PART ONE: STORYBOARDING
As a Special Education teacher, I am very interested in how I can utilize technology to enrich my students’ scholastic experiences. I am particularly interested in the tools that technology can provide to increase my students’ academic proficiency and ability to collaborate with their teachers to access their IEP mandated accommodations. The second point is beyond the scope of this blog and will be addressed in a later post.
I recently came across an article, Digital Storytelling: Extending the Potential for Struggling Writers, written by Ruth Sylvester and Wendy-lou Greenidge, in which they detail how Digital Storytelling can help struggling writers. According to Sylvester and Greenidge, struggling writers, especially those with Specific Learning Disabilities in the area of Written Expression:
Further exacerbating these issues, Sylvester and Greenidge state that struggling writers usually “terminate their writing...before they have accessed all they know about a topic (and)....are reluctant to discard (an idea) even if it is not pertinent to the topic.” To help students improve not only their writing ability, but their writing habits, Sylvester and Greenidge suggest implementing Digital Storytelling to help students find their authorial voices and master the writing process. They further reason that a key component in assisting struggling writers is the concept of storyboarding.
In storyboarding, students first draw their ideas and then write the accompanying sentences. This process helps the students focus and plan their writing, as well as flesh out their pieces by incorporating greater detail. Much like a movie director, who may storyboard every shot of their film before shooting it, planning their writing allows struggling writers to get the messy business of organization out of the way so they can then focus their creative energy on breathing life into their compositions.
All of this sounded great to me, so I decided to try out a more simplified, paper-based version of the storyboard concept with the intention of digitizing it in the future and, ultimately, transitioning into more complex video editing software. Let me preface this next statement by admitting I am a natural born cynic; I can't help it. So, after presenting the storyboard concept to my students, I was prepared for the worst. But, instead of the chorus of groans that usually follows my announcement that, “Today, we are going to write,” I was meant by silence. While it may not have been the enthusiastic reaction I was hoping for, it was much preferable to the abject horror that my students usually voice when asked to write. Once the students understood what was expected of them, they drew and wrote. And wrote. And even wrote some more after that.
They wrote for close to forty-five minutes.
This is absolutely unheard of in my classroom.
To say that this unexpected development thrilled me would be an understatement of the highest order. If they are this engaged by storyboarding with paper, I can hardly wait to see what they may be able to accomplish once we dive into Digital Storytelling proper. I would like to send a big shout of gratitude to Ruth Sylvester and Wendy-lou Greenidge for writing such a well-researched and enlightening article. I know that by taking their suggestions, I saw an immediate improvement in the attitude of my students with regards to writing. If this improved attitude leads to improved writing, then I will be one happy teacher, indeed!
As always, I would love to hear your comments, questions, insights, and general musings. Please leave a comment below if you are so inclined.
I am a Special Education teacher currently pursuing his Master of Arts in Information & Learning Technologies (Option: K-12) at CU Denver. I work at Boulder High School in Boulder, CO. Here you will find my thoughts on education.