Digital Storytelling — Let Your Students REALLY Tell Their Story, Part 2

By Kristy Mall on March 14, 2012
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

In my last post, I explained how you can spice up your language lessons with digital storytelling and described the first four steps, from choosing a topic and establishing guidelines to writing a script and choosing visuals. This week, I will walk you through the final steps to helping your students create their video masterpieces.


Step Five: Add the Audio

After your students have their visuals in place, have them add the audio. I have them do it in small blurbs, so that they can drag snippets of narration to specific points. Otherwise, they try to watch the video and then time their audio perfectly with their pictures. Not only is that very difficult, but it also can lead to major problems during the editing process. If they decide to cut something, they have to redo the whole audio portion.

Have them be sure that the audio clips are clear; have them SLOW DOWN when they speak and enunciate; and have them edit out sections they don’t need.


Step Six: Add Titles and Transitions

I have them play with the transitions until they find the ones that they like. Otherwise, they will see some special effect that someone else used and decide to redo everything. Also, have them check the titles for misspellings, grammatical errors, and sense!


Step Seven: Add Background Music

One of the things that I love about GarageBand and iMovie is that you can write your own background music or choose from an array of sounds and music. I advise students to make the music fade in and fade out, and we work to find a balance in sound. The music is quieter when they are talking and louder when the video focuses on visuals. We talk about good stopping points for music (don’t just let it end mid-chord!) and how fading out to a visual is better than a sudden end.

We also talk about who owns the rights to the music. I attended a class in which we met with a lawyer about the legal issues that can be involved in presentations. He represented a school system in which a teacher had been sued over a song that she used in a video she posted on TeacherTube. In these litigious times, I normally don’t allow students to use any questionable music without permission if I am going to post the videos on the Internet.


Step Eight: The Editing Process

This is the most important step! I have students be sure that everything is the way that they want it before I ever see the finished project. I also have them edit each other’s presentations. Common items to be fixed include pictures that don’t work well, music issues, spelling mistakes, and garbled audio. Another big issue is length. Many students speak very quickly and consequently end up with VERY short stories. Show them the importance of good visuals (and yes, you can have more than one for a topic) and of including pauses to allow the audience to read the captions or focus on a photo that emphasizes a point. Be sure that the font color shows up well on the background and that the photo supports what they are saying. I recently had a student talk about how expensive gas prices were over a picture of a sign advertising gas for $1.78 per gallon! If only those were the prices!

Finally, I watch their stories after they have made their corrections in order to catch any final problems or issues. The great thing is, after they have created a few digital stories, they really don’t need me very much anymore. They become great editors for each other and for themselves.

So while this first digital storytelling project may be some work, it gets easier — and it's well worth it. Not only do they get to undertake a novel and exciting activity, but they also create something that they can treasure and that you can share on your Web site or include as part of your portfolio. They truly enjoy creating their digital stories, and it is a lesson that teaches them great digital skills as well!

For more on digital storytelling, see Megan Power's "Filmmaking — Stop-Motion to Bring Curriculum to Life" and Angela Bunyi's "Moviemaking in the Classroom." And please share you own digital storytelling tips and success stories below!


the information is very interesting and it is something that i will try with my students keep on doing what you do because it is really goood

This is a great idea! Thanks for all of the details on how to do it. I have wanted to have my students create stories like this, but it seemed overwhelming. This will make it much easier for me to do this!

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