Digital Storytelling Covers Multiple Concepts & Standards in 1 Activity

Eric Braun Blog

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Just the mention of the Common Core Standards can be enough to cause the hairs on the back of one’s neck to bristle up, either from hatred of the standards or from fear of criticism of standards by parents and the community. Whether we call them standards, learning goals or something else, there are valid skills and concepts we need to teach our kids. When you put them all together, there’s a whole lot of detail and complexity to the learning puzzle.

Finding activities that map to multiple standards, skills or learning goals can make the learning and teaching process much easier. Digital Storytelling is one of those activities. A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the value of the Digital Storytelling process. In this post, we’ll look at how a Digital Storytelling activity can be mapped to a selection of Standards from a few different sources, including the Common Core and ISTE. Now, that’s great value!

For this activity, let’s look at the book Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, which could be used for a 6th grade classroom.

Here are a few themes from Walk Two Moons:

  • Empathy as a source of understanding
  • Nature as a source of comfort and strength
  • The symbolism of the journey
  • Discovering one’s identity
  • Grief and how people deal with it
  • The roles of women
  • The impact of culture on people

As a student, I might select “The symbolism of the journey” for my theme. I could perform research on the journey in other areas of literature, select a more specific theme based on this research and structure a presentation to discuss this theme, using Walk Two Moons, and perhaps one other text, as evidence supporting my position.

There are so many ways to use Digital Storytelling as an activity related to a story. The goal is to get the students to read the book and spend enough time thinking about the story and the themes in order to understand it at a deeper level and to learn how to think critically by performing analysis, evaluation, reflection, discussion and synthesis of ideas based on the evidence from the story. A writing assignment can cover these aspects of learning, but Digital Storytelling activities can often better engage the students while they are pursuing these goals. Additionally, Digital Storytelling incorporates skills that are not inherent in reading and writing alone. Some of those skills include visualization, artistic expression through drawing, graphic design or photography, speaking and listening, structuring a story to hook the viewer at the beginning and providing a clear takeaway at the end.

For the purposes of this post, we will look at a few different activities.

1. Retell the Story

An activity where a student retells the story using multimedia is simple. It may not get the student into the deeper analytical skill areas, but it can be engaging and it still teaches the student many skills. As a student, if my theme is about the symbolism of the journey, I could try to highlight the journey as I retell the story.

2. Create a Digital Story to Present and Discuss a Theme from the Story.

For this activity, the student needs to do the same things required for writing a paper; however, the multimedia aspect of Digital Storytelling adds more skill areas as mentioned above. Planning the presentation through a storyboard and selecting visualizations are new skills that the student can develop. These skills are relevant to the real world and can help create greater interest for the student in the activity. A couple of key new skills the student will explore are visualizing the theme of the journey and finding the best way to narrate the presentation to make it interesting for the listening / viewer.

3.  Create a Side Story Based on Walk Two Moons that Exemplifies a Theme from the Story.

This activity could be the most difficult, because it requires the student to understand the original story well, analyze a theme from the story and then apply the theme to another story created by the student that relates to Walk Two Moons. This variation injects a great deal of creativity into the activity, which makes the student think more deeply about the content and the themes. For my theme of the journey, I could create a side journey that Phoebe or Sal take or discuss.

The Standards

Here’s a list of 6th grade standards from the Common Core that apply to the Digital Storytelling activities above:

  • The Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas components of ELA Speaking and Listening standards apply to activities 1-3 above.
  • If you have students view the digital story videos from the other students and then discuss them in class, you will cover the Comprehension and Collaboration components of ELA Speaking and Listening standards.
  • All 3 activities can cover the ELA Reading Literature standards if you provide the students with guidelines.
  • Without listing all of them, most of the ELA Writing standards apply to activities 2 and 3 above.

ISTE standards for students focus on helping students become better digital natives and citizens. By working with the students as they create their digital stories, teachers are encouraging all of the ISTE standards from leveraging technology and behaving responsibly to curating resources, designing processes, solving technical problems, communicating and collaborating.

As they follow Iterative Creativity within their activities, students continue to reinforce all skills and concepts, and they learn to master them, as well.

This sort of in-depth, active process in Digital Storytelling activities helps us better internalize details, variations, and unique aspects of a concept. It helps us better understand something and burn it into our memory.

By having students create a Digital Story as a replacement for a writing assignment or a test, they will extend their learning into so many new areas. By making this a memorable activity and one that takes a bit more thought and a bit more work, the students are more apt to remember the details of the story and retain the skills learned during the process. Digital Storytelling strengthens the ability of students to analyze information and higher level concepts and synthesize them into themes, patterns and new concepts. It’s fun and engaging, and it’s all in the story.

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