The Power of Storyboards

Story is everywhere, it’s all around us.

I recently participated in an ISTE Digital Storytelling Webinar focusing on The Power Behind Story & Storyboard to Inspire Imagery and Creativity. Presenter and educator, Julie Jaeger states, “storytelling is meaning making, not just media making. Storytelling is a process, deliberate, intentional and purposeful.” When creating digital stories, both words and media reveal the story through details rather than being directly stated. Craftsmanship is key.

The storyboard itself is a powerful tool in the classroom for meaning making. A storyboard is a road map and guiding influence for story making. I use storyboarding for comprehension and creativity in my 8th grade English class. Whether it is a storyboard used for a 5 Frame Story, which I describe in Personalized Reading (ISTE, 2018), or sketching and stretching the setting in a creative writing piece, storyboarding requires planning, evaluation, analysis and creative thinking.

Professional storyboards a useful models and mentors for students to see how film creators utilize storyboarding for brainstorming and outlining story ideas. Julie Jaeger describes how she has students write down the feelings the frame should evoke in the viewer. Depending on the purpose of the storyboard, the details under each frame can be descriptions of types of shots, actions, and sound. The objective is to create a final product with purpose and intention for the audience.

Whereas I have students retell a short story, chapter, or sonnet in only five frames, here is a two frame storyboard activity from The Jacob Burns Film Center:

You are going to tell a visual story using two photographs.

Discuss each scene and what kind of shots you would choose to show it.

  • Two best friends telling each other a secret.
  • Looking for my favorite book in the classroom bookshelf.
  • Two kids reaching for the same favorite marker color.
  • My pencil tip breaking.

Now it is your turn to create two shots of your own to tell the story! 

  1. Choose one story prompt you would like to illustrate.
  2. Think about what shot type you would like to use to introduce the idea.
  3. Draw that shot type in the first frame.
  4. Think about what shot type you would like to use to give your audience more information about the idea.
  5. Draw that shot type in the second frame.

Once you’ve completed your Two Frame Storyboard, it’s time to turn it into photographs. In small groups, position your actors to match your storyboard. The cameraperson can move closer or further away to try to match the shot type chosen in the storyboard.

Setting Storyboard

Setting Storyboard to help students sketch and stretch creative writing.

Storyboard That is a digital platform with free storyboard templates and online storyboard creator. For a fee, teachers can create classroom accounts and sync lessons and projects with Google Classroom. As the website states:

Storyboard That’s award-winning, browser based Storyboard Creator is the perfect tool to create storyboards, graphic organizers, comics, and powerful visual assets for use in an education, business, or personal setting. The application includes many layouts, and hundreds of characters, scenes, and search items. Once a storyboard is created, the user can present via PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Apple Keynote, or they can email the storyboard, post to social media, or embed on a blog. Storyboards are stored in the users’ account for access anywhere, from any device, no download needed. Storyboard That helps anyone be creative and add a visual component to any and every idea.

Other online storyboard platforms include Boords and Canva.

From book trailers to creative story telling and movie making, storyboards help students understand story concepts and frameworks. The objective is for students gain a critical perspective in looking at images and develop an awareness of craft and structure.

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