Here’s How You Can Write Like a Halloween Story Champ

Here’s How You Can Write Like a Halloween Story Champ


If there’s any time to get creative during the calendar year, it’s Halloween. Be it the costumes, the carving, or the confections, this spooky holiday is brimming with opportunity.

From Coraline to Frankenstein, and with the psychological thriller Girl on the Train hitting theaters this weekend, let’s just say there’s plenty of suspense brewing in some of our favorite books.

To be fair, not all of us think in the macabre mindset, but we can certainly all think in the imaginative one. This Halloween season, writing activities are the perfect outlet to tap into the creative voices of your students.

It’s the common rite-of-passage for critically acclaimed novels to be adapted for film. We can’t offer you a budget to get your story to the big screen, but we have something else in mind.

It just so happens that Voki is well equipped to participate in the Halloween writing process with you. Voki avatars do the job in adding animation to your ideas—not to mention social media can get them visibility.

As for characters, Voki has all your usual spooky suspects: Dracula, Frankenstein, skeleton, witch, zombie, bat, jack-o-lantern. But if you steer clear of the haunted path, then we have over 200 characters too choose from that can meet your imagination’s needs.

Teachers can prompt their students to write about anything pertaining to Halloween, but we recommend something that gets them thinking in the spirit of the holiday, something out of the ordinary.

Students can write their essay, and then create a Voki avatar(s) to narrate it. Using Voki Presenter, they can upload images, backgrounds, and links to create scenes and settings for their stories. There’s choice in how you want the story to be told. You can upload audio, type in text and have one of the Voki automated voices recite for you, or record your own voice.

We know: this is starting to sound more and more like a movie, and the students more and more like screenwriters, producers and directors.

It’s Halloween—what better time to think box office big?

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Catherine Alvino is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Oddcast. She holds a BA in English Literature and a MBA with a concentration in Marketing. She loves to write and is proud to work for a company that adds value to learning.


Why Everyone Should Celebrate World Teachers Day

Why Everyone Should Celebrate World Teachers Day

Today, October 5th , is World Teachers Day (WTD).

What exactly is WTD?  In 1994, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed WTD a global event.  The day was chosen to commemorate the special intergovernmental conference convened by UNESCO in Paris concerning the Status of Teachers in 1966.

WTD has historically served as a day devoted to appreciating, assessing, and improving the lives of educators around the world.  The day also provides global citizens a special opportunity to address the issues pertaining to teachers across the world.

This year’s WTD marks the 50th anniversary of the original 1966 conference. It is also the first WTD to be celebrated within the new Global Education 2030 Agenda adopted by the world community one year ago.

In honor of this year’s WTD theme, “Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status,” the team here at Voki would like to take an opportunity to bring awareness to one important issue affecting the teaching community worldwide; namely, the concept of teacher retention and induction.

According to a 2003 study by Ingersoll & Perda, between 40% and 50% of new teachers are estimated to leave within the first five years of entry into teaching.

What’s more is that according to UNESCO, by 2030, an estimated 3.2 million more teachers will be required to achieve universal primary education and 5.1 million more in order to achieve universal lower secondary education.

This revolving door policy is often the result of insufficient resources, support and guidance for teachers as they begin their journey as an educator.

The process of acclimating teachers with their new job is known as “Induction” and the process has grown in recent years from relative obscurity to an important ideology within educational reform.

WTD encourages spreading awareness. We would like to have this piece initiate a dialogue and raise awareness. Please be sure to comment, share, like and or tweet this article with the hashtag #WorldTeachersDay to do your part in building a brighter future where education is a right not just a privilege…

About Voki:

Voki is free educational software that allows teachers to create awesome, customizable speaking avatars to better enhance learning and student engagement. Teachers record their voice and an animated talking avatar is exported.  A Voki can be used for debates, presentations, lessons, speeches, language studies and much, much more. Our character library includes cartoons, pets, historical figures, and cultural figures, just to name a few.

Our basic product is completely FREE because we believe all teachers deserve a chance to enhance their classroom no matter what their budget is. Voki is used in thousands of classes around the globe and is supported in over thirty languages.

Voki is truly a global tool made for educators by educators. Try it out for free today at


About the Author:

Michael Cassidy is the Product Manager of Voki. He is a digital marketer by background but also dedicates his time as an educator, philanthropist, coach, mentor and anti- bullying crusader. His book “The Skinny on Bullying, the Legend of Gretchen” is used around the world to help teach young students how to cope with bullying in a digital age.

External Resources:

Beginning Teacher Induction: What the Data Tell Us:

World Teacher Day (Official Site):

Featured Teacher Sheila Slawiak Transforms Her Classroom with Voki

Featured Teacher Sheila Slawiak Transforms Her Classroom with Voki


This summer, we asked our Voki community to submit their stories on how Voki has changed their classroom experience. We’d like to share with you the story of Sheila Slawiak, our featured teacher winner, who transformed her students’ attitude, engagement level, and integrity in their work using Voki.

Last school year during Q4 I tried out Voki for the first time.  I teach inner city struggling urban middle school students at a Level 4 school and before Voki, no project impressed them!  Then I found Voki and tried it!  To my surprise, all of my students loved it (from special ed to honors); I had 100% student engagement; and I had a student focused class!  It was a huge WOW! For me and for my students.  Even my most  highly risk students produced their product using my project requirements.  Never did I hear, “this is too  much work!”

I do have to admit, I used a lesson plan from the Voki blog as an idea.  Our school requires monthly written essays that show “citing of evidence”.  I took the idea of writing a persuasive essay about the importance of healthy snacks.  I gave my students a text set of 3 articles regarding the pros and cons of healthy snacks so they could synthesize their essay.  I also told them that their audience were 5th graders so they could feel important sharing what they have learned about healthy snacks.

To my surprise, they were so involved with all the activities in order to produce a talking persuasive avatar.  For the first time, there were no moans or groans inundating the lab, or piercing eyes staring at me. For the first time, I was able to facilitate peer reviews where each student really took an interest in their partners’ work.  For the first time, each student wanted to present their findings. For the first time, each student either scored a 3 or a 4 on my rubric vs. 0-3s. And for the first time, I was rated with high evaluative scores from my principals!  We all won and I attribute these wins to Voki!  Next school year, I’ll invite parents!

Thank you Voki for being so imaginative and for not ever settling!


Sheila is an Instructional Technology Teacher for grades 6-8. She is passionate about teaching educational technology to both her students and colleagues. Shelia has expressed this sentiment on teaching: “It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that you can encourage all students (no matter what their challenges are in learning) to express their thoughts by utilizing audio applications like Voki that allow students to imagine greatness!”

Voki…On A Roll!

Voki…On A Roll!

One of my favorite things to do as an educator is to mix the digital and the analog for students. I see this as a necessary challenge. In a high-tech world, sometimes students miss out on the many benefits and social interactions that can come from non-screen activities, such as board games. On the other hand, we have so many amazing tech tools today that allow students to interact and express themselves, as well as collaborate and share with the world. I propose that mixing the two can be a powerful combination.

That is why this school year, I’m going to try…

story_cubes          peter_pan

The Ultimate MatchUp!

I first heard about Rory’s Story Cubes when we received a set as a family gift for Christmas. They’re simple…you roll all 9 dice, then use them to tell an imaginative story. However, you can use them in endless creative ways like having each person take one die and tell their part of the story (collaborative storytelling) in turn! Each roll reveals new and exciting turns in the story. After having met Rory in person, and utilizing The Creativity Hub’s other game in my schools (The Extraordinaires), I see the company’s vision and potential of using these analog games to engage and drive deeper learning.

I first heard about Voki through a graduate course taught by John Smith (@theipodteacher on Twitter). Immediately, I saw the power and potential of Voki in the classroom. As a STEM teacher, I am always on the lookout for tech tools that hook students and allow them to have voice and choice in their learning. Specifically in giving students a voice (different from their own), Voki makes sharing in front of peers easier because an individually-created avatar does the talking for them. Voki’s characters are unique and engaging, as well as funny and strange. Students adapt right away to the easy-to-use platform and are busy creating their characters from the start.

Primary Voki Moments in the Classroom

My first attempt using Voki with students was to have the first graders create characters that could share a welcome message for the next year’s first graders. We brainstormed ideas of advice they could give their peers about what it’s like to be in first grade and then they wrote several sentences down on paper. Afterward, we spent an entire class period (45 minutes) exploring how to make and create Voki characters…just for fun. The time for students to simply “play” with the site was so valuable. The next class period, since they had had some experience, we logged in with our official Voki student accounts. This way, projects could be worked on and saved for later. The students then began creating their Voki avatars and using the typing feature to give their Voki a voice.

Once their Voki was complete, they had to “present” it to me by hitting the play button. They were instructed that if I gave them a thumbs up or a thumbs down, I would show them if I could understand what their Voki was saying or if something needed improving. If you’ve never played around with Voki before (What are you waiting for?!, you need to know that sometimes you have to spell words phonetically. This can take a bit of problem solving and manipulating of the text on the student’s part. Honestly, I love this part about Voki. Your students are so engaged that they actually WANT to make their Voki say things correctly and so they will sometimes persist and show resilience until their Voki is perfect!

When students finished their “final draft” of their avatars, they submitted them to me for review and I then embedded their Vokis on a class webpage for the following year’s first graders to receive some Voki advice! Here is a sampling of what they created:

Spinning Stories with Voki

So, I want to use Voki again this school year. I also want to utilize Rory’s Story Cubes to have students make creative stories. The plan is to have each student roll the cubes and a picture be taken of the dice for that student to reference. (See pic below)


Then, the students will use their creative writing prowess to spin a tale for their Voki to tell later. In the example picture above, a student might tell a story about a paratrooper turtle on a mission in Ancient Egypt. Or, their story might begin, “Once upon a time, there was a young girl who loved to read…”. The students will use their unique dice roll to write a brief story. Then, they will create a unique Voki character to tell the tale and share it with the world! I may use the Voki Presentation feature to show a picture of students’ dice rolls as well as their Voki character telling the story as seen in the example below:

Story Cube + Voki Example

Another extension would be to partner with a class in the school or across the world and have students pair up with the same dice roll but create two very different stories they could share with each other. To finish it all off, make each presentation a page in a student-created iBook so the world can download!

Happy Storytelling!

Jason Hubbard

jason_hubbardJason Hubbard is a K-5 STEM educator in Perrysburg, Ohio. There, he trains around 1200 students at two elementary schools in the martial arts of creativity, innovation, and edtech. Jason received degrees from The University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, and also teaches a graduate course through Communicate Institute at Walsh University. Jason is a husband to one amazing wife and six incredible children.

The Benefits of Hooks

The Benefits of Hooks

How many of you have found yourself in this situation: it is Saturday night and you are watching TV.  All of a sudden, this intriguing movie trailer comes scrolling across your screen.  It is a teaser about this amazing movie coming out this summer.  You are captivated and memorized.  You have to find out as much as you can about this movie that has captured your attention.  You are hooked, line and sinker.  You will be buying tickets online to see that movie as soon as they are available.  Effective classroom hooks are the same in regards to exciting movie trailers.  A great hook gives students a preview of what an amazing lesson is getting ready to be taught and learned. It can make the difference between the best lesson ever and the worst.

Student engagement during lessons is an area in education that teachers are battling on a daily basis.  Dorit Sasson, author of “7 Ways to Start a Great Lesson”, emphasizes that “the most important part of the lesson occurs during the first five minutes.” What is the trick to engaging students? According to “Shooting for Success!  Madeline Hunter Lesson Cycle”, written by the creator of the “anticipatory set” or “hook”, “the hook should excite students about the subject matter.” Hook activities are short introductions at the beginning of a lesson or even a project.  A hook can be a song, rap, dance, game, acting skit, art activity or even a technology-integrated activity that is directly related to the lesson’s topic. Ms. Hunter also states that the hook should “grab the students not focused upon learning. By having an activity related to what will be learned, it shifts their attention to the learning process. Anticipatory set can also establish a readiness or anticipation for what is to follow. For the “hook” to do so, it must pique students’ interest. Otherwise it might do the opposite and turn students off to the topic.”

I have talked about what hooks are and what purpose they serve during a lesson.  Now let’s talk about the benefits of hooks.  Hooks provide engagement, excitement and a gateway into the lesson’s objective that can prepare and motivate students to learn the content being taught.  Students can focus on creating more productive work and hooks make the learning environment fun right from the start.  These activities can tap into the multiple intelligence approach to learning simply by allowing teachers to be creative with the type of hooks used to kick off the lesson. For example, in Using Hook Stations to Engage Students in a Lesson, Hillary Mills, a 7th grade Science-Geology teacher, uses hook stations to kick off her geology/biology lesson.  The stations are set up just like small group learning stations but incorporated at the beginning of the lesson.  Each of the stations incorporates different hands on activities, with the students acting as geologists studying fossils in each case.

Before I became the Voki Content Development Manager at Oddcast, I was a classroom teacher for twenty years with a Master’s degree in Integrating Technology in the K-12 Classroom from Walden University.  When I reflect on the years I taught in the classroom, the lessons that resulted in the best student engagement were always the ones that kicked off with an awesome hook.  I would always use different style hooks that would touch on the variety of learning styles in my class to meet all of their learning needs.  Of course I was passionate about integrating technology as much as possible into my lessons!  I really wish I had the opportunity to use Voki Speaking Characters as hooks when I taught. It would have been one of the top software integration tools incorporated into my lessons. I truly believe Voki Hooks capture and engage the 21st Century learner.  There are a variety of ways to use these speaking characters and Voki Hooks are just one way.  The Voki Hook activities guided by the Voki speaking characters provide top level engagement at the beginning of lessons. There are over 250 speaking characters to choose from and some fit perfectly into themed units of study. There are also hooks created to celebrate special days of the year like Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, St. Patrick’s Day and National Pencil Day!  Here are some examples of exemplary Voki Hooks—feel free to incorporate them into your classroom lessons:

March Madness Multiplication

Tell a Fairy Tale Day

Phases of the Moon

Pencil Day

Voki also has a product called Voki Teach.  Voki Teach is a library of Common-Core aligned lessons, hooks, and tech project activities in the areas of ELA, Math, and Social Studies. Science and Foreign Languages are coming soon.  Learn more here:


the goldfish and the hook





Christina Bazemore is the Content Development Manager at Oddcast.  She was an elementary, high school, technology lab teacher and soccer coach for twenty years.  She received her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education from Georgia Southern University and her Master’s Degree in Integrating Technology in the K-12 Classroom from Walden University.  She is fulfilling her lifelong dream of working and living in New York City.  She has one son, Andy and a dog named Shadow!   Christina is a big Georgia Bulldog football fan!

Voki Teach: Making Lesson Planning Easier

Voki Teach: Making Lesson Planning Easier


It’s Sunday, but instead of being out and about, you’re perched over your screen opening new tab after new tab. You’re hoping that you’ll land on the site you’ve been looking for, and that your endless hours of research will prove fruitful. But as the clock hands fly in their circular orbit, the only answer you’ve arrived at is, “this is going nowhere.”

For a teacher, weekend lesson planning can quickly replace #SundayFunday with #teacherproblems. Hunting for the right activities to fill your curriculum likely includes a fact-checking process where too many marks are missed: standards aren’t met, technology isn’t integrated, methods are out of line with your teaching style.

But before you peg yourself as a lead-less investigative journalist, we have something that might just solve the problem. Our New Voki Teach Library hosts lessons, hooks, and tech projects all in one spot on Voki Teach not only eliminates the blind search in the thicket of the World Wide Web, it allows you to specify what grade and subject area you are interested in. To make your selection process even easier, all of our content is rated by fellow teachers so you can curate the material that is liked by your peers.

Think about your potential school day using Voki Teach. Say it’s National Grammar Day. You can kick off your Language Arts lesson using the National Grammar Day hook and have your students create grammar superheroes that wield special powers and rescue sentence errors (our Voki avatar Fragment Eliminator and Comma Man will show you how it’s done). Having engaged your students with this activity, you can then transition into the other objectives you have prepared for the class.

Fourth period bell rings. Some students are cowering at the thought of learning new math techniques. Our Voki Teach Math lessons incorporate games into the lesson, so multiplying is not so meticulous.

Science time. Learning the states of matter can be confusing. How does a liquid transform into a gas again? Our Voki Teach tech project outlines how a teacher should demonstrate the different properties of matter, and prompts the student to recall what he knows by designing a Voki avatar at the end of the lesson that reiterates the material.

The Voki experience is everything but dull. Research shows that technology integration in your classroom boosts student performance, and talking avatars are proven to engage all types of learners across age groups. Voki activities get students hands-on with their work, customizing their own avatars to deliver the knowledge they’ve obtained.

Wouldn’t you rather hear a lesson from an avatar? Or better yet, have one give your answer?

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Catherine Alvino is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Oddcast. She holds a BA in English Literature and a MBA with a concentration in Marketing. She loves to write and is proud to work for a company that adds value to learning.

Election Talk for Kids, #vokipromo, and More

Election Talk for Kids, #vokipromo, and More

School is around the corner. We’re not suggesting you pack up your beach bag just yet, but if you’re starting to brainstorm about the classroom–we’re here to help.

How to Talk About the Election Process with Kids 

It’s an election year, which means kids might be curious about the political buzz. In this Parent Herald article, Voki team member Christy Bazemore discusses how to tackle controversial election news by integrating digital tools like Voki to make the conversation fun.

The Voki for Ed App

With apps galore available for the classroom, we know it’s hard to choose the winner from the bunch. Good news though:  our Voki for Ed app has been met with raving reviews from teachers, making the decision process a little easier. Download our app today in the iOS store to see what everyone is talking about!*
*Android version due out later this month

Have you stopped by lately?

If you haven’t, you might want to pay it a visit. Our new enhancements and capabilites provide the best Voki experience yet! Better design, easy-to-share, mobile compatible…you might not recognize the new Voki, but you’ll definitely remember it!

Get Your Voki School License!

Why not get your whole school tech-equipped for the upcoming year? We offer school licenses so every teacher can get in on the Voki action! You may email school license requests to


We have a special promotion going on right now! Simply email with #vokipromo in the subject line to get a free, 3 month subscription for whatever Level you’d like!  We’ll send you a form so you can indicate your level preferences.*
*For  first time account holders only

Interested in becoming a Voki ambassador?

Let us know! Voki ambassadors help spread the Voki love in and out of the classroom. They share Voki-related posts on their social media pages and contribute to the Offical Voki Blog. They’re the first to know what’s happening at the Voki headquarters and receive a free annual, Level 3 subscription. Email us if you’re interested in joining!

Has Voki had a positive impact on you student’s life?

If so, we would love to hear about it and inspire others! Please email and share your story with us. If your story is featured, we will provide your classroom with a free, one-year Level 3 subscription valued at $100.
Stay cool, Voki fans!
Catherine Alvino, Digital Marketing Coordinator
Voki Is Better Than Ever!

Voki Is Better Than Ever!

…Even tech companies make technical errors. Our apologies to anyone who received multiple emails last week.  We’re back on track- here’s your access pass to the latest news at Voki:

My Mom: The Teacher Who is Ready for School

Consider yourself in good company if the back-to-school blues is the opposite of what you’re feeling. Our feature blog showcases a teacher who is ready for September, routine, and her preschool kiddies.

International Day of Friendship

There’s a day for everything!…which means we’ve got a hook for just about everything too. This writing activity on friendship is the perfect way to practice topic sentence formation with supporting details. Create a Voki e-card at the end of the exercise to recite your sentiments.

Voki 2.2: The Back-to-School Essential

You can’t beat our latest Voki Teach library coming your way just in time for the new school year. Our CC-aligned, peer-rated lessons, hooks, and tech projects will be fully available on to boost engagement and student voice in your classroom. Additionally, Level 3 subscribers will be able to copy lessons to their accounts and customize as they wish. Did we mention new content will roll out on a weekly basis for grades K-5?

The Voki for Ed App is Coming Soon to Android

iOS users have been applauding our Voki for Ed app since its launch in April. But we haven’t forgotten about our droid devotees! The Android version of the app is due out later this month. Join the fun and create a Voki, add a voice, and share it on social media or through email. If you haven’t experienced the iOS app yet, download it here.

Has Voki Had a Positive Impact on Your Student’s Life?

If so, we would love to hear about it and inspire others! Please and share your story with us. If your story is featured, we will provide your classroom with a free, one-year level 3 subscription valued at $100.


Remember to visit to check out our selection of over 250 characters and 30 languages to choose from! Why not brighten someone’s day with a Voki avatar message of your own? Just an idea…


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My Mom: The Teacher Who is Ready for School

My Mom: The Teacher Who is Ready for School


“Did my class list come yet?”

Like clockwork, my mother clambers for an answer to this question (or maybe plea) come this time of summer every year. It’s not the first hint of classroom nostalgia though—she’s collected kiddie table sets, kitchen play things, and even a toy house that she planted in the corner of our yard (it’s for the grandkids, Cathy—when they’re born). She even confessed the other day, while at the beach, “I’m ready for September; I’m ready for routine again.”

My mother is a devoted preschool teacher, but undoubtedly summer is her favorite season. The absence of red tape on her time gives her leisure to do what she pleases—which is a lot of reading, antique shopping, and soaking up the sun.

This past weekend, my mom shared back-to-school memories, but this time from the perspective of parent. “I would say, ‘Mike, can you come here?,’ and give him a stack of textbooks and notebooks to cover with contact paper [for all his siblings].” She recalled, “And I hated going to the auditorium for the uniform fittings!” She remembered buying tissue boxes for each of her four children to bring in for the class on the first day, and the Scholastic forms teachers gave out seemingly right away to be completed. Thoughts of bringing her brood school supply shopping threw her into a tizzy at the time.

But her biological children having grown up, it’s the kids she teaches that make her welcome the school year. It’s why she keeps an eye out on the mail, and why she keeps her class in mind on her thrift store hunts. Just like sunshine boosts her with Vitamin D, her tiny tots similarly provide her with a daily dose of joy.

Mentally preparing yourself for the school year isn’t surrendering the summer; it’s simply embracing the return of what you love.

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Catherine Alvino is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at Oddcast. She holds a BA in English Literature and a MBA with a concentration in Marketing. She loves to write and is proud to work for a company that adds value to learning.

How Voki Adds Character to Book Talks and Book Trailers

How Voki Adds Character to Book Talks and Book Trailers


I am a technology integration specialist for my school system, but before I held this position, I was a high school librarian.  As a librarian, I was fortunate enough to have high school students as library aides, and one of the duties I assigned them was to do book talks about books in the library.  Another favorite activity was creating book trailers, which consisted of a two- or three-minute video designed to spark interest in the book, much like a movie trailer.  Well, you can imagine our excitement when we discovered Voki!  

Using Voki made our book talks and book trailers come to life, literally!  Students were able to pick their own unique background, or even upload their own picture, to depict a scene from the book.  Some students chose to pick a more nonspecific background, but the background was always tied to the avatar.  If the students were illustrating a scene from the book, they would try to find an avatar to match their idea of what the main character looked like!  I loved watching one student try to come up with the perfect avatar for Katniss Everdeen, from The Hunger Games. Mind you, this was before the Hunger Games film franchise burst onto the scene, so my student was able to truly use her imagination and the words from the book to create her very own Katniss.  Students also enjoyed taking the avatar for a known personality, such as Mrs. Claus, and tweaking her hair, face, and clothing to make into someone else entirely, such as Grandma Dowdel from A Year Down Yonder.  

When it came time to insert the dialogue, students loved the choices they had with Voki. Some liked browsing the plethora of accents and genders among the voice choices to find just the right combination for their particular character.  Still others liked the option of using their own voice.  Even with this option, students can play with the speed and timbre of their recorded voice until even their own best friend would not recognize who it was!

With its seemingly endless customization features, Voki allows our students to reach that highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy: creation!  When you let your students use Voki, the only limit is their imagination!



Carol works for the Lauderdale County Board of Education in Florence, Alabama, as a technology integration specialist.  Before moving to the district office, she served as an English and Drama teacher, then the librarian at Wilson High School in Lauderdale County.