Collaborative storytelling: How to publish a book as a team to foster a sense of community and connection

Michael HernandezBlog, Collaboration, High School / Secondary

Book Creator easily facilitates collaboration. But when is the right time to work on collaborative projects? And how should you go about it with your class?

In a post pandemic world, teachers, parents and students are even more aware of the importance of building community through personal connections. Developing these key social skills are not only important for their social emotional wellness, but are also vital for success in the business world, too.

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Even more importantly, learning experiences where students work with partners helps them learn to trust others, see the importance of collaboration, and learn to communicate clearly and manage conflict. Working toward a common set of goals helps students appreciate the strength of a diverse team, and helps them understand the advantages of being part of an inclusive culture.

The collaborative features of Book Creator make it a snap for students to work together. Like Google Docs, book projects made with Book Creator allow real-time collaboration, meaning that students or teachers can work on a single project simultaneously no matter where they happen to be–a great advantage for remote learning, or when your partners are located outside your school building.

Most of the assignments that my high school students complete are collaborative in nature. These are some of the many advantages I’ve observed when we invite students to take responsibility for their learning as a team:

  • Each student brings unique skills, perspectives, and life experiences that make the overall project stronger.
  • Students can embrace their personal strengths and become a team specialist in a particular area that they’re good at like writing, design, video, or leadership. This helps build confidence in students who might struggle with a particular academic discipline or skillset–the team helps balance and uplift one another.
  • Teammates act as accountability partners by setting and enforcing internal timelines and expectations of quality.
  • Kids form stronger bonds with one another when they’ve experienced a shared struggle, like completing a project.
Students using post it notes to brainstorm

How to facilitate collaborative projects

When should a project be collaborative?

Not all assignments should or need to be collaborative. I usually require students to complete several individual projects before they work together so they can build skills and confidence, and also demonstrate skill mastery.

When it is time for collaborative assignments, choose projects where it makes sense for your curriculum, and what experiences you want students to have, such as developing research skills with inquiry-based projects or how to develop solutions to community and global challenges by using the design thinking process.

You could create collaborative projects at the end of a unit or semester. I like the idea of having students work on the book projects throughout a unit or semester as a way to provide a framework for their learning, which provides agency over the final product, which could act as your summative assessment.

Types of collaborative storytelling projects

One of the easiest ways to start collaborating is to invite students to join a book project and have each student be responsible for creating their own page, section or chapter within the book. This allows for individual responsibility, and also fosters a sense of shared purpose.

If you’re ready to go beyond anthologies, have students conceive, research, and produce their books as a team. Here are some examples of how other teachers have integrated collaboration into their Book Creator projects.

Develop community standards

Before you begin collaborative projects, you’ll want to establish group norms, and spend some time talking about communication and how to resolve conflict. Even in the nicest groups, there can be differences of opinion on everything from writing to design and font choices, or what everyone on the team is responsible for.

I like to have students make a list of traits they have of their ideal partners, and then discuss them as a class. Make a set of community standards and protocols based on this list so that everyone is held accountable to their own expectations.

Pages view - Tribes of Mira Costa

How to create teams

It's important to curate teams carefully to ensure success. I try to balance personalities, skill level, and demographics like gender and age. Another great approach is to have students self select by choosing to work on a topic they’re passionate about.

For more guidance on how to create collaborative stories with Book Creator, check out this best practice guide, and see how other teachers and students are publishing books collaboratively.

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