Sunday, July 18, 2010


Once upon a time, there was a fabulous storyteller – which, alas, is not me. My grandmother, however, was a superb storyteller; her ability to keep scores of cousins engrossed in her tales was legendary. Her gift of timing, as well as her ability to use different accents and intonations kept us all enthralled. The oral tradition of storytelling is ancient; Homer’s numerous repetitions of the “wine-dark sea” in The Iliad and The Odyssey, for example, illustrate how the stories were memorized and passed down over the years until they were finally transcribed into print. Storytelling in the oral tradition is both a craft and an art, and something that deserves a resurgence in popularity.

Storytelling is not restricted to the oral tradition, however. Many authors are master storytellers, and the increased use of technology in schools has resulted in a happy melding of ancient art and modern methods of communication. Digital storytelling delivers narrative in a digital context, and can incorporate digital content such as images or sound. Digital stories can be as simple as a series of Powerpoint slides, or as complex as a film with music and live or animated action. There are a multitude of tools appropriate for classroom use, such as Photo Story, MovieMaker, iMovie, and others. Another tool that has gained popularity in recent years is Scratch, an easy-to-use graphical programming language from the MIT Media Lab that allows kids to create their own digital stories, games, art, and music. Tools such as Scratch present a terrific opportunity to integrate technology into the classroom and incorporate 21st century skills into the curriculum.

My picks this week focus on storytelling lessons and resources; all can be used as written or applied to a different medium if desired. As always, we’ll present a variety of additional resources and supporting information about this topic on our Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the week, so please be sure to take a look.

Ghosts and Fear in Language Arts: Exploring the Ways Writers Scare Readers
Subjects: Literature, Writing
Grade: 9-12
This lesson examines how storytellers and writers scare their audiences – how do they create suspense and fear? Students create their own scary stories using a variety of media, while learning about audience awareness and story elements. This lesson is from ReadWriteThink, which offers free resources in reading and language arts instruction. All lessons are reviewed by teachers and members of the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English, so you know they’re good. This lesson is aligned to NCTE/IRA Content Standards.

Round Robin Writing
Subjects: Writing, Language Arts, English
Grade: 4-10
In this lesson, students work in teams to write collaborative stories. Using photos or other images as story prompts, students begin a story on a computer, then are replaced by successive students on their team, each picking up the story where the previous student left off. I like the creative spirit of this lesson, where students have to think on their feet to create a story where the essential elements are not necessarily of their choosing. This lesson is a product of LearniT-TeachiT, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting business, industry, government, and other agencies to use the power of technology to prepare teachers and learners to develop 21st century skills.

Arthur: Group Stories
Subjects: Writing, Language Arts
Grade: 1-3
This guide provides numerous writing and reading comprehension activities. Students first learn about the elements of a story, and then create their own stories based on the characters from Arthur, the beloved books created by Marc Brown and also a long-running animated series on PBS Kids. I like that this lesson presents younger students with the challenge of creating their own stories, while still safely ensconced in the context of a known set of characters and settings – stimulating, but not daunting. This guide is a product of PBS, which in addition to educational television programming also provides educational resources for preK-12 students and teachers.

~Joann's Picks - 7/15/2010~

1 comment:

  1. Great collection of lesson ideas! There is something so wonderful, magical, and utterly human about story telling. I just love the way that we connect to stories, our students do the same!


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