarians are finding that it’s a quick and fun tool for combining images and text to create beautiful printed posters and signage. Plus, we’ve included all sorts of Back-to-School ready templates that you can use to get started even quicker.
  • Classroom updates: If you share classroom news and updates with parents, replace boring emails (or printed pages that are destined for the bottom of the backpack) with Spark Page stories which can contain images, videos, links, and more. Just write, publish, and share the link. Parents and peers will be impressed and inspired.
  • Student introductions: Have your students introduce themselves to you and their classmates using Spark Video. Give them some pointers, a list of key bits of information to include (and what not to include), and have them create a slide for each and then narrate them. Students can also use a picture of themselves for the video title page (this works really well on iPads where students can use the front facing camera to take a selfie). This is particularly effective for the quieter or shyer students who may not be comfortable speaking up in a new class, but who will enjoy creating their own video in a quiet corner.
  • My own video story: This is a fun activity for the littlest ones. Students draw, color, or paint pictures for their own story. For the best result, each picture should be a full 8.5×11 (or A4) page, with the drawing filling as much of the page as possible. Students then take a picture of each of their story pages (on iPad these can be saved to the Camera Roll, on other devices they should be saved any shared storage or folder). Students then use Spark Video to create a slide for each of their story pages, and then add one story page to each slide. They then record their story narration for each slide. When done, they’ll have their own video stories, complete with their own illustrations and their own narration.
  • Speech and language play: Create a Spark Video story with a single picture per page, use big bold clear pictures (ideally isolated on a white or clear background to avoid distractions). Have the child go through page by page recording themselves naming the pictured object.
  • Sight words proficiency: Create a Spark Video story with one sight word per page and with no recorded voice. Have the child go through page by page recording themselves reading the words. This can be repeated at intervals so that the children see the progress and improvement for themselves.
  • Narrative prompts: Similar to the prior ideas, but pick images with an action occurring, and have the student record a single sentence describing what is happening.
  • Rhyming game: Show a series of pictures, and have the children use Spark Video to record a word that rhymes with it (as opposed to naming the picture).
  • Playing with shapes and colors: I’ve seen lots of variants of this one, all of which thoroughly engaged the students. Assign a color and/or a shape, and have the students walk around the classroom or yard or school building taking pictures of matches. They can then describe them in a Spark Video story.
  • Second language acquisition: A variant of the above (this one shared with me by teachers teaching Chinese Mandarin and Spanish to English-speaking kids, as well as by an ESL teacher working with immigrant children) is to show pictures or words that need to be translated, having children record the translations. The same picture can be used on multiple pages so that the child records the same word multiple times, building proficiency while being able to hear the improved fluency.
  • Story starters: Instead of assigning a topic for children to write about, assign a series of images that they must use. Allow them to create their own captions, add images, perhaps even edit the images, and build a story around them. Specify a minimum and maximum duration if using Spark Video, or a maximum length if using Spark Page, and then have the students share their work with the rest of the class.
  • Creative storytelling: With so many children (and their families) taking pictures on smartphones and devices, the odds are high that children will have access to lots of digital pictures capturing their summer break. Spark is great for “What I did this summer” type storytelling. Having the pictures stored on the iPhone or iPad camera roll will make this project easy and fun. Have the child take a selfie for the title page with a “Hello, my name is X, and this is what I did this summer” message, and then have them use their pictures to share their summer activities.
  • Collaborative storytelling: I watched a class of 5th-grade girls in Australia thoroughly enjoy a collaborative storytelling session. When I shared the idea with a teacher, she tweaked it as follows. Use Spark Video and have a student record the first sentence of a story. Then pass the device to the next student to record the next sentence. One by one, every student adds a slide and records the sentence. The student who started the story then records the closing. As for the supporting imagery, each student can pick one for his or her own slide, or that could be a group project. This idea promises lots of giggles.
  • Book reports: New school year means new books to read and new book reports to write. It’s no secret that some children love reading while others don’t, and even those that do often don’t care for assigned titles and selections. Spark Video (for younger readers) and Spark Page (for higher grades) can make book reports fun, engaging, and a highly personal exercise in creativity. One teacher in Minnesota has taken this idea to the next level; student video book reports are shared via Twitter, and authors have even responded to the students!
  • Essays and written assignments: I used to write essays and written assignments in pen in a ruled notebook. My eldest kids got to use Word and then Google Docs. But that’s not adequate for kids these days, they want a more polished and professional look and expect tools that let them complement their written creativity with equally creative visuals and presentation, and Spark Page is superb for this. Just be sure to specify word counts or document lengths or some other guide, otherwise the kids will spend forever looking for images at the expense of actually writing their assignment.
  • Trip reports: I visited a school in San Francisco and got to watch students using Adobe Spark to create trip reports. The 3rd graders had gone to City Hall and were describing the trip using Spark Video or Spark page, and the 5th graders had visited an exhibit at a local museum and were sharing their thoughts using Spark Page. Their teachers had taken lots of pictures and put them in a shared drive (Spark can access images in Google Drive, Dropbox, and more), and students were free to browse to find the ones they wanted to help tell their own take on the story.
  • Class projects: One teacher showed me a wonderful example her class created for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and this idea could be applied to Thanksgiving, Veterans Day, regional or ethnic celebrations, and more. The class created a single Spark Page story about MLK, his legacy, and MLK Day. Each student also created his and her own Spark Video about what they had learned and described what MLK Day meant to them. The teacher then used the Spark Page Glideshow feature to display a picture of each child, and as each child’s face appeared on screen, up popped that child’s Spark Video. (You can embed videos, including those created with Spark Video, inside a Spark Page). The final Spark Page was shared with fellow teachers and parents.
  • Fun with quotes: Have students pick a favorite quote, or assign one, and discuss what its meaning and message. Then have students use Spark Post to create images of the post, complete with relevant images, icons, and fonts.
  • Video journal: Upgrade student journals with video. Each journal entry is a Spark Video slide. If using devices with cameras the student can even take a picture of the work or assignment. Students narrate each journal entry, and at the end of the semester (or year) they’ll have a beautiful video recap of their efforts and progress.
  • Student journalism: In-school student journalism is a wonderful way to encourage creativity and storytelling. Whether it’s school athletics, performances, PTA events, school trips and outings … assign students in pairs to cover the event, they should take pictures, record videos, interview subjects, and more. When done create a Spark Page news story, complete with embedded Spark Video content as appropriate. Students will love seeing Views and Appreciate counts increase as their stories are read.
  • Science fair presentations: It’s not quite science fair season yet, but I’d be remiss to not share this one. Science fairs usually require a presentation of sorts to the judges, and these presentations are usually lost over time. Students can record their presentations using Spark Video, both to help prep for judging, as well as to record their work for posterity. One very innovative teacher in Maryland went a step further. She created a QR code for each video and stuck them on the science boards, this way parents and visitors could scan each project with their phones and watch a Spark Video of the child explaining his or her experiment.

Looking for more inspiration? I partnered with EdTech guru Monica Burns to create 40 Ways to Inject Creativity into Your Classroom with Adobe Spark. The book contains step-by-step guidance on how to incorporate this powerful tool into your classroom in ways that are meaningful and relevant. You’ll find fun and practical lesson plans suitable for a variety of ages and subjects, as well as 15 graphic organizers to get you started

If you ideas of your own, please share.

And if you are new to Adobe Spark in the classroom, welcome, and be sure to check out the Adobe Spark EDU page and our Guide for Schools and Educators.

And finally, the Adobe Spark team has created a collection of resources that you should check out.

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