Thursday, December 9, 2010

Digital Storytelling 4 different ways

At the end of September I started working with our Grade 3 teachers on digital storytelling.  The aim of this for me was that each class would explore a different Web 2.0 tool for telling a story, and that it would be the choice of each class teacher which tool the students would use (see earlier post).  My underlying aim in all this was that this team would come to appreciate that learning looks different between each class, and that eventually it will look different within each class too.  Before this year our Grade 3 team had worked together for a number of years and were comfortable with doing things the same way, but this year with one of the team out on maternity leave and another class with a teacher who was new to the grade, it was time to shake things up a bit and have the teachers try some new and different things.

The assignment for all classes was the same - students would write a narrative story that involved decision making.  Each teacher worked on the structure of a story, characters, settings and so on.  One class decided to use comic strips to tell their stories.  This was made using Bitstrips.  The class learnt about how to show different facial expressions and tell a story with dialogue and just the minimum amount of words.  We talked about how your brain processes images thousands of times faster than words and how important visuals are in telling a story.

Another class decided they wanted to work on characters and settings and used the lovely artwork provided on the StoryBird website.

Another class wanted to use animation.  For this we used the ZimmerTwins website and had the students make animations after first drawing up storyboards that would show action, setting and speech.  These animations were also excellent.  Unfortunately the class signed in as a regular account, rather than a VIP account, which makes it difficult for me to show an example of how these stories ended up.  The students, however, had a great time and were very engaged in their stories.  Below is an example from another class that also made an animation about decision making - in this case making healthy decisions.

Finally one class decided to use photography and had the students set up scenes.  They then used VoiceThread to tell the story orally.  This was an excellent activity as it involved a lot of different skills.  Even more impressive is the fact that most of the students are not native English speakers and some have only been in the school for a couple of months.

So what we ended up with was 4 very different ways of telling a story and the Grade 3 teachers all learned a lot in the process.

For our current unit How the World Works, students are researching different natural or man-made disasters and will make an oral presentation as their summative assessment.  With this unit I have also given the teachers a choice about what presentation tool the students will use.  Some teachers have chosen Prezi, some have chosen SpicyNodes and one is going to let her students decide which tool they want to use.

I'm really excited to see how giving both teachers and students choices in how they present their work is leading to an enormous improvement in both the quality of the work and the motivation of students who are actively engaged in their learning.

The student work linked to here has been published with the support and enthusiasm of the students' parents.  


  1. I love this idea! I am actually in the process of doing the same with my 3 erd grade classes. They are researching different explorers. I am having them find images that illustrate their facts then they will use animoto, photo peach and photo story to tell their explorer's story. One class was not ready for their explorer so we started with the book they just finished reading in class. They found 10 images that relate to wither the character, setting, plot, conflict, etc. and will share via animoto.

  2. Hi Debra, That sounds great. I would love to see your final projects using the different Web 2.0 tools.

  3. Hi Maggie,
    I'm a grade 3 teacher in Berlin.. this sounds fabulous! How'd it work with all kids creating the same story? Did they come up with different ideas in small groups and then one was chosen? How was work divided? Thanks, David.

  4. Hi David, the students didn't all create the same story. However they all created a narrative story (which was the genre being studied in class) and part of the narrative was that one of the characters had to face a problem or challenge and make a decision (as decision making was being studied as part of their unit of inquiry). So within each class, each student wrote a different story but they all used the same Web2.0 tool to tell their story. There are 4 classes in Grade 3, so each class chose a different tool. However in one class the students had to work in groups because it involved drama, taking photos and putting them into VoiceThread. In this class they wrote and storyboarded in small groups before starting with the photography and VoiceThread. They divided up the jobs between them - sometimes taking turns to do the photography or in the case of one group having one person do all the photography while the others in the group were the "actors" in the story. In total, therefore, we had 20 stories using StoryBird, 20 using ZimmerTwins, 20 using Bitstrips and 5 using VoiceThread as students worked in groups of 4s and on the VoiceThread each narrated their part of the story.