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Storyboards Help Tell the Story

This exercise in visual literacy introduces students to a visual form of note taking that leads to exciting storytelling.

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Introduce this activity by telling students a folk or fairy tale which they are not likely to have heard before.
    2. Follow up with a discussion of storytelling traditions. How is hearing a story like or different than reading it? Ask students what they visualized as they listened to your story. How are students’ visual images different from their classmates’? Why did each listener see things a little differently even though they all heard the same story? Discuss how personal experiences affect the way different listeners visualize a story.
    3. Discuss techniques storytellers use to remember stories. What techniques did you use to remember the story you told? Many storytellers “see” a story as they tell it, moving from scene to scene as if watching a movie in their heads. Sometimes, creating a simple storyboard helps impress these basic scenes on a storyteller’s mind.
    4. Introduce students to the idea of a storytelling festival. Tell them they will have an opportunity to select stories to tell using a storyboard as a visual aid.
    5. Provide texts of folk and fairy tales from various cultures. (Avoid using illustrated versions.) Invite each student to select one story. Some good collections include: “How and Why Stories: World Tales Kids Can Read and Tell” by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss; “Ready to Tell Tales” edited by David Holt and Bill Mooney “Trickster Tales” by Josepha Sherman
    6. Ask students to visualize three or four “scenes” from their stories. What characters are in each scene? Where is each scene set? What is happening?
    7. Provide materials for storyboards. Students can use individual dry-erase boards and Crayola® Dry Erase Markers for this activity, or white drawing paper and Crayola Colored Pencils or Markers. Remind them that storyboards are usually simple drawings, a kind of visual note taking. These should be quick sketches illustrating three or four scenes, just enough to help the stories flow as they retell them.
    8. Once everyone has made a storyboard, divide students into small groups and scatter them about the room. Invite them to take turns telling stories to their classmates, glancing just occasionally at their storyboards to keep them on track. Remind them that a storyboard is a visual aid for the storyteller, not a series of illustrations for the listeners. The audience should create their own mental images.
    9. Discuss the activity afterwards. In what ways did the art activity aid the storytelling?
  • Standards

    LA: Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

    LA: Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.

    LA: Create engaging audio recordings of stories or poems that demonstrate fluid reading at an understandable pace; add visual displays when appropriate to emphasize or enhance certain facts or details.

    LA: Make connections between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    VA: Students experience, analyze and interpret art and other aspects of the visual world.

    VA: Students recognize that creative thinking skills transfer to all aspects of life.

  • Adaptations

    Center this activity on a particular culture or a specific holiday such as Black History month, Chinese New Year, Halloween, or the winter holidays. Invite students to select stories based on the chosen theme.

    After students have shared stories within their small groups, discuss the experience as a class. What was difficult or easy about telling a story? How much did they depend on their storyboards? Did some find that using the storyboard was not necessary but that the act of making it had helped impress the images on their minds? As listeners, what stories did they like best? Why? Were the stories themselves captivating, or was there something about the way they were told that was particularly effective?

    Take the show on the road! Invite interested students to form storytelling troupes and tell their stories to other classes or to children in an afterschool program.

    Some students may be interested in creating actual illustrations for their stories. Encourage them to examine a variety of well illustrated picture books depicting folk and fairy tales. What observations can they make about various styles and techniques? Invite them to each create an illustration for their chosen story incorporating some of what they have observed about good illustrations.

    For special needs students, cut the storyboards apart after the stories have been told and ask the students to arrange their classmates’ scenes in the proper order based on what they just heard.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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