By Kristy Andre
Turn the ancient expression of storytelling into an engaging task for your 21st century students by adding a media component. Called digital storytelling, this “is the practice of combining narrative with digital content, including images, sound, and video, to create a short movie, typically with a strong emotional component,” according to 7 Things You Should Know About Digital Storytelling, by Educase.
Not only does this help bring your classroom into the new age of educational technology, but it gets kids excited about writing and sharing their work. Introduce your students to digital storytelling with these nine simple steps.
1. Show the Final Product First
Show an example of a story that has been turned into a movie as the kickoff to this writing unit. The students will get excited about the project if they can see the end result; it may also spark creative ideas for their own story.
2. Encourage Purposeful Writing
Digital storytelling is used as a tool to help motivate students to write, so there’s no need to skip out on the usual writing instruction. Have your students start by writing their narrative based on an open-ended prompt or image. This will help to get their creative juices flowing.
3. Don’t Forget the Editing Process
It’s important to go through the editing process as you would with any other writing project or task. Help your students craft a clear and focused story; this will make it easier for them to create the digital pieces.
“Help your students craft a clear and focused story; this will make it easier for them to create the digital pieces.”
4. Help Students Write Their Plan
Once the story is written, it’s time to plan the media component. If they’re creating a movie, help them build a storyboard where they can plan what images they want to show while narrating the story.
Encourage students to pick images or video clips based on adjectives or verbs within their writing to help them stay focused on the main points of their story.
Tip: One image for every few sentences helps to keep the movie interesting.
5. Include a Lesson About Copyright and Media Use
It’s important your students learn about the rules and regulations for using copyrighted images. If you send your students straight to Google image search, advise them that the images they choose need be free to use and share—Google images has advanced search settings that you can use to find free photos.
To avoid this altogether, have students take their own pictures depending on the technology in you have access to your classroom or school. With this route, they can recreate scenes from their story. In this case, be sure the students have signed a photo and/or video release form.
6. Explore New Technology
There are many products that you and your students can use to create digital stories. If you’re not sure where to start you can try one of our favorites:
Animoto: Make great videos, easily.
Book Creator: Create your own beautiful iBooks.
iMovie: Build a major production, without the major production.
Puppet Pals 2: Create animated cartoons.
7. Help Students Create Their Narration
The students need to narrate their story and match the words to the images or video they’ve chosen. This is always fun for them because they get to hear how they sound when they read. In my experience, they often want to record over and over again—let them! This process teaches them about intonation and creating mood, which helps them make their story sound interesting.
8. Add Music
Adding music in the background helps pull everything together. Some of the tools I shared above have free music that students can use. If the program you’re using doesn’t have this feature, you’ll need to have another conversation about copyright laws.
Tip: Remind them that their favorite songs on the radio may not be cleared for use because of copyright. Suggest an instrumental song because it doesn’t take away from their awesome narration.
Now it’s time to publish their work as a movie. Once completed, let your students share their final digital storytelling product with their classmates and other students in the school. Better yet, create a class blog where they can each post their own video. They can share their blog post (and final product) with friends and family and on social media.
Learn about the benefits of a classroom blog: How a Classroom Blog Fosters Virtual Inclusion.
Don’t miss these step-by-step directions for starting one too: How to Start a Classroom Blog.
Get Kids Excited About Reading Too With a Learn2Earn Read-A-Thon.