As a high school English teacher in a vocational technical school, I see firsthand the benefits that visual learning and hands-on assignments have on my students. When my kids use Storyboard That, I see huge jumps in their retention, enthusiasm, and confidence. While I began writing for Storyboard That last summer, I didn’t get a chance to see the fruits of my labor until this past school year when I started using the software in my classroom. In my mind, I knew what the platform could offer my students: it’s visual, it gives them a linear way to tell a story, it’s easier to edit than a poster, etc. But I quickly found that Storyboard That held so many unexpected benefits for my kids that I got even MORE excited about using it!
One reading that I do every year with my seniors is the Mesopotamian work, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and every year, it is a struggle to get them to remember the content because, well, the book isn’t the most exciting piece of literature ever. This year, I utilized the heroic journey Storyboard That assignment and I discovered that even by January, or finals time in May, my kids remembered more elements of the story than any of my past classes ever have. In addition, when I pulled up the boards as a review for the final exam, it was a great memory jogger! My kids didn’t have to read each individual description – they just saw the pictures and remembered the biggest plot points of the story. Below is a shortened example like of the boards they came up with:
Many of my students are hands-on learners and most are tech-savvy, so to combine both of these elements pretty much made their day! My kids LOVE picking out their own scenes, customizing their characters, posing them, cropping stuff, and throwing in fun text bubbles. They are working closely with the text, but they don’t even realize it! There were many instances where the bell would ring and they would look up, dazed, from their computers and realize that an entire block had passed them by and it was time to leave!
A lot of my students really got creative, too, and some of them incorporated funny things into their boards! (Who knew learning could still be fun in high school?!) Here are some examples that are like the boards they created:
One surprising and unexpected benefit of using Storyboard That in my classroom was that when it came time to present their storyboards, so many of my kids were extremely confident! For the students who aren’t so good at drawing (like me), Storyboard That put them on a level visual playing field with their more artistically-inclined peers. For the students who struggle with writing, they didn’t have to fill up an entire slide or Powerpoint presentation; instead, they could add dialogue and short blurbs and still accomplish their task. I asked students to note at least one artistic element that they incorporated during their presentations, whether it be a zoom and crop, a shadow, layering, adding glow to the moon, etc. This led students to be more excited about sharing a cool thing they did, or it got them excited about something cool their classmates did. In addition, not every storyboard is going to be the same – and that’s OK! I can still assess that the kids are grasping what I need them to know, even if they differ slightly in their approaches and results.
For me, I have to say that I was pretty excited to utilize Storyboard That when I was unexpectedly out sick in February with the flu. In a middle-of-the-night panic, I realized that I didn’t have anything for my freshmen to do on their own because we were at an awkward point in the curriculum. Beyond that, I needed them to behave for the substitute. I quickly logged onto my Storyboard That teacher dashboard and created an assignment for my students.
I had them read the short story “The Interlopers” by Saki, and I put up a plot diagram template. (We were in the middle of To Kill A Mockingbird, and we would be discussing plot lines for novels soon, so having a short review worked!) The students came in, opened their Chromebooks, saw my email, logged in to Storyboard That, and quickly got to work. They found my template and my instructions. They read the story together in their groups, and then split off to work on their own plot diagrams. Students who didn’t finish could bring it home! It’s so easy for them to use and have fun with. The best part is there were no disciplinary write-ups waiting for me when I returned, and I could check on students’ progress from home. Here are some examples like the different versions of “Climax” from the story that resulted (and all were valid!):
I've been teaching 9-12 ELA for about 8 years now. I currently work in a vocational technical school south of Boston, MA, and I have students of all levels, abilities, and learning styles. Unique to our school is our population of students who are visual and hands-on learners - this has actually enriched many of my lessons, and has helped me think about literature in very different ways!
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