Digital Storytelling Project Update

I’ve been working on creating an example for the digital storytelling project I would like to have students in my 9th and 10th grade Intensive Reading class complete.  Here is a link to the project on our class wiki:

Intensive Reading Digital Storytelling Project

For the project, I plan to have the students choose a novel that they have read during our Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) time. The students will write a poem that expresses the theme of the story they’ve selected. They will then create a video using selected images, their spoken word poem, and music.

In the example I created, I used the theme of the short story, “Ambush,” by Tim O’Brien. The story is about a veteran of the Vietnam War and the guilt he feels years after he returns home to the U.S. The broad theme of the story is that all of our actions have consequences, the effects of which we may not realize until later. The narrower theme is that soldiers in a war are often faced with morally difficult or morally ambiguous decisions and they may bear the weight of those decisions even after they return from war.

I thought that, “Ambush,” would make a good story to use for the example because the students read O’Briens, The Things They Carried, which includes, “Ambush,” in their English classes in 9th grade. We also read “Ambush” as part of our Reading program to practice analyzing the parts of a story, so I felt that most, if not all, of the students would be familiar with the story line. We also talk about the theme of the story in class. I felt this would help students, also, since we could discuss the thought process I went through, first in writing the poem, and then in selecting pictures and music to further communicate my ideas about the theme.

According to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for 9th and 10th grade English Language Arts, students should be able to “determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze . . .  its development over the course of the text.” With regard to writing, students should be able to” use narrative techniques to develop experiences, events or characters.”

My goal for this project is to help students demonstrate their understanding of the theme of a novel in a creative way. I feel that allowing the students to select words, images and music to express their ideas will help them connect with the theme of the story on a deeper level.

I would like to ask readers to evaluate the example I have created and provide feedback on its suitability for the intended audience: 9th and 10th grade students in an Intensive Reading class. I would also like readers to consider whether the project idea and the example I have created appropriately match the learning objectives for the project.

One concern I have with the project, is having students visit YouTube for examples of spoken word poems. Our school does allow access to YouTube for school projects; however, I am concerned that students might be tempted to browse around on YouTube. Even if they only browse for spoken word poetry, they may come across content that is inappropriate for school.  I looked on School Tube and Teacher Tube for examples of spoken word poetry performances, but felt the examples I found on YouTube were better examples for my students. I plan to discuss appropriate use of YouTube with my students before they visit the site, and I do walk around and monitor students while they are working, but I would like to know if there are any other ideas about how to address this concern.

Thank you for any feedback and/or suggestions! 🙂


National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers. (2012). Common Core State Standards for English language arts in literature. Retrieved November 8, 2013 from


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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4 Responses to Digital Storytelling Project Update

  1. larasia55 says:

    I really loved the pictures and the how you orally dictated instead of us just reading text. I think it is very appropriate for the grade level. I also like how they can choose a different book as well. I noticed you had a reflection form after they watched your example. That was very cool, and I think it will help the students a lot.

    • amysullvn says:

      Thanks, Brittany! 🙂 Adding the google form was new for me. I like that it will give me an opportunity to assess how well students understood the video about theme so I can address any questions or problems before students have to write their poems.

  2. Reem Almansuori says:

    I am impressed at the work that these students are turning out. This is stunning for 7th and 8th graders. Very creative and expressive. I like that they are already learning about themes and how to pick them out of reading materials. This is something I was not taught at their age and I can see that this is a skill which will be helpful to them later on.

    Visiting Youtube is an issue for my students also. Much of the content is blocked in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries because it can be so negative and much of it is inappropriate, especially for younger children. Of course, there are parental controls, but those aren’t perfect either. I don’t have any better suggestion except to warn parents that there are inappropriate materials on some of these sites and that they should have the computer in a public space and be aware of what their children are watching.

  3. amysullvn says:

    Hi Reem,

    Thank you for your comments. I am always impressed at what students are able to accomplish when they work on projects they enjoy and find stimulating. I hope this project will inspire my students to create awesome projects! 🙂 Thank you for your advice regarding communicating with parents with regard to the You Tube issue. Perhaps this would provide a great opportunity to discuss digital citizenship, security and responsibility with students and parents.

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