National storytelling week: four practical ways digital tools can inspire stories in the classroom

Stories are at the heart of so much that we do and children have an innate drive to create, tell and retell stories. While storytelling is as old as human culture itself and requires nothing more than an imagination, digital tools can help us to tell the stories in new forms, from creating Minecraft worlds to devising animations.

Through working with children in schools on digital aids to storytelling, we’ve discovered some keys ways that digital technology can support, inspire and enhance story work in the classroom. Here are a few suggestions to try.

1. Prompts for writing

We’ve found that film can be a very effective kicking off point for writing and a great way to explore story. The Literacy Shed contains a wealth of short films selected by a teacher and sorted into thematic ‘sheds’ with teaching ideas and activities. Think about how a silent film could encourage empathy, deduction and inference and allow children to use their imaginations to fill the gaps, create backstory and decide what happens next. Try Robert Showalter’s poignant short film The Lonely Robot

origins from Robert Showalter on Vimeo.

Don’t forget about audio, either. There are some great story podcasts that can spark creativity – have a delve through Storynory, for example.

2. Storytelling in different media

Of course, just as different media can offer prompts for writing stories, so they can offer opportunities to tell those stories in different ways. A story doesn’t have to be written in a book.
Film is one of the most appealing options, and Into Film’s ‘six session from story to film’ is a good way in.  We really like Pixar’s 22 rules of storytelling, especially number four. It offers the great starting point:
Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

How about stories in games design? Games require a special kind of narrative, one which emphasises the importance of cause and effect. It also involves looking at different points of view and the consequences of choice – like a choose your own adventure story. An app like Popplet can help to create a game plot diagram.

Simple animation – try using Adobe Spark – can be very affecting. Just look at these examples from on of the schools we worked with, Hill Mead Primary:

3. Writing in role

Giving children to tell a story from someone else’s viewpoint, offering them the chance to be someone else, almost invariably results in more adventurous – and better quality – writing. They might be an explorer, a sports journalist, a scientist, even Winston Churchill!

Whatever character they choose, they may feel that they can be braver in their choice of vocabulary when writing as somebody else.

4. World creation

Creating and exploring the world of a story can help children to develop more complex narratives and worlds. Think about how they may be able to build, explore and inhabit a world – could augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) be suitable tools to use? We’ve used CoSpaces Edu to help children build their own 3D worlds.

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Upcoming CPD

Summer primary school computing conference
Summer primary school computing conference

This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.

- 15:30
Computing subject leaders, Teachers...
Creative Arts, Digital and children – CLC meets More Than Robots online
Creative Arts, Digital and children - CLC meets More Than Robots online

Combining forces for the first time, the Connected Learning Centre and More Than Robots have created a session for teachers, youth organisations, researchers and policymakers interested in the digital provision of creative arts for primary aged pupils.


The Play Observatory - Prof. John Potter

“In their own words”: Westminster Abbey & CLC digital projects - Sian Shaw

Building (and maintaining) a city-wide primary arts curriculum to raise attainment - Kate Fellows

More to be added soon

This interactive and inclusive meet up will include inspiring examples of how technology can be used to support learning in music, visual art and drama in person and online at home drawing on our experiences as Tate Exchange associates and our partnership work with a range of cultural institutions.

This informal event is an opportunity to discuss real examples of what does/doesn’t work, meet colleagues from other sectors working on similar challenges and share useful research, news or updates

The morning will include case study presentations (details below) followed by a Q&A. There will also be an opportunity for a rapid sharing round for launches, project updates or requests for help and a short break to avoid zoom brain drain.

- 11:30
KS1, KS2
Subject leaders, Teachers...

Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
- 14:25

Special project in collaboration with First News Education

For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.

The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.

The project will launch with an introductory CPD session for teachers to set the context, demonstrate resources and to plan for the school-based activities. 

Initial CPD session - Thursday 21st October 4pm-5.00pm. 

Project work undertaken in school - October and November.

Special event - Thursday 25th November 9.30am-2.45pm.

The Garden Museum

The CLC is once again partnering with the Garden Museum to offer a partnership project for KS1 pupils (primarily suited to Yr2). Located next to Lambeth Palace on the bank of the Thames, the museum has an inspiring collection that provides the ideal stimulus for young learners to explore the world around them.

Pupils will use technology alongside the museum’s collection to explore the wonderful world of seeds.

  • How are they planted?
  • How do they spread?
  • What is inside them?

 The Garden Museum has a large collection of seeds and tools that pupils will engage with.

These half-day sessions will take place at the Garden Museum.

There is a limited number of dates available, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

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