For My Students: Digital Story Telling Project Plans

This blog post is dedicated to all of the reluctant readers I’ve had over the years: Students like Dwight, who told me flat out in the beginning of the year when I introduced our Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) routine that there was no way he was going to read; and to Dylan, who made a similar proclamation.

Dwight went on to complete over 30 novels by the end of the year – and showed no signs of slowing down when he left our class. Dylan went on to devour any book about cars that he could get his hands on. I had trouble keeping up with him some weeks, because he’d finish a book before I could think of another to recommend for him. I’d say, “You just started reading it,” and he’d reply, “I know. It’s just so good; I can’t put it down.” Their journal entries were a testament to the fact that they did indeed read and enjoy the books. There are many more stories like this, and they inspire me each year. So, to my reluctant readers, I would like to say, thank you, for continually reminding me of the joy of discovering a really good book and how good it feels to finish one!

Invariably, whenever my students finish a good book, they are dying to talk about it to anyone who will listen. The final journal entries they write about that book often span several pages – without me asking for it. I usually have the students complete a project each semester for one of the books they’ve finished reading. I haven’t tried doing anything digital with the students yet, so I would like to try completing a digital storytelling project with them next year.

Thinking about the project

Here is a sample end-product I have in mind. (Start with the end in mind!) 😉

When I first saw this video, I knew I wanted to have my students create something like it. The main themes of the video, overcoming obstacles, self-discovery, and self-acceptance are some of the major themes that run through almost any young adult novel, and they are themes that many teenagers can relate to on a deep level.

My students are also drawn to spoken word poetry, rap, hip-hop, and creative expression through drawing. Many of them share their work with me before or after class, or I witness it written or drawn on their notebooks, their arms, their pant legs, the desks, etc.

Our curriculum

In my 9th and 10th grade Intensive Reading curriculum, we use a textbook and interactive computer program. The textbook is divided into workshops that are based on high-interest topics for teenagers. We use the reading passages to practice reading strategies such as finding the main idea and understanding different text structures and elements that aid readers in comprehending text. I often bring in supplemental digital materials to help the students connect more with the reading passages in the workshops. The students really enjoy the supplemental materials and often ask about making such products themselves, but so far, I haven’t tried this.

As part of the reading program, students also spend a portion of their time reading independently-selected books. To help students get interested in reading books first, instead of just sending them off to the reading area to read for 20 minutes, I’ve implemented a Sustained Silent Reading period at the beginning of each class. The daily SSR only takes 10 minutes. The students read their books for 8 minutes and then use a double-entry journal to write a brief summary of what they’ve read and their reaction. This required reading time helps students “get into” the books they are reading.

As a culminating work, I usually have students complete a final project each semester on one of the books they have read in SSR. The students have a lot of different activities to choose from, but I have not yet offered the opportunity to produce a digital work. I would like to add this type of project to my curriculum.

Project outline and curriculum page resources:

The storytelling project I have in mind, would involve students creating a narrated video, using spoken word poetry and examples from the book, to illustrate the theme of one of the books they’ve read during SSR. Specifically, I’d like my students to think about one of the books they’ve read during SSR, and to consider how the conflict and resolution described in the book relate to the theme of the book. Students would use a combination of pictures and words to express their ideas in a 2 to 3 minute-long narrated video.

To help students think about what books they would like to read and for ideas about ways to present information about a book in digital video format, the students could use the following resources.

The Digital Book Talk browse page gives students an opportunity to view Video Book Trailers to learn about different books before they select them to read.

The Teen Reads book reviews page, gives readers a list of suggested titles to read with text descriptions of the books.

Scholastic offers readers a list of novels written in verse. I have found that many students enjoy reading this genre, and it will give students an opportunity to see how verse can be used to communicate ideas and themes. Students can also view examples of (clean) spoken word performances on YouTube.

Students will also need access to resources to help them create their video. For this project, I like the video creation software, Voice Thread. It offers free individual accounts, and students can comment on each others’ completed videos. There are also tutorials available that students and I could access to help us create our videos. A drawback is that I would have to purchase an educational license for my students, if I wanted to establish accounts for just our class, which would be easier to keep private and monitor.

Students could create media for their presentations by collecting pictures from a host of sites that provide copyright free or shareable images that meet Creative Commons licensing criteria. Some of the sites that provide these resources are:

Wikimedia Commons – provides hundreds of copyright-free images
Google Advanced Search – this site provides a feature that allows users to search for images that meet Creative Commons licensing standards for copyright free, or shareable images. Many of the images come from flickr or Wikimedia commons, but this site provides a quick way to search multiple sites at the same time.
Flickr Storm is another site that allows users to quickly search flickr for copyright free or shareable images.

I would also need to provide teacher-created resources for the students to access including lessons and templates to help students write spoken word poems. I found a good example of a lesson for teaching spoken word poetry on Marsha Waldman’s website. Having a template and a well-planned lesson for introducing spoken word poetry will help students as they begin developing their ideas for their videos.

I also plan to teach a lesson on copyright for students. Bernajean Porter’s website digitales offers good resources for teaching about copyright laws and how to find copyright-free resources.

Finally, students will need storyboarding templates as well as instruction on how to complete them. Jake’s Online website offers free storyboarding templates for download.

To differentiate the lesson, I would give students the opportunity to work in pairs to write a poem for two voices that they could either perform and have video-taped, or could use as the narration in a digital video that uses pictures. There are guides and templates available for helping the students and me through this process, too.

I love working with teenagers because they are so curious, passionate, creative, and opinionated. They love to express themselves and I would like to give them the opportunity to do that through this project. I can’t wait to get started!


About amysullvn

I have taught 9th and 10th grade Intensive Reading and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) for the past 8 years in Brevard County, FL. I am currently working toward the completion of my masters degree in Instructional Design and Technology/Educational Technology at the University of Central Florida.
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