Digital storytelling is simply storytelling.
According to Robert McKee,
Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.
Simon Sinek says,
“Stories are attempts to share our values and beliefs. Storytelling is worthwhile when it tells what we stand for.”
Before diving into the digital part of digital storytelling, it is absolutely essential that we step back and reflect on who we are as storytellers.
What stories do I have inside of me?
The stories that I share let others know what I stand for and my stories have power to put ideas into our world.
From Storyteller to Writer
I have never considered myself a writer. I don’t like writing. I never liked having to write stories when I was in school. But I do like to talk and I love to share stories.
I often tell stories of what it was like to grow up with parents who are deaf.
I tell the story of how when I was 18, God completely changed my life.
I tell the story of giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome.
I tell the story of what it was like to live for ten years in a dusty village in southern Kyrgyzstan.
These stories remind me of my roots and what I value and give me a way to share these values with others around me.
This week, as I researched the various digital tools that third graders could use for planning and publishing their writing, I realized that what I really want to improve as a teacher is my own ability to tell a good story and learn how to help my students tell their stories well. I am more interested in helping them develop the craft of writing. Digital tools are most effective when they enable the students to be inspired and share out their stories to a wider audience.
Alan Levine has created an amazing wiki called 50+ Web Ways to Tell a Story that has everything and anything you might need to get started with digital storytelling. I came across this wiki last year when I made my first attempt to lead a digital storytelling after school activity using iMovie and the DoInk Green screen App. (Thanks to Michelle Mathias and Frank Hua for their inspiration at the Vietnam Tech Conference 2016)
The following is my first attempt ever to make any kind of digital story. It was made with just an iPhone, a piece of green cloth hung in my room and my son. I used it to give students an idea of what they would be attempting so I needed to complete the whole thing in less than 5 hours.
I needed a simple way to help students plan out their story idea. I discovered the Story Spine method recommended by Pixar that I have continued to use with my students. It goes like this…
- Once upon a time… Sets the story in time, place, and introduces us to the central character.
- And every day… This describes the “pre-story” life of the character, it sets the stage for what will change.
- Until one day… Sometimes called the “inciting event” that changes that everyday world.
- And because of this… The beginning of the unexpected path, the start of a journey.
- And because of this… This series of events are all connected, one leads to another. Use as many as you need.
- And because of this…
- Until finally… This is where all the action leads to its major moment, a big event. It may not be what the character expected, but it does change their life.
- And ever since that day... This is the “so what?” The life lesson of the story, what all of those events teachers the character (and us) about life.
Right now we are working on writing adapted fairy tales. This is one of the units of study from the Lucy Calkins Third Grade Writing Workshop. I use the story spine to help the students plan their story. They also spend some time sketching out their scenes and storytelling each scene to a partner before they begin to write. I find that if they have a strong plan and they take time to act out their story, they write stronger stories. For third graders, publishing stories in digital form takes longer so we don’t always use digital tools but when we do, here are my two favorite ways:
- Google Presentation + Screencastify
I like to use Storybird when students need some inspiration for writing.
For now, my main focus is to become a better storyteller and teach each my students the craft of storytelling so they can be storytellers who change the world one story at a time.
Please share…how do you teach storytelling and what are your favorite digital storytelling tools for elementary aged students?