Digital Storytelling Curriculum Unit
For: Grade Five

¨Reading: Informational Text
• Key Ideas and Details
•3. Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals,
events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on
specific information in the text.
•Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

•9. Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write
or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

•Text Types and Purposes

•3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using
effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
•Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or
characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.

•Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, description, and pacing, to develop
experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.
•Use a variety of transitional words, phrases, and clauses to manage the
sequence of events.
•Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and
events precisely.
•Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.

Production and Distribution of Writing

•4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and
organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific
expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
•5. With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen
writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new
•6. With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the
Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate
with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a
minimum of two pages in a single sitting.

¨Speaking & Listening

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

•4. Report on a topic or text or present an opinion, sequencing ideas logically
and using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main
ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.


Conventions of Standard English

•1. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar
and usage when writing or speaking.
•Explain the function of conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections in
general and their function in particular sentences.
•Form and use the perfect (e.g., I had walked; I have walked; I will have
walked) verb tenses.
•Use verb tense to convey various times, sequences, states, and conditions.
•Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb tense.*
•Use correlative conjunctions (e.g., either/or, neither/nor).
•2. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English
capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
•Use punctuation to separate items in a series.*
•Use a comma to separate an introductory element from the rest of the
•Use a comma to set off the words yes and no (e.g., Yes, thank you), to set off
a tag question from the rest of the sentence (e.g., It’s true, isn’t it?), and to
indicate direct address (e.g., Is that you, Steve?).
•Use underlining, quotation marks, or italics to indicate titles of works.
•Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as needed.

digital storytelling, collaboration, composition writing

Students will:
•Read a variety of material on Native American tribes both online and in print.
•Develop a digital story on a Native American tribe based on source material.
•Create a narrative based on a Native American tribe’s traditions, beliefs, ceremonies,
•Research and apply images, audio, music, or video clips to their narrative on a Native
American tribe.
•Deliver an oral presentation on their digital stories.

Unit Description
Students need to develop and refine their reading and writing skills in order to comprehend the lesson being taught and then demonstrate that knowledge by answering questions and writing summaries. This unit will help all students develop their reading and writing skills by creating a digital story, which combines a story with audio and video recordings that is produced by using various media. This unit will also help struggling students with their reading and writing skills.

This unit will focus on Native American tribes. In order to develop their digital story, they will create a narrative about the Native American tribe of their choice. Also, this unit will be integrating social studies into language arts. Throughout the unit, they will incorporate everything they learned about the tribe into their digital story narrative. Digital stories give students the opportunity to be creative when displaying the information gathered about the tribe. They will be adding images, music, and possibly movie clips to their narrative. Once this unit has been completed, students will have gained a better understanding of Native American tribes and will have used and manipulated various technologies to publish their digital story.

PCs with internet access for each student
PCs with Windows Movie Maker
PCs with Microsoft Office Word
Microphones or built-in microphones

Supplementary Resources
For Teachers
Sources of Digital Storytelling on the Web
¨Center for Digital Storytelling:
It provides information on digital storytelling and workshops to aid in the use of digital media. Also, it gives examples of digital stories.

¨Jason Ohler’s website:
He provides extensive research on digital storytelling, which technology to use, and how to assess it.

¨Microsoft Education website:
This website helps you to get started with digital storytelling and how to implement it in the classroom.

¨Edutopia website:
It offers advice on what to do when you implement digital storytelling in your classroom.

¨Teaching Digital Storytelling:
It is a wiki for people who teach digital storytelling to share their ideas.

This is one example of a video made by an individual using digital storytelling. Also, you can access other videos on digital storytelling from this website.

¨Classroom 2.0:\
This is a social networking site that is formed using Ning. You can join for free in order to share, discuss, and comment on ideas about digital storytelling.

Scholastic provides information and advice on implementing digital storytelling in the classroom.

Wikipedia provides background information and examples of how digital storytelling can be used in the classroom.

It provides detailed instructions on how to create a digital story using Windows Movie Maker.

For Teachers and Students
Sources of Digital Storytelling on the Web
¨Digital Storytelling 101:
It provides simple, “how to” instructions for making a digital story using Windows Movie Maker.

This website provides detailed, step-by-step instructions with visuals on how to use Windows Movie Maker.

¨Digital Learning Environments:
This website provides creative ideas on how to make a great digital story.

¨Digital Storytelling:
This website gives precise directions detailing each step in the production process when making a digital story.

¨Community Expressions:
This website explains why people use digital storytelling and provides various examples which can be helpful in getting started.

There are many variables to consider when implementing this unit (i.e. standardized testing, teaching to your school’s curriculum, etc.). Therefore, I am proposing a timeline which should make it easier to implement the unit.
Day 1
To begin, have a lesson on digital storytelling where you encourage discussion and questions involving yourself and your students. Your discussion must include these key aspects: story from the student’s point of view, elicit emotion, and explain that they can add their voice, music and video to digital stories. (Bull & Kajder, 2004-05) Next, you take them to the computer lab to show some examples of digital stories, which are located on the Center for Digital Storytelling website, YouTube, and Community Expressions website. Afterward, you engage the students in a discussion about these examples. You will discuss the similarities, differences, and the key elements of the stories. Finally, you tell them that their assignment is to create a digital story on a Native American tribe of their choosing.
Day 2
Today, the teacher will show the students how to use Windows Movie Maker. The teacher will take the students to the computer lab. She/he will demonstrate how to open movie maker as well as how to use its key features. While you are demonstrating, have the students follow through with you on their own computers. You can use the Digital Storytelling 101 and the TESL-EJ websites to help demonstrate the intricacies of Windows Movie Maker. Point out that they can add videos, audio or music and their own voice to their story. Click on these different areas and show how to import them to movie maker. When you click on videos or on audio or music, you will see a window that asks you to choose a file on your computer. Click on a file and then click import. You continue this process until your students import all their videos and audio or music clips into movie maker. Explain to the students that it is important to remember these areas when developing their own story. Also, show them how to drag the images into storyboard as well as add audio, music, or video clips into the timeline mode. To accomplish this task, you click on the images and/or clips, and then drag them to where you would like to place them. You can add titles by first clicking on an image and then double clicking on titles and credits. First, you decide where you want to put the title (e.g. before the selected clip). Then, add your text. You can choose to change the title’s animation as well as changing its font or color by clicking on the option of your choosing. Finally, demonstrate how they can add their own voice. To do this, you click on the arrow near storyboard and click on timeline mode. Then, you click on narrate timeline. Make sure your students have a microphone connected to the computer or have a built-in one on the computer. Also, make sure you find an empty point on your audio/music track to add narration. Then, you click on start narration, record their narration, and then click on stop narration. Afterwards ask if they have any questions or problems.
Days 3-5
This is when you have an introduction to and discussion of Native American tribes (i.e. Navajo, Cherokee, Apache, etc.). Briefly discuss interesting facts about each tribe, their similarities and differences. Afterward, ask the students to choose a tribe of interest to them. Next, they must gather information by reading a variety of material on that tribe both online (using the computer in the classroom) and in print (books in the classroom or those you checked out from the school library). You tell the students to pay particular attention to specific facts such as location, beliefs, traditions, ceremonies, clothes, food, etc. For students who have difficulty gathering the information, the teacher as well as other classmates will assist them. In addition, the materials that will be provided will be chosen based on each student’s reading ability. The teacher will remind the students of their time frame and to use their time wisely.
Days 6-7
The teacher will review how to write a narrative – a beginning, a middle, and an end. Demonstrate on the board. Have a discussion on what to do and what not to do. Remind the students that their narrative will be the basis for their digital story. Students will now begin the process of writing their narrative. They will need to include all relevant information – name of tribe, location, beliefs, traditions, ceremonies, etc. They will choose significant facts about these areas and include them in their narrative. Then, in turn, the students will become motivated to complete the narrative because they are now given the opportunity to make their own choices of what to include in their story. (Kajder, 2004) As a result, the narrative should portray a clear, straightforward story of a Native American tribe. While writing their narrative, they will decide which part will be in written form and which part will be added orally. When they have finished writing their narrative, the teacher will read and proofread. Next, the students will make corrections and modifications where needed. On the last day, the students will type their narrative using Microsoft Word. They will print out a copy, which will make it easier to separate out the parts that will be added in written form and the parts that will be narrated. Throughout this process, the teacher will be available to provide assistance to any student who needs help and will make modifications to the assignment, as needed, according to the student’s reading and writing abilities.
Day 8
The teacher will take the students to the computer lab. Today they will search for images, audio, music, or video clips to coordinate with the narrative of the Native American tribe digital story. In addition to the images of the Native Americans, the students will search for a map of the tribe’s territory. You reiterate to them that the images and clips have to reflect their narrative. They cannot just pick any image or clip they find. They must take their time to properly search for appropriate items to enhance their digital story. Next, they must save them to the C drive so they can easily import the files to Windows Movie Maker.
Days 9-11
Again, the teacher will take them to the computer lab. Over the next few days, the students will create their digital story. They will open up Windows Movie Maker. First, they will import all of their images, audio, music, and/or video clips into movie maker. Then they will proceed to add everything into the storyboard and timeline modes. The part of the narrative that will be added in written form will be the titles, and the part of the narrative that will be added orally will be their narration. It will take some time for them to put everything in its proper place. They will need to practice placing and manipulating images, their narration, etc. They will publish their digital stories to a DVD that can be played on the classroom’s computer. In order to publish, click on the DVD choice in the publish menu located on the left and then follow the steps to complete the process.
Days 12-13
The students will present their digital stories to the class. The teacher will evaluate and comment accordingly. Finally, they will take their digital stories home to show their families.

Rubric for Digital Storytelling Project

Relevant NJ Core Curriculum Standards
Narrative does not follow the characteristics of the standard writing format and has no details
Narrative generally follows the characteristics of the standard writing format and has some details
Narrative follows the characteristics of the standard writing format and includes a lot of interesting details
Writing 3,4
Language 1,2

Student does little reading
Student reads some texts for information
Student reads various texts for information
Reading 3,9
Understanding and searching for appropriate images, audio, music or video clips for digital story
Student does very little searching for images and clips
Student searches a few sites and has a few images and clips
Student does extensive searching on various sites and accumulates a variety of images and clips
Writing 6
Understanding the concept of a digital story by producing it in Windows Movie Maker
Student puts forth little effort in producing the digital story
Student puts some effort in producing and manipulating the digital story
Student puts extensive effort in producing and manipulating the digital story
Writing 6
Vocal technique during oral presentation
Student’s voice is too loud or too soft
Student’s voice is generally understood
Student’s voice is exceptionally clear and projects well
Speaking & Listening 4

A tutorial on Windows Movie Maker

Bull, G., & Kajder, S. (2004-05). Digital Storytelling in the Language Arts Classroom. Learning & Leading with Technology , 32 (4), 46-49.
Kajder, S. B. (2004). Enter Here: Personal Narrative and Digital Storytelling. English Journal, 93 (3), 64-68.

Rationale for Digital Storytelling Curriculum Unit

Using the experiences gained from taking new literacies courses, I found that the ability to use different types of new media (blogs, wikis, digital storytelling, podcasting, etc.) to be both interesting and exciting. After careful consideration, I decided that digital storytelling might be a useful tool for the classroom. I needed to explore the positive and negative aspects of its use. I was able to find several sources for consideration: Glen Bull and Sara Kajder discuss the concept of digital storytelling using their explanation of how Joe Lambert’s seven elements of effective digital stories (a point of view, a dramatic question, emotional content, economy, pacing, the gift of your voice and an accompanying soundtrack) improve students’ writing skills; Sara Kajder, Glen Bull, and Susan Albaugh discuss these steps when creating a digital story narrative and how to put it all together; James Skouge and Kavita Rao discuss how implementing digital storytelling in the classroom is beneficial to the teachers; Bernard R. Robin discusses how digital storytelling can be a powerful tool in the classroom; and Glynda A Hull and Mira-Lisa Katz discuss how digital storytelling can enhance the meaning of the story being told. In this rationale, I will be explaining my reasons for choosing a unit on digital storytelling. These authors’ works will help to justify these reasons.

At first, I had a partial understanding of digital storytelling. However, after reading and researching the explanations of many authors on the use of digital storytelling, I decided that it would be helpful to both teachers and students if a digital storytelling unit were included in the curriculum. In today’s classroom, the teacher’s lessons focus on the school’s curriculum and standardized testing (i.e. Terra Nova, NJ Ask, etc.). Unfortunately, the lessons do not always hold the interest of the students and their attention is lost. Even though the teachers are required to teach to the curriculum to help the students pass the standardized tests, it should not limit them in their ability to make the lessons interesting and interactive for the students. From personal experience as a student and as a teacher, I have concluded that in order to not only peak the students’ interest in a subject but also to captivate their attention, the teacher must find a way of instilling in the students a desire to learn more. When creativity is brought to the lesson, it is possible that the lesson will be remembered for years to come. I believe that digital storytelling can achieve just that for both teachers and students because it engages the student in the lesson. Skouge and Rao state, “For educators, digital storytelling provides an engaging way to bring lessons about community, culture, local values, and traditions into the classroom”. (2009, p. 54) The use of digital storytelling helps teachers to engage students by drawing them into the lessons being taught in the classroom. For example, this unit is focused on the theme of Native Americans. The students are creating their own digital story by writing a narrative and then incorporating the various media (i.e. video, audio, music, etc.) to accompany the narrative. In this way, students are engaging and interacting with the topic to make the lives of Native Americans known to themselves as well as the teacher and other classmates. When learning about Native Americans only from the teacher, the impact of their journey, the obstacles they had to overcome, etc. will not have as great an effect on the students as when the students create their own digital story. It will impact students on various levels.

Digital storytelling can become a powerful tool in the classroom. Although schools have limited resources, providing classrooms with computers will give the students the technology needed to improve and enhance their skills and should be considered as part of the curriculum. With today’s technology savvy students, various websites and tools are already being used by them when seeking assistance in researching and writing papers, as well as understanding the meaning conveyed in a book. Similarly, I agree with Robin’s assertion that digital storytelling can become a powerful tool. He states,

“As an instructional tool, teachers have the option of showing previously-created digital stories to their students to introduce content and capture students’ attention when presenting new ideas. Teachers who are able to create their own digital stories may find that they can be particularly helpful not only in engaging students in the content but also in facilitating discussion about the topics presented in a story and helping make abstract or conceptual content more understandable”. (Robin, 2008, p. 222)

In the classroom, an in-depth introduction to new concepts is used to familiarize the students with the subject in order to evaluate what the students already know, and to determine how to formulate and implement the lesson. Using digital stories as the introduction to these concepts can help to capture the students’ attention as well as peak their interest. Students will then be more open minded when learning new concepts because they now have the ability to access and use the varied media when writing their stories. This gives them the opportunity to explore many creative possibilities.

Using technology to write a story can have the advantage of actually learning and retaining information about the subject of the story – in this case Native Americans – without realizing it. When reading a book about other cultures, students cannot always visualize the information being presented from the perspective of the people involved. My hope is that doing a digital story on Native Americans will help the students see the events from the Native Americans’ point of view and therefore have a better understanding of Native Americans’ beliefs, traditions, the impact of crucial events on their lives, etc. Likewise, Hull and Katz discuss how digital stories enhance meaning. They state, “Digital Storytelling, with its emphasis on the visual . . . by providing space for material and symbolic images and thereby additional layers of meaning”. (Hull & Katz, 2006, p. 59) When digital authors add various images, videos, etc. to their stories, the meaning of the story is then enhanced through these media. Digital stories entrench the reader in a way that they feel as if they are the ones being portrayed and, therefore, gain more insight into the drama. In my opinion, digital storytelling helps the story to become alive to the reader.

Finally, let’s look at how digital stories are created as well as what makes a digital story successful. In the beginning, you write a script for your digital story. It doesn’t have to be long. Brief written texts (one double-spaced page or what can fit on an index card) are sufficient to create an exciting digital story. Next, you need to plan your storyboard. The storyboard consists of images or video clips to show what encompasses the story. The images that are used can be personal (from a digital camera) or from the web. Before constructing the digital story, discussion and revision of the script is necessary. This can be done by dividing the class into small groups where the students provide the feedback while the teacher is the facilitator. In the revision process, a discussion regarding which elements of the story the script should convey and which elements the images should convey. The last few steps involve creating the digital story in a video editor (i.e. Windows Movie Maker, and iMovie). You need to sequence the images into the timeline mode of the video editor, add the narrative track, add special effects and transitions, and add music. When sequencing images, you need to pay close attention to size and resolution, depending on the video editor. When adding narration, have the students speak each sentence one at a time, which gives them control over their pacing. Save each sentence in a different file, which will make it easier to manage and use in the video editor. Finally, the addition of the special effects, transitions, and music should reflect the meaning conveyed in the story. The final step is to compile the story and save it as a file that can be viewed with a media player (i.e. Windows Media Player, and Apple QuickTime player). (Kajder, Bull, & Albaugh, 2005)

In addition to how digital stories are created, there are many aspects of writing digital stories that give students the opportunity to express themselves in a variety of ways while at the same time attract readers to their story. Bull and Kajder apply Joe Lambert’s (author of the Digital Storytelling Cookbook) seven elements of effective digital stories (a point of view, a dramatic question, emotional content, economy, pacing, the gift of your voice and an accompanying soundtrack) to their discussion of how digital stories improve students’ writing skills. I will focus on three elements: point of view, emotional content, and the gift of your voice. I will show how students can use these elements in their stories. First, let’s look at the role of the writer in digital storytelling. Bull and Kajder state, “In contrast, the goal of digital storytelling is to allow a writer to experience the power of personal expression”. (2004-05, p. 48) Digital stories can allow the students to express the meaning of their story in creative ways. They have control over selecting what images, video, and music to use to reflect what will be conveyed in their story. This results in not only getting the students interested in their story writing, but should also keep them engaged and focused.

The use of creative expression leads to a discussion of emotional content and using the gift of your voice. Emotional content is the key to the success of a well-constructed digital story. Bull and Kajder state, “The most effective digital stories evoke an emotion from the audience. . . . This can be tremendously rewarding to student writers, validating the effort and investment they have made”. (2004-05, p. 48) Digital stories peak the readers’ interest by getting them emotionally involved in the story line. When this occurs, students feel excitement, pleasure, and relief that their stories are being enjoyed, appreciated, and even loved. In addition, digital stories allow the reader to see and hear the story and not just read it on paper. Therefore, these stories give readers an entirely new perspective on the story being presented. They become committed to following it to the end because they become engrossed in the story and imagery. Now, who do the readers hear when they are following a digital story? It is the voice of the student(s) who created it. Bull and Kajder state,
“The process of digital storytelling allows students to record themselves narrating their own scripts. The pitch, inflection, and timbre of the storyteller’s voice convey meaning and intent in a very personal way. This has proven to be one of the most essential elements that contribute to the effectiveness of a digital story”. (2004-05, p. 49)
When a student adds his/her voice to a digital story, the reader more readily understands how the student is feeling through the tone of his/her voice and can imagine themselves in the story.

To conclude, I chose digital storytelling as the focus of this unit because I believe that digital stories can be a driving force in education. Digital stories have the advantage of involving the students in their writing on a personal level. Students are allowed to add their personal touch – music, audio, and video clips to their narrative. In the classroom, students are required to write a story and then illustrate it. In my opinion, the illustration does not provide the full effect of the story when compared to the special effects of the digital story. Finally, I believe digital stories can become a useful, powerful tool in the classroom.


Bull, G., & Kajder, S. (2004-05). Digital Storytelling in the Language Arts Classroom. Learning & Leading with Technology , 32 (4), 46-49.
Hull, G. A., & Katz, M-L. (2006). Crafting an Agentive Self: Case Studies of Digital Storytelling. Research in the Teaching of English , 41 (1), 43-81.
Kajder, S., Bull, G., & Albaugh, S. (2005). Constructing Digital Stories. Learning & Leading with Technology , 32 (5), 40-42.
Robin, B. R. (2008). Digital Storytelling: A Powerful Technology Tool for the 21st Century Classroom. Theory Into Practice , 47, 220-228.
Skouge, J. R., & Rao, K. (2009). Digital Storytelling in Teacher Education: Creating Transformations through Narrative. Educational Perspectives , 42 (1-2), 54-60.