From the moment they wake up in the morning, animated cartoons and powerful digital stories surround our students. Animation and digital storytelling provide a myriad of opportunities for high-level performance tasks that engage students in Common Core Standards for English Language Arts.
Having students create content-rich and learning-focused animations and digital stories connects the work they do in the classroom to their media-rich world in which they live!
While animation and digital storytelling imply a focus on technology, projects that involve them are all about writing. In particular, creating an animation or digital story provides students with opportunities to write in all three forms mentioned in the standards: argument, informational/explanatory, and narrative. (Appendix A, page 23).
Video Biographies – Informational/Explanatory, Narrative
Many students are familiar with documentaries have watched Ken Burns Baseball series or have seen an A&E Biography on television. Asking students to take research information and transform it into a compelling story for a video biography lets them see how media often blurs the lines between information and narrative. Playing with this helps make writing more interesting and empowers students to be more critical consumers of information.
Student-created Tutorials – Informational/Explanatory
In a flipped classroom, students explore a variety of resources (such as videos, web sites, simulations) at home and then return to class to address misconceptions and explore additional questions with their teacher. One way to help students cement information in the classroom is to have students write and create their own explanatory tutorials.
Using and publishing these student-created tutorials demonstrates that you value student time and effort and that the work they are producing in school has meaning. Elementary teacher, Katy Hammack found this was a great way to get students to practice grammar.
Public Service Announcements - Informational/Explanatory & Argument
The Common Core Standards emphasize a student’s ability to write sound arguments as crucial to college and career readiness. Writing persuasively requires students to both comprehend and analyze information, learning to think critically. When students watch television, or even online videos which almost always start with ads, they see numerous public service announcements.
A PSA is designed to get people to change their behavior on important issues, making them relevant practice in argumentative writing. Ellen Phillips and Marielle Crespo, educators in NYC, asked their students to help raise awareness about trash at a local playground. The students felt empowered by the response their PSAs generated from the community, including a local Park Ranger.
Movie-style Book Trailers - narrative, informational, persuasive
Another great project that combines persuasion, informational, and narrative writing is a book trailer. Rather than writing about a book, students create a promotional video that encourages others to read it.
Focus on Research and Informational Text
The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts “insist that instruction in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language be a shared responsibility within the school.” We see this most prominently in the additional of Reading: Informational Text standards which apply not only to English Language Arts but across the subject areas.
Science and Social Studies, with their wealth of information, data, and primary sources are great places to implement animation and digital storytelling projects that require students to “gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas.”
Historical Docudramas - Informational/Explanatory, Narrative
Primary sources “require both the use of technology and by nature are authentic and complex.” Creating a docudrama using primary sources like letters, diaries, and essays from historical figures, helps students build empathy and learn how to add “voice” to their narratives.
Real or fictitious Interviews - Informational/Explanatory, Narrative
Creating an animated or video interview is another great way to have students utilize primary sources and informational text as they combine explanatory and narrative text writing.
The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts also state, "The need to conduct research and to produce and consume media is embedded into every aspect of today’s curriculum" so that students develop the ability to “analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and nonprint texts in media forms old and new.”
What more fun way, for both you and your students, than animation and digital storytelling!