“The View from Here” – Digital Storytelling

Field Guide Header Digital Storytelling In the Primary Classroom.png

The Scenario   

You’re a teacher that is looking for a way to extend learning and creativity in writing for several of students, particularly those whom you have identified as struggling to express themselves. In addition, you’d like to extend their engagement with the writing process by offering a digital format.  Digital Storytelling One

This real scenario features first-grade teacher Leah Doyle. Leah’s students have recently finished a unit of informational reading and writing, and Leah described her students as being so engaged in informational text – they continue making books during their free time to share what they have learned and researched.  

Leah would like to give students the opportunity to write creatively (ISTE’s Creative Communicator) and/or share their learning (ISTE’s Knowledge Constructor) but in a digital platform to heighten engagement.  


Content Connections 

The class is about to embark on a realistic fiction writing unit (Lucy Calkin’s Units of Study in Writing), which pairs nicely with what they will be exploring in reading – story elements. They will be studying characters, setting, and story events. Students will be asked to retell story events in order, including the problem and solution. The Henry and Mudge series will serve as one of the beginning mentor texts for this.  

In addition to wanting to engage her students, Leah also expressed a need of her students to focus on elaboration instead of short responses and sentences. As a class, they will be practicing deep retells of stories, where they sequence the main events with details.  

With the class currently in-between units, Leah has given her students the choice to continue developing their knowledge of nonfiction writing, or to begin practicing realistic fiction.  


How Tech Can Help 

Together, the students will explore what drafting, revising, editing, and publishing looks like on a digital platform, and how this is different than the traditional paper and pencil version – through this project, Leah is giving students an opportunity to develop a new skill setThis not only is highly engaging for students, but it shows them that “publishing” doesn’t always look the same, and provides new examples (and questions) about intended audience, format, and purpose. Ultimately, digital storytelling allows students to see different versions of the writing and publishing process.  

Digital Story Telling Two


  • Using the iPad interface to manipulate text and images on storyboardthat.com can take some practice 
  • When working with primary students, reinforcement of the aspects of a writing genre and the steps of the writing process is essential (therefore, you might start this project with a small group of students first) 
  • Also when working with primary students, anticipate that the act of typing will take some time – they will need assistance with this 



For this scenario, we are using storyboardthat.com as a digital storytelling platform. Once complete, the digital stories can be downloaded into images or a pdf file and will be uploaded to Seesaw to be shared with families near and far. iPads were used for all parts of this project.  


Starting the Process (Before you Go) 

  • Select participants; will this be whole group or small group? Leah has selected several of her first grade boys to participate in a digital storytelling project. These students have been selected because they’re identified as students who would benefit from an engaging project, small group instruction, and the opportunity to be creative.  
  • What content area will the digital storytelling support? Leah is between a realistic fiction writing unit and an informational text writing unit. Digital storytelling has the capacity to support both, so she is giving students the option to choose.  
  • Decide what digital storytelling platform you will use: Familiarity with the tools (storyboardthat.com), and having a sample product, will be helpful in kicking off this process.  
  • Take stock of the devices available: Leah has iPads that students will use for this project.  


On the Trail 

  • Students will begin by planning a piece of writing as they normally would (Leah’s students use sticky notes to plan) 
  • Students will identify the characters, setting, and main events on their sticky notes before inputting it into the digital format 
  • Students will use storyboardthat.com to create their story in a digital platform. Leah’s students will get to choose whether they would like to create an informational text on a topic of their choosing, or a realistic fiction story that would pair with their current unit 
  • Modeling the selection of backgrounds (setting), characters, and text is essential 
  • Allowing students to do digital revision further supports their understanding of the writing process 
  • Note that if a different genre was selected, the same process would be completed, with emphasis on different text features 

Digital Story Telling Three

What’s Next? 

  • Once students have an orientation to storyboardthat.com, they can finish their story  
  • Consider presenting to families via Seesaw, and sharing with the rest of the class 
  • The possibilities for digital storytelling are endless! 


Anecdotes from Leah’s Class 

  • The participating students loved the digital storytelling – two wrote realistic fiction stories, and one wrote an informational text about dogs (his passion) 
  • In addition to having digital pdfs of the final product, storyboardthat.com allows you to download images… these were printed and laminated to create small graphic novels 
  • One student was so excited that he made a “class books” bin and placed his book there so that his classmates could borrow it easily 
  • Ultimately, offering a digital format helped extend the writing instruction that students had participated in – their engagement rose and it was a fun way to teach different publishing formats 




  1. Thank you Leah for sharing your work. I love how you have taken the curriculum and woven in technology to support and engage with students.



  2. Jennifer Houghton November 18, 2019 at 4:57 pm

    How much is storyboardthat.com after the FREE 14-day trial period?



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