Reinventing the Persuasive Essay for the Edtech Friendly Classroom

Reinventing the Persuasive Essay for the Edtech Friendly Classroom

If it ain't broke don't fix it.

Guest blogger and instructional coach Jamey Boelhower teaches us how to get our students to engage with writing in a relevant and exciting way. 

Persuasive research essays are tough to write.  Word choice, proper referencing, search skills, and analyzing validity of the sources can weigh on students’ motivation. One of my favorite assignments that is creative, but still asks students to use the skills listed, my Persuasive Commercial assignment. Even though I use it for my persuasive writing unit, this assignment can be used for any subject.

Following are the instructions I provide for students on Moodle.


persuasive commercial instructions

Persuasive Commercial:

You will produce a 30 second commercial for TV or radio that clearly highlights your persuasive topic and one argument (Logical or Emotional). Argument material must be properly referenced (EX: The Omaha World Herald article “….” revealed…).

The TV commercial must be in movie format (mov or mp4 or m4v). The radio version must be in MP3.

Or you can use an online site and paste the link in the text box.

Online Audio Options


Vocaroo Saves as an mp3 or provides a link to share.

voice recorder online

Online Voice Recorder Saves as a mp3 on your computer.

Online Video Options


App: Tellagami This is an app that creates an animated video.  It is free (but has in-app purchases).  The free content is enough to create the commercial. You can save it as a video file or the app will provide a link to share. is a website on the fun side. You share your finished project with a link.

1 is a free site like that features talking characters. You can customize the features, clothing, and voice.  You will share your project with a link. This is what I used for the instructions.

The commercial will be graded on the six-trait writing rubric.

I use the six-trait system:

  • Ideas—the main message
  • Organization—the internal structure of the piece
  • Voice—the personal tone and flavor of the author’s message
  • Word Choice—the vocabulary a writer chooses to convey meaning
  • Sentence Fluency—the rhythm and flow of the language
  • Conventions—the mechanical correctness
  • Presentation—how the writing actually looks on the page

For me this assignment comes late in the semester after we have completed a number of other creative assignments.  Students have already used video software like iMovie or filmed with their smartphones. So, that option is a given. This assignment introduces new options that I spend a few minutes showing the students the basics of each tool.

I have used each of the tools so that I am prepared for any hurdles students might have. I also plan for students to complete the assignment in class. This year I have an hour and 15 minute classes. In the past I would plan for two days when I had 50 minute classes.

If you need two days for this assignment this is how I would break it down:

Day 1:  is for research and going over how to use the tools.

Day 2: is devoted to making the commercial.  You can customize how many options students have to complete the assignment. You can customize the criteria you want expressed in the commercial. For this assignment the students have been researching for their persuasive topic and learning how to in-text referencing the material.

Here are links to the students’ commercials that used the Voki option:

       Sleep Commercial



 ADHD Medication


   Reducing Stress through Activities


Creating a commercial will allow students to be creative while also reinforcing writing with the parameters for your lesson.  The online tools, like Voki, allow students to express themselves without being in front of the group or camera.  Online tools also allow students to share their projects on social media.  What a great way to highlight the cool things you are doing in your school.

Jamey Boelhower is a husband and a father of six. He is currently an Instructional Coach IMG_4965for Central Community College Nebraska. He has been in the educational field for 17 years.  You can follow him on Twitter at @jdog90

Halloween Edition: Monthly ‘Mazing Resource Round Up

Halloween Edition: Monthly ‘Mazing Resource Round Up

halloween resource

Halloween is nigh! In honor of this Ghoulish holiday, we’ve put together a list of awesome Halloween activities that will allow you to infuse some spooky fun into your daily schedule. But don’t worry, most of the activities are academically driven, so you can get your students excited about Halloween and maintain a high level of rigor in your classrooms!

halloween writing promts

Halloween Writing Prompts

Spooky writing prompts to help your students write spooktacular stories!

halloween nb file

Halloween Smartboard Lessons

Here are a host of different academic lessons with a Halloween theme. Scroll through the lessons and take your pick. These are sure to get your students excited!

ebook apps

Halloween Apps and Games

A variety of fun Halloween apps that students can play as a whole group or individually.

story nory

 “The Witch Who Was frightened of Halloween”

Let your students listen to this audio story. This  is a great way to practice their listening skills. Some kids may even want to draw as they listen!

story line online

“I need my monster” – Storyline Online

A great website that gives students the chance to hear a read aloud read by an established actor. If displayed on a Smartboard, all students will be able to see the pictures in the story easily.

pumpkin carving

Carving Pumpkin

This activity is a great way to give your students a chance to carve a pumpkin without all the mess!

Until Next Time,


Heather Bio: Heather is the Community Manager at Voki and is part of the Marketing Team at Oddcast.  Before she joined the Voki team, she was a teacher for 7 years!  She has taught in charter, private, and public schools all across NYC. With her teacher hat on, she will create meaningful, engaging, and relevant content that can be implemented in your classrooms.  She is excited to partner with you to engage and educate your students! 

Anti-Bullying Awareness Activities

Anti-Bullying Awareness Activities

Hello Voki Users!

Most of you may know that October is Bullying Awareness Month. It’s so important to have open and honest conversations around bullying in your classrooms. We’re hoping that some of these resources can help you do just that!

hopeful video

Hopeful (Bullying Song)

This song was rewritten by a boy who had been bullied in the past. This song is heartfelt and catchy. Teachers could print out lyrics and have small groups of students listen to it, read it, analyze it and explain each verse.


Stop Bullying Now Webisodes

These are webisodes starring animals that showcase different kinds of bullying. These webisodes can be shared with students to spark conversation about the actions of the characters in them.

Voki Bullying Scenarios 

voki bullying scenarios

This Voki presentation gives students the chance to wrestle with truly difficult scenarios in which they take on the role as bystander or bully. What do you do if your best friend is bullying someone? Could you be bullying someone  and not realize you are doing it? These are questions this presentation touches upon. We recommend you use this presentation to get your kids moving around the room .  Setup a line down the center of your room  with each end representing an opposing opinion. Students can stand anywhere on the line to show the varying degrees of their opinions about the scenario. Students should engage in a discussion by explaining why they chose their place in the line and what they would do if they were in the given scenario. This is called the Barometer Activity and can be used to spark debate and foster healthy discussion.

brain pop bullying

Brain Pop Jr. Bullying Video

We all know and love Brain Pop! They have videos for everything, including Bullying. Luckily, their Brain Pop Jr. video about bullying is free! Many students are familiar with Annie and Moby and will feel comfortable learning about a difficult topic with two trusted characters.

beat the bully

 Bullying Game

This game allows students to compete in a race by answering bullying questions correctly. Have students play these games individually or as a whole class on a Smartboard.

Let’s make Bullying Awareness month really count!

Until Next Time,


Heather Bio: Heather is the Community Manager at Voki and is part of the Marketing Team at Oddcast.  Before she joined the Voki team, she was a teacher for 7 years!  She has taught in charter, private, and public schools all across NYC. With her teacher hat on, she will create meaningful, engaging, and relevant content that can be implemented in your classrooms.  She is excited to partner with you to engage and educate your students! 

Guest Blogger (and Tech Aficionado) Jon Smith Shares His Top 6 Tech Tools!

Guest Blogger (and Tech Aficionado) Jon Smith Shares His Top 6 Tech Tools!

Top 6 TECH Tools

“When children create for the world they make it good.  When children only create for the teacher they make it good enough.”

-Rushton Hurley

Are your students drooling on their desks after they fell asleep in your class?  Do kids run from your room in fear of another worksheet?  If you answered yes to these questions, this blog post is for you.  Many people have their top 10 lists but I decided to be different. Below I will share my top 6  tech tools for the classroom.  Before I do, I would like you to know that I am a huge proponent of student created materials.  Most of the tools I will share are all great tools for creating and sharing student work and can be used in any subject area.  
FB Ad_5 copy


I am a former special education teacher.  One of the hardest parts of my teaching was getting students to share in class.  Book reports, papers, summaries, etc. were all troublesome because kids did not want to share in front of a room of their peers.  Voki is a great online tool for creating animated avatars.  Voki is simple to use and allows students to have an animated character do the talking for them.  Simply type in the text you want to have the character say, choose a voice and watch the magic happen.  Voki also has classroom tools that allow teachers to organize and collect student work.  If you haven’t given Voki a try, you must do so.

book creator

2, Book Creator

Book Creator is a simple app for the iPad that allows anyone to create eBooks.  I’ve used Book Creator with my students to write and publish over 40 eBooks.  Your students will love being able to write eBooks using Book Creator.  Students can add text, images, drawings, videos, voices and much more with this amazing app.  As a matter of fact, anything you can get into your iPad’s camera roll can be put into an eBook.  I’ve used this app with grades K-12.  

explain everything

3. Explain Everything

“Solve the problem and explain how you got the answer.”  This is a common statement made by teachers and tests across the world.  The problem is, students don’t know how to explain what they are doing.  Explain Everything is an outstanding app that allows students to create videos demonstrating how they learn.  Students can write information on the screen with voice overs giving teachers a peek into their thinking.  Students can add pictures, text, voice, shapes and many more things to the videos.  There is even a lightsaber laser pointer tool.  If your kids weren’t hooked on the app before the introduction of the lightsaber, they will be interested now.

ibooks author

4. iBooks Author

iBooks Author is another tool to help students write and publish eBooks.  iBooks Author is a full featured tool allowing students to add many forms of multimedia to their eBooks.  If you can type, you can write and publish a book.  iBooks Author is drag and drop and fairly simple to use.  


5. Flocabulary

Students love music.  People love music.  Flocabulary is the best at making educational hip-hop music videos.  The videos range in complexity from simple math to historical concepts.  I can say without a doubt that Flocabulary is my favorite website for educational music.  Flocabulary offers lesson plans, quizzes and much more for students to learn vocabulary.  Flocabulary also has a section dedicated to the week’s most important events.  The Week In Rap will surely get your kids’ feet tapping while allowing them to learn something at the same time.

pixel press

6. PixelPress

PixelPress is a company that created the app called Floors.  This app is a fantastic app that allows students to design, create and publish their own side scrolling video games.  Students can draw their video games on paper, scan them with their iPads and then magic happens.  The drawn video game is transformed into a side scrolling game that can be published to a public library of games.  I’ve used this app with kindergarteners.  I would recommend using it with slightly older kids but it did work with young ones.

I hope this blog post has given you a snapshot of my favorite tech tools to use with your students.  They will engage them, challenge them, and above all provide them with the opportunity to create and share with the world.

image1Jon Smith is currently a Technology Integration Specialist for Alliance City Schools where his class iBooks project has attracted attention for its global reach and practical approaches to integrating transliteracy practices into the classroom.  Jon was a special education teacher for 12 years before moving into technology integration.  Jon recently organized a global iBook project in which 35 classrooms from around the world wrote and published an iBook of poems.  He is married with 2 children.  Jon is a scratch golfer and Apple enthusiast.  In his spare time, he teaches a class on engaging technologies for The Communicate Institute.  Jon is an Apple Distinguished Educator. You can connect with Jon on Twitter @theipodteacher

Thanks Jon for sharing such valuable tech picks with us!

Voki Halloween Contest!

Voki Halloween Contest!

Untitled design



Give your students the chance to use their imaginations for Halloween!

We invite all students to create their own Halloween Vokis!

How to Enter:
1. Create a Voki Character with a Halloween message, joke, or story. (No longer than 60 seconds!)
2. Teachers you can send the Vokis to us at with:

• Subject Line “Voki Halloween”
• Teacher name, school, grade, class, location (Miami, Fla or Johannesburg, S. Africa)
• Your social media handle/name so we can mention you on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter!


One lucky class will be picked at random to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card for a class

Halloween Party—on us!


But, do not fret!!

Even if you don’t win the gift card, we will be sharing YOUR Halloween Voki’s on OUR Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ pages! So keep your eyes peeled!

Deadline for submissions is  October 21st!

We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Until Next time,


 Bio: Heather is the Community Manager at Voki and is part of the Marketing Team at Oddcast.  Before she joined the Voki team, she was a teacher for 7 years!  She has taught in charter, private, and public schools all across NYC. With her teacher hat on, she will create meaningful, engaging, and relevant content that can be implemented in your classrooms.  She is excited to partner with you to engage and educate your students! 

5 Innovative Ways to Use Voki in the Classroom by Guest Blogger Tyler Hart!

5 Innovative Ways to Use Voki in the Classroom by Guest Blogger Tyler Hart!

5 Innovative Ways to Use Voki in the Classroom

Welcome our guest blogger for this week… Tyler Hart! Tyler is an avid user of Voki and a total techie teacher! Here are 5 innovative ways that he has used Voki in the classroom!

Voki is a great website that allows you to create speaking avatars. You can embed these Voki characters into your blog page to play later for your students or use directly from the site. Voki has also expanded their brand to make the learning experience even more engaging with Voki Classroom, Voki Presenter, and Voki Teach. While these options are amazing in their own right, the free version of Voki can be utilized in many fun ways to help engage your students. Below are five innovative ways you can use Voki in your classroom right now. If you’re  interested in other ways to integrate Voki into your lessons, check out Voki’s Lesson Plan Ideas Page!

1. Presenting on Researched Content

Having students research their own topics or content is great, but many times finding time to have them present their findings to the class can be hard. Using Voki can be a great way to post students’ research. Students can write up a script about the most important facts about their content, and record themselves reading their findings. This one was a particular favorite of mine because the partners created Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty to report the information!presenting on researched content

To see Voki in action click here —–>

2. Content Review Center Activity

Students don’t have to be the only ones to join in on the fun. I love making Voki Characters to help students review content or to give an assessment for me. Students would listen and pause the character when needed to either comment on our blog page for answer, or they would fill out an assessment sheet to turn in. This was a great time saver since I was able to use this as a center as well!

content review activity

To see Voki in action click here —–>

3. Historical Figures

Want to spice up history class when learning about historical figures? Have students identify important moments from the life of a historical figure. Using their research, have the students write a script in a first-person narrative and have them record themselves reading their scripts.

historical figures

To see Voki in action click here —–>

4. Mystery Voki – Who am I?

Another fun idea to use with historical figures is a Who am I game. Have students create their script about their about person in a first-person narrative style. Instead of having the students record the information saying who the person is, they read their information and end with the question, “Who am I?” This could be a great review game do use with the class.

mysery voki - who am i

To see Voki in action click here —–>

5. Autobiographies

Have your students write an autobiography about themselves. We used a simple question starter template with the students to help them with certain things about their life to write down. After filling out the information, the students wrote their paragraph story about themselves, created their Voki, and recorded themselves. The students will have a blast learning about each other!


To see Voki in action click here —–>

Tyler Hart has worked and taught in elementary education for 13 yeatyler hartrs at Henrico County Public Schools in Virginia. This school year will be his second in an administrative role as a Resource Teacher at Sandston Elementary.  Previously, he was an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher for two years, and before that, he was a 3rd grade teacher. In his last year as a classroom teacher, he was honored by being nominated and selected as one of the Henrico Citizen’s Top 20 Teachers in Henrico County.

Join The Voki Team!

Join The Voki Team!

Voki Ambassador Badge

Hello Future Voki Ambassadors!

I wanted to share with you a big change in the Voki Ambassador program!

We’ve decided to make the Voki Ambassador program the type of program that you must re-apply to every school year. We feel this will keep engagement and energy high in the Voki Ambassador community!

Voki Ambassador Program Reboot

Ambassadors will receive:

  • 5 90-day bundles to give away!
  • Voki Swag will be based on frequency/quality of posts!
  • Voki Swag will be sent out monthly–we have some really fun and valuable items for you and your students and are looking for your suggestions on more items!
  • Support from me and Voki Tech team regarding any Voki problem/concern/question!

 If you’d like to apply for the 2015-2016 school year, it’s easy!

 Directions to apply:

Step 1: Like Voki Facebook Page

Step 2: Follow Voki Google+ Page

Step 3: Follow Voki Twitter Page

Step 4: Follow Voki Pinterest Page

Please answer all questions on this survey:

Once you’ve applied, you will get a response within a week from yours truly, letting you know if you’ve been chosen to join the Voki Ambassador team!

I can’t wait to work with all of you creative and driven teachers!

Until Next Time,


HeatherBio: Heather is the Community Manager at Voki and is part of the Marketing Team at Oddcast.  Before she joined the Voki team, she was a teacher for 7 years!  She has taught in charter, private, and public schools all across NYC. With her teacher hat on, she will create meaningful, engaging, and relevant content that can be implemented in your classrooms.  She is excited to partner with you to engage and educate your students!