Steps to Making a Digital Story

Sara used this graphic to explain the digital storytelling process to adult learners (CLB 3/4). (Click on the graphic to enlarge)

Stage 1: Introduction and Orientation (suggested class time for this stage: one or two 75 minute sessions)

Before learners begin to create their own digital stories, they need some time to get oriented and understand what a digital story is. This stage can take one class session, or several, depending on your learners’ language levels and the amount of time you have available. By the end of this stage, learners should have an understanding of the following:

  • What are digital stories? What makes a good digital story?
  • Project/task instructions: Why make one? What’s the process?

Stage 2: What’s My Story? (one to three 75 minute sessions)

A good digital story begins with a good story. Learners need to have time to brainstorm, discuss, and develop ideas for the story that they want to tell. At the end of this stage, learners have a clear story topic and focus, such as “my first day in Canada,” “a special moment in my life,” or “my dream house”. As with Stage 1, there is flexibility as to how much class time you spend in helping learners choose their story.

Stage 3: Writing the Story (two to three 75 minute sessions, with some writing work done at home)

Depending on the amount of time you have, learners develop their story through a process writing approach (drafts, editing, rewriting). Teacher conferencing and peer feedback can be utilized at this stage.

Once learners have their final draft of their story, it is very useful to create a Storyboard. This is a process where learners decide what visual images will accompany the different parts of their story. Taking the time to do a storyboard makes the next stage of collecting images much easier.

Stage 4: Collecting and Uploading the Images (one class session, or done outside of class time)

Images can be from learners’ personal files, or from the Internet. If learners use public images from the Internet, they should be copyright-free. It is useful to have a lesson on Copyright before learners start downloading images and music for their digital story.

Stage 5: Recording the Narrated Story (two class sessions, or done outside of class time)

Learners need to know that a good recording is crucial to making an effective digital story. Lots of oral reading practice and pronunciation help can make a big difference at this stage.

Learners should also know that they may need to record and re-record until they get the recording that they are happy with!

Stage 6: Combine the Images, Narration, and Music (one or two class sessions)

This stage will depend on the program or website being used to create the digital story. Often there is a lot of finicky editing work at this stage, and it can be very useful to have experienced assistants on hand to help learners with this process.

Stage 7: Save and Burn/Upload/Post the Completed Digital Story…and Enjoy!

You may decide to ask all students to post their digital stories online; however, some learners may not want their personal stories to be made public. Consider giving your learners the choice of saving and burning onto a DVD disc, or uploading it onto the Internet (vimeo or YouTube are common options).

Having a ‘screening party’ to view all of the digital stories has been something that has worked very well for us. Learners are very proud of their accomplishments and their work and so it’s worth it to take the time to pop some popcorn, turn the classroom into a movie theatre, and enjoy the show!

Celebrate the learners’ accomplishments and work by turning your classroom into a movie theatre for the ‘digital story screening day’. Pop some popcorn and invite family and friends to attend!


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