Digital storytelling is a hot topic these days. Instagram and Facebook provide opportunities for users to create stories, and they can be highly entertaining. Digital storytelling is not just for social media. Before there were story options on social platforms, there were digital storytelling websites for kids. This post is for anyone who would like to learn about three different ways I use digital storytelling sites to engage students in elementary grades.
Who Needs to Learn About Digital Storytelling?
Digital storytelling is so much fun, I think everyone should try it. You might be a teacher, a parent, a grandparent or a favorite aunt. Digital storytelling can be an especially engaging way to get kids reading and writing. Even if you don’t work with kids, you might have fun playing around with these cool, creative tech tools. Here we go!
What is Digital Storytelling?
Basically, digital storytelling is just what the name describes. It’s a way of telling a story using digital tools. There are many great options out there, and today I’m going to share three of my favorites, along with project ideas.
Why Are These My Favorites?
When I choose digital storytelling sites to use with my students, I have to determine if it’s going to be logistically possible. I have around 700 students between the two schools I serve as an elementary librarian. It doesn’t make sense for me to have to create 700 student accounts for anything. The digital storytelling sites that I keep on my shortlist are the ones that don’t require students to create an account. For ease of use, hands down it’s this first site I’m going to recommend.
An Awesome Site for Your Youngest Students
From the folks at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, I offer you StoryMaker. One word of warning: Music starts playing as soon as you open the page. I always have the kids turn it down.
A Quick Fix for Allowing Adobe Flash
You might get a pop-up message requesting that you allow Adobe Flash player to run. You will need to allow it. Here are the steps you can follow in Google Chrome, if that is the browser you are using. My young students learn how to do this fix because they love the program so much. Here is the error symbol you might get in your address bar when you click on “Get Adobe Flash”.
Click on the red mark on the icon in the address bar.
Click on the Manage button.
Slide the switch on “Block sites from running Flash” to “Ask first”. It should turn blue.
Close the Settings window. Click on “Get Adobe Flash Player” again. Click “Allow” and it should work!
Back to Storymaker
My kindergarten and first grade students have gotten good at clicking on the “puzzle piece” to allow.
Students click the program to begin, then type in their name. They choose a main character and a goal, like traveling. The program then generates a title. You can see the title of my story below.
Students choose a setting, props and other characters to interact with. Students (or adults, if you are playing around with it as I did) may choose actions or emotions when a character is clicked on. Text is automatically generated below the picture based upon the choices made by the storyteller. Students may also type in their own text or add speech bubbles, if they wish. Users add pages by clicking on the arrow at the bottom right of the screen.
To end the story and publish it, students click on the little red “End” flag on the right of the page. A code is generated, and an option to share the code in an email is given. If you would like to view my short story, please just go to the starting page and type in the code PPC999, as is given in red on this screen. Note: StoryMaker is best viewed on a laptop or Chromebook, not an iPhone, due to Adobe Flash Player compatibility issues.
I always have fun playing around with this program. It’s highly addictive. Enjoy creating your own story!
Fun for the Mid-Elementary Grades
For the second and third graders at my school, I use a site called StoryJumper. It’s free for students to use at school with their teacher. Students need to create a log in, but this program is amazing, so it’s worth it to me.
I use the initials of the schools I serve along with a number, then I only had to create 32 student accounts. I just have to caution students to only work on their book, not anyone else’s in their little online library of projects. Students begin by creating a cover.
Users may add pages, along with dialogue and illustrations. A new option of recording narration is available as well. The kids have a great time creating their stories.
Combine with Foreign Country Research Using These Free Printables
I combine this activity with research about a foreign country. Students gather information from a source, such as an online encyclopedia. Our school has a subscription to World Book Kids. You might have a favorite site you use for research. If you would like to use the foreign country research idea, here is a free printable data sheet and storyboard you may use.
Once students have gathered their information, they follow the storyboard and type their facts into a book. When finished, students have a one-time option of printing out a pdf version. Due to privacy laws, students are not able to share a link to their work with others.
The site makes its money by offering hardcover, paperback, ebook and audiobook versions for sale if a parent wishes to purchase. So, that’s a bit of an inconvenience. I like to set up an interactive museum, where students can go around and view each other’s stories on computers. Here’s an example book I created, following the student storyboard, which you may click to view.
Upper Grade Digital Storytelling Creativity
Each year I teach lessons about digital citizenship and being safe online. I have the students design super digital citizens, and the older students get the option of designing a comic strip with a super digital citizen as the main character. The program I like to use is called MakeBeliefsComix. It’s pretty self-explanatory, and no account creation is required.
Students are able to add backgrounds, characters, dialogue and more to each frame. It’s a fun program to explore, and there is a special section for teachers with lesson ideas. I had fun experimenting with this program, and I hope you will too.
Is Digital Storytelling in Your Future?
Whether you share digital stories on social media or in the classroom, the possibilities for creativity are vast. Do you have any digital storytelling programs you like to use? If you are an experienced digital storyteller, what is your favorite platform or site to use? As always, I value your input thoughts, ideas and input immensely.
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