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TeachNet Grant: Hands-on Digital Storytelling with Students
Matthew Valia

Berta Dreyfus IS 49
101 Warren Street
Staten Island, NY 10304

Grades: 6-8 / English Language Arts

About the Grant:

This four-part lesson teaches students about plot as a literary concept and shows them how to use it as a framework when they are creating a story of their own. They will write their own story, sketch illustrations, color them in Photoshop and put everything together into a digital story show.

Plot can be explained in many ways. You could go through the plot diagram and list the beginning, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. However, I like to break it down into simpler terms in the beginning before laying on more detailed literary vocabulary.

I explain plot as the structure of a story that an author uses as a roadmap for his/her characters, setting and actions.

I begin by explaining that most stories start with setting and character description. Next these characters go through some beginning actions or events where a problem occurs. Once students can identifiy the problem or conflict, they will be able to simply identify the climax - the single action where the problem is solved. The falling action is what happens as a result of the climax and the resolution is how the story ends. Of course some stories may have a drawn-out rising action segment of the plot diagram, but this explaination will allow students to identify the parts of the plot with great accuracy.

How This Grant was Adapted:

This unit is engaging and hands on and will capture a student's attention through the use of visual imagery they create through simple technology tools. Once teachers and students master the three technology tools in this unit, they will be able to adapt the digital story telling elements many different subject areas.

Project URL

The entire project is available online at:



Students will be able to:

  • Create a plot diagram
  • Identify parts of a plot from a story they have read
  • Write their own story plot outline
  • Illustrate and color pictures of the major scenes of their story in an image editing  program
  • Narrate their story in an audio editing program
  • Put their entire story together in a movie-making program

Websites Used


Standards Addressed:

English Language Arts Standards

Students will identify significant literary elements (including metaphor, symbolism, foreshadowing, dialect, rhyme, meter, irony, climax) and use those elements to interpret the work

Students will write stories, poems, literary essays, and plays that observe the conventions of the genre and contain interesting and effective language and voice

ISTE Technology Standards for Students

Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.

Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems and operations.

Lesson 1:

Lesson one: Writing the plot outline and sketching story illustrations

In a short mini-lesson, explain plot to your students. In pairs have them discuss the plot of their favorite fairy-tale

Next, explain they will write the plot of their own story.  Pass out the plot worksheet.

Students will type the worksheet or write it by hand.  They will fill out the details underneath each heading of the worksheet.  They will not write dialogue, imagery or details at this time.

Pass out eight sheets of drawing paper stapled together.

Students will write the headings of the plot worksheet in order on the bottom of each page.

On each page they will draw the outline of the corresponding scene from their story. Model the drawing as a simple sketch with dark outlines; like a coloring book.

Lesson 2:

Lesson two: Scanning and cell-shading

Explain to students that a scanner takes a picture of their image and puts it into digital form. Have the students scan their images.

Explain that many cartoons they watch are digitally colored in on plastic cells. Many video games are cell-shaded as well. 

Show the cell-shading instructional video.

Lesson 3:

Lesson three: Narrating the story in an audio program

Now that students have created a plot, sketched and shaded their stories, they will record the narration of the story in an audio program.

You can have your students write a script for their stories or make it up as they go along.

Show the audio recording instructional video.

Lesson 4

Lesson four: Putting it all together in a movie program

Now that your students have written a plot outline, sketched eight scenes, shaded them, and created a narration, they will put everything together in a movie file.

Show the "putting it all together" instructional video.

Matthew Valia is a computer graphics and web design teacher at Berta Dreyfus IS 49 in Stapleton, Staten Island.  As a licensed English teacher, Matthew enjoys infusing literary skills and storytelling into his students graphic design projects. Matthew is also the technology coordinator and professional developer in his building.

You can find out more about Matthew at his website:


All documents can be found at:



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