Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why Story?

Student's Paper-Cut Design Created to Inspire Story Writing 
At the The Wayland Literacy Institute  I presented my thoughts, experiences, and "how to" with respect to digital storytelling. I synthesized many notes, experiences, and research related to the topic of story over many years.

I focused the presentation on the rationale, process, and considerations related to creating digital stories with young children.

I offer the presentation and rationale below as a guide for student/teacher digital story creation.


What is a story? defines story in the following ways:

Why Story?
Story is a thread that brings us together as people.  Through story we relate, connect, understand, question, and see.  We introduce ourselves to others through story, and we learn about life through story. Story is also an inviting, engaging, and brain-friendly way to begin a lesson or presentation.

What makes a good story?  
I'm sure that answer differs amongst individuals, but there are some essential elements that contribute to a story's value--elements such as a good beginning, wonderful words, beginning, middle and end, writer's craft, characters, plot, big moments, setting, and catchy content.

When do we tell stories?  
We tell stories when we meet people for the first time.  We share stories with family members and friends to deepen our relationships, remember the good times, and gain strength. We tell a story at the start of a lesson or presentation to capture the audience's attention and interest.  A story is also told to teach a lesson, learn new information, and develop understanding.

How is a story more powerful than a list, 
informational text, or document? 
A story enlists the senses. A good story awakens us with smells, sounds, tastes, sights, and touch.  When we read a good story we are taken into a new place, time, and experience. A good story is like a beautiful weave while a list is similar to a section or thread of the weave. Wonderful stories change us.

Why digital stories? 
The digital story is a powerful medium to create and partake.  When creating a digital story the author is crafting text, music, sound effects, and imagery to tell a story with care.  When listening to a digital story, the listener is immersed in a multi-modal experience of story, one he or she may listen to again and again. Further, today digital media is as accessible as books. Students are interfacing with this media regularly to gain information and learn. The experience of creating their own digital stories brings students understanding, respect, and the ability to manipulate this medium--an important skill in the tech age we live in.

In this short Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge film, author David Pilkey compares typed texts with television and film.  He states, "When we read a book there aren't any special effects.. . . . we have to fill in all the details ourselves by using our imaginations.  The simple fact is that the more we read the more we have to use our imaginations, and the more we use our imaginations, the more powerful we become." Although digital stories fall in between a typed book and film, stage, and television, his words challenge this medium, and makes one wonder if the digital story leaves enough room for the powerful development of imagination and reading skill.  This is an important consideration. Students should be exposed to film, stage, television production, digital stories, and text--they should have the chance to create, understand, and experience all the mediums that will make up their future as readers, writers, and learners.  Hence it's not one or the other, but instead how much of one medium versus how much of another as we strive for a just right balance.

Where does digital story fit into today's curriculum?  
I believe that digital story should be built into the curriculum at all grade levels.  I suggest the following efforts:
  • Turn Literacy Studio or Reading Workshop into a multimedia effort making digital story and film creation options.
  • Balance students' use of digital and nondigital literacy throughout the day, units, and year.
  • Think carefully about how you want to fit digital literacy in--let the decision be a student/teacher decision, one that responds to the learners' needs, interests, and passions.
  • Embed standards into digital story units--meet the standards through digital story design.  Digital story is an exceptionally good medium for meeting standards in reading fluency, reading/writing voice, story organization, content share, and speaking.
  • Teach digital story with project/problem base learning workshops. Create a beginning to end timeline for the project with students then embark on the creative endeavor leaving room for students' creativity, personalization, and choice. 
  • Partner with younger students to create digital stories.  My first classroom digital story project was a fourth grade-second grade collaboration: "The Homework Excuse Book," a take-off of a book the second graders had been reading. 
How do I create a digital story? 
There are many tools for creating digital stories today. Tools such as storybird, Kid Pix, iMovie, Garageband, Google presentation, PowerPoint, VoiceThread and more.  Specifically my class used the following process:
  1. Learning Design: Review the standards and curriculum. Decide on the goals, overarching timeline, needed support, space, and project efforts.
  2. Choose audience and organize. Students and teachers create the specific project time line, objectives, efforts, and focus together with backwards design.  
  3. Story brainstorm and creation with multiple story starter tools such as drawing, paper-cut design, time lines, story sharing, story boards, story mountains, and modeling.
  4. Story draft online or offline, with images and without.  Draft the story words and images using the writing process. 
  5. Publish the story words and image. We used Google Presentation--students created online storybooks with Google.
  6. Move the published story to digital.  We downloaded our Google Presentations to Powerpoint and saved as individual pictures, then we moved each picture into iMovie.
  7. Create beginning, middle, and end slides for story titles and more. 
  8. Record voice. We record right on iMovie by lengthening the picture time, recording, listening, and rerecording when necessary until we were satisfied. 
  9. Design and add music that matches the mood and tone of the story.  Add sound effects too.
  10. Add finishing touches. Publish to YouTube.
  11. Share, Celebrate, Reflect, and Assess. 
Story is a classic medium, one that will never go away--it is the thread that connects us as people and learners.  I'm sure that my understanding of story will grow as I work with colleagues tomorrow.

In the meantime, what is important to you when it comes to the theme of story?  When you teach reading and writing story to young children, what do you emphasize?  How can we best effect this study as we teach and coach students today?