Saturday, January 12, 2013

If Our Characters Had Instagram (new bulletin board: free printables to make your own)

"If Our Characters Had Instagram"

This idea was inspired by my second grade students.  After returning from winter break, I was surprise with the amount of kids that received smart devices.  Many now have the new iPad mini.  I was also surprised to hear that a lot of them shared their holiday memories with each other over Instagram.  I had no idea that second graders were using this application.  After all, I just started using it this past summer. 

After taking down our holiday door displays (click here to see how cute our gingerbread room was!), I knew I had to replace it with something creative.  I'm reading Dr. Dolittle for my read aloud, and we're working on character traits in reading workshop.  I began to brainstorm ways to integrate both literacy elements.  I couldn't find something that felt 'just-right.'  So, I decided to create something myself.

Side note: After my daughter's surgery, she  wanted to go to Barnes and Noble to pick out a few new books.  Dr. Dolittle was one she selected.  She read it in two days.  Because of her love for the book, I decided to share it with my own students.  They're loving the story!

This is the version we're reading.

We just read the part in the book where the monkeys found the pushme pullyou (gazelle-unicorn cross animal).  I didn't show the children the picture in the book.  I had them sketch what they visualized.  After completing the chapter, I called them up one by one to see the animal as they were leaving for drama class.  It was so very cute to see the expressions on their faces.  Many giggled and some let out a gasp.  Others waited in their seats with great anticipation for their turn to see the sketch in the book. 

In writer's workshop, we later discussed the importance of writing for your reading audience.  We reflected on our read-aloud and talked about how easy it was to visualize what the pushme pullyou looked like based on the author's descriptions.   Our young writers eagerly went back to their drafts to revise their setting and character descriptions in effort to add more vivid detail for their readers.

Rolling out the idea to my Students

Yesterday I introduced the Instagram bulletin board idea.  I let the kids know how they inspired the concept.  They immediately began to take ownership of this project.  Additionally, they knew their work would be proudly displayed for others to see.  Quality mattered.  The audience would be real.

First, I showed the students my own Instagram account.  I placed my iPhone under my document camera (after turning down the brightness first).  I explained why I post photos, how the location can appear, what happens when friends like my photos, and how others can leave comments.  They enjoyed seeing the photos of my own children, noticing how many 'likes' my photos received, who left comments, what the comments were, and the locations of my different images.  Next, we shared how other friends in our class were using the application.  Finally, I mentioned how funny it would be if the characters we read about had Instagram.

This thought brought about many laughs, ideas, and comments.  We tuned the conversation into a more serious and academic discussion.  I had the students begin to think about Dr. Dolittle.  We did an informal word cloud where we jotted down the characters of the story on the SMART Board.  Then students shared their thinking with their friends in class as they talked about what kinds of pictures the characters may take.  Many thought it would be so funny to see Gub-Gub's pictures.  He's a pig.  They figured his profile would have many photographs of him playing in the mud.  I began to smile as I listened in on their conversations.  They were truly putting themselves into the lives of the characters.  

The children were going back and forth imagining what each character may post to share on Instagram.  They jumped into other group's conversations as they chimed in with who may or may not like that character's photo and why.  Naturally, they began to add who may leave a comment and what the comment would state.  They were becoming the characters.  It was magical.

Finally, I knew it was time to put the idea onto paper to share with others.  I called the class together to model an example.  I chose the King.  I was very careful to model each part of my thinking aloud so the learners could see the process of my ideas coming together.  We did an interactive writing piece as we walked through what to put into each spot for the printed papers.

 As the class began to transition into an independent work mode, I reminded them to really think about what their character may capture, why that character may take a picture of that image, specifically who may like the image, and what other character would be compelled to comment.

I was amazed to see how creative the responses were.  Many students included setting details in the comments, thought about the relationships between the characters and how they would respond to each other, and recalled facts from the story to support their thinking.  One girl even included an unusual perspective in her photograph that she designed.  She drew a 'birds-eye view' of the landscape because her character was a bird!  Wow!

Overall, I was proud of the work they did.  The activity took about an hour.  However, now that we have done this type of assignment, I imagine the next time we do an Instagram project it will only take about thirty minutes.  

Sharing the Idea on Instagram and Twitter

I couldn't wait to share the bulletin board with my friends.  After posting it on Instagram and Twitter, I was overwhelmed by the warm and encouraging responses.  In a matter of minutes, the picture became a top Tweet!

I had no idea that others would be interested in also doing this idea.  I am so tickled that this idea has taken off in such a positive manner.  I'm happy to share the printable pages I created with all of you.  Keep in mind that this wasn't something I created with the intention to share.  The images aren't super professional and of the best quality.  I'm sure many of my photoshop friends could have done a much better job... this was just a quick project I put together for my class.  Regardless, I'm happy to share it with my bloggy friends.  Enjoy!  I can't wait to hear what you all think and how you may use it with your class.  

{click here to get the free printables to this activity

{Please click here to follow me on TpT as I share more activities & ideas}

Follow Me on Pinterest


  1. Erin,
    This is one of my favorite posts from you. (Which says a lot because I really like your posts!) What makes this one so special is you took us through your thought process. It made me feel like we were sitting down at a table together and sharing ideas. Well done! ... and thank you for sharing!
    An Open Door

  2. Camille,

    Awe, your post just made me smile! Thank you SO much!!

    I really appreciate your thoughtful words and sincere reflection. You are so sweet!!

    Now I can try to gear more of my posts to explain my process and teaching implementation.

    I hope you're having a wonderful weekend.



  3. This might be something we use for our book HATCHET.... Just maybe.... WE shall see!
    Maybe Instagram what he sees...... Excellent idea!

  4. Melanie,

    That would be a great idea... you could even just use the phone part and do one for each chapter for your reader's notebook maybe...

    Tons of ideas!

    Thanks for sharing,


  5. What a great way to engage the kids in literacy! They are all about social media and love any opportunity to "play" with it. Def. a way to help them make connections. You rock!

  6. What an awesome idea!!! I'm so impressed!!

    Extra Special Teaching

  7. Mor,

    Awe, thank YOU! I think you're pretty awesome, too!!



  8. Angelia,

    Wow - thank you! I haven't created anything in SO long. I've actually ever only really posted a few items, so your comment means a lot.



  9. I found your blog through TBA and am so glad I did! I am your newest follower :)

    Mindful Rambles

  10. I was trying to update a biography project for my class and came upon your blog. Thank you for some new inspiration! I appreciate you sharing your work and ideas!

  11. Fabulous idea, Erin! Thanks so much for sharing. I adapted your idea for my 6th graders:

  12. Lindsey,

    This is the best compliment ever. You made my day!

    I just love your bulletin board and how the kids did such a creative project.

    Amazing!! Thank you so much for sharing!



  13. What a fabulous idea! Can't wait to use it with my library classes. You're a genius!

  14. Now Instagram and Facebook want to take my hard earned imagery, and use it to generate income for themselves. What they have done is signal the end and failure of what could have been a revolutionary social media platform for visual communication. So for now, I must take a step back and reassess my place on Instagram. purchase instagram likes

  15. Hi, Great idea. I like to follow it in my profile too.So far I read many post on making different effect in Instagram. Your post is different and useful too. Thanks for posting such one.

    buy real instagram followers

  16. Dolittle was one she selected. get instagram photos on facebook She read it in two days. Because of her love for the book, I decided to share it with my own students.

  17. I did something very similar with my 7th graders. I love your phone background....I'm totally need to add that element this year!
    With my group, I actually had them stage out the photos with their groups, took the pictures with the iPods, and printed the photo after they added the filters and effects.
    The first comment had to be an actual quote from the book (pulling in textual evidence) then we allowed other characters to comment (great way to teach POV).
    They loved it, as your students did!
    Unfortunately, we did it last year before I started blogging so I do not have photos of the completed project.
    I love pulling in social gets them excited!
    Here's how I did a twitter board!

  18. What a great project, Savannah! Thanks for sharing!!


  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Thank you for sharing! What a great idea. I print instagram photos all the time, a bulletin board would be the perfect way to display them all.

  21. Thanks for sharing! We are doing a character study and my kiddos will love this!

  22. I found this a few months ago and "pinned" it; I'm trying it today with 5th graders using the book "Battle Bunny" as my example and then having them do their own based on their silent reading books. I'm excited to see how it goes!