Guest Blogger: Mandy Nelson

Guest Blogger: Mandy Nelson

Dear Educators,

I want to share a lesson that a 1st grade teacher and I did a little before Halloween last year. It worked quite well. As part of her curriculum, Mrs. Stasys gave students a binder that included poems that they would read throughout the year. They gathered together on the rug once a day and read the chosen poem aloud.  For this poem they read it to the tune of The Itsy Bitsy Spider. They read the poem together every day for one week to hone their fluency and expression skills.  Once their week of practice was up we took them to the computer lab to design their Voki character.  They could choose to represent themselves any way they wanted.  Some chose to make an exact cartoon replica of themselves, while others designed dogs, pumpkins, monsters and one student even chose a Santa Claus avatar!  Since the image has no effect on their fluency we decided to let them have free reign.  I would advise you to do the same since it helps them feel more ownership over the final product. The following day Mrs. Stasys stayed in the classroom and sent down students to the computer lab in groups of three.  Using Firefox and Voki we recorded each student saying their poem.  (If you do not have an extra adult who can assist you could always do this during reading centers.  It may take several days to get them all recorded but it can be done!)

The kids loved this lesson and we got a kick out of listening to them practice their poems over and over so they could record it just right.  By the end of the project our students were reading in a much more natural, fluent way with great expression.  Even those who usually really struggle with reading and get frustrated were motivated and showed improvement over the duration of the assignment.  Once they were recorded, we embedded their Vokis into my website and parents were given the link to listen to at home.  They were also able forward the link to grandparents and other family members.  The students loved their final products and were proud to show them off.

For our step-by-step lesson plan visit my site and click on the Voki link.  Click here for the finished student products.  To save yourself some time feel free to use these videos I made to teach students how to make their Vokis:  Video 1,  Video 2.  On an aside, another 1st grade class used Vokis for the students to report three important facts about a research topic of their choosing.  Click here for the final products.

Enjoy and let me know how it goes!


Mandy Nelson is a K-4 Technology Integration Specialist in River Forest, IL, near Chicago.  She is always looking for ways to partner with other teachers across the world so email her at if you would like to collaborate.   

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