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Green screen storytelling process

The Team

Group shot of the Nome Stories of Culture and Place Storytelling project team. 


Thanks to the Team:

!- Nikki Polk, 4TH grade teacher

!- Justin Heinrich, Nome Elem. Tech. leader

!- Kim Ryan, teacher aide


All the students of Miss Polk's class - you are wonderful storytellers!

Pre-step 1: Plan, paint, permissions

Plan: Make sure teachers and tech support understand the process. Involve administrators; make sure they know how the school will be involved, and also understand the great work the students are going to produce. Get parent permissions: This is key because their children are being recorded.  Create a green background: There are a number of ways to do this. There are background cloths and sheets that you can buy. For this project we painted a wall green. I like this because it defines a performance area that can be re-used.

Pre-step 2: Teacher delivers unit

Nikki Polk, the students' 4th grade teacher, leads a unit of instruction prior to the storytelling project to guide the project's content. I never provide the content. I am there to support teachers with their content. If I do the techno magic and the content, it is like the circus comes to town. When I leave, it is hard for teachers to apply what I introduced to the class. But if I let teachers and students adapt their own content, then they own the process.

Pre-step 3: A unit on local cultural values

The unit of instruction focused on local cultural values. Ms. Polk addressed these in ways that will help guide the direction and moral of the stories that students create. The cultural values are reviewed when the storytelling project begins.

Step 1: I tell a story

I model how to tell a story. This is a 'stand and deliver' storytelling, with lots of movement, voice inflection, facial gestures. Then we talk about what made it work, what I might have done differently, The point of this story is to model storytelling. To model story development I tell another story, a bad (boring) story, and have students help me rebuild it. The point is to get students to see beyond beginning, middle, end, and to begin using the story core: problem-transformation-solution.

Step 2: I map the story

I demonstrate how to "map" the story, showing where the problem, resolution, and character development and transformation are in the story. The mapping approach used is Dillingham's VPS (Visual Portrait of a Story), which I have adapted for use in digital storytelling. I stress how characters transform as a result of their circumstances.

Step 3: I teach storytelling

Add Description hereI show students how to tell effective through use of "sound, motion and expression" (Dillingham). Here I am teaching them to act as my sound and motion effects for a story I make up on the spot. I borrow a good deal from Drew Carey's show, Who's Line is it Anyway for exercises.

Step 4: I lead a story storming session

I lead a brainstorm about finding stories from within us, a process I call "storystorming." Students think about stories in terms of a problem, a solution, and the changes characters undergo to solve problems.

Step 5: Students map their stories

Students choose a story, usually from the story storming session, and map it. Often I will have students peer pitch their stories, using their maps. Students get 2 minutes to pitch their students, usually in groups of 3-4. The critique asks if each point in the story core (problem-trasnformation-resolution) interesting? And does each make sense?

Step 6: Students tell their stories

Students stand and tell their stories for the first time in front of the entire class. I demonstrate how to critique the story by explaining what I think was strong about it, as well as what could be stronger. As stated earlier, often the critque asks the question: Is each point in the core (proble-transformatio-resolution) interesting? Do each make sense?

Step 7: Students write their stories

After telling their stories, students write them. They use "the writing process," going through as many iterations as curriculum goals require. Note that writing their stories is step 7- often, in other approaches to story development, it is step 1. I find that when students get kinesthetic with their narrative first, they write better. That's why we wait to write until after they map and perform their stories.

Step 8: Students tell, retell, critique their stories

Students tell, retell their stories, as well as critique each other's stories, in pairs or small groups.

Step 9: Students create background artwork

Students create 3-5 pictures that they will "slide" behind their recorded performances in the post-production process. Typically these are done with simple materials: crayons, pencils, standard paper. They can use anything for background material: movies, photos, downloaded images. But I love it when they make their own artwork. 

Step 10: Students scan their artwork

Students scan their artwork to be used in the post-production process. This is only necessary if they are producing "real" art (vs. using downloaded artwork or taking photos.)

Step 11: Students perform in front of green wall before an audience

Students perform before an audience in front of their "green screen," which is usually a wall painted green. The audience usually consists of their classmates, parents and invited guests. scan their artwork to be used in the post-production process. This is only necessary if they have produced "real" art (vs. use downloaded artwork).

Step 12: Students record their performances

Students video record their performances. As many students as possible are involved to do all the tasks, including running the camera, placing the wireless mike on the storyteller, being the floor manager ("All quiet on the set. Counting down: 5, 4, 3 [silently] 2, 1"), managing the performance schedule, etc.

Step 13: Students create "title" music

To make this an all-original production, students should create music that plays when the DVD launches (much like a commercial DVD). In the case of this project, students sang a song that their teacher, Ms. Nikki Polk, wrote and played on her guitar. Other options: GarageBand creations, recording local performers...

Step 14: Students trained to use chroma editing

Here Nome Elementary Technology leader, Justine Heinrich, is showing students how to do "green screen" chroma editing. They are using iMovie with a special plug-in ($30). Justin reported that the students did all the work, including basic movie editing, chroma editing, and DVD production. This is an older version of iMovie. Newer versions come with green screening as a standard option.

Step 15: Students add artwork using chroma editing

Students add their scanned artwork behind their performances, replacing the green of the wall with their original drawings.

Step 15, continued... Voila!

In the slide above you can see these performers on stage in front of the green screen. Here, they have replaced the green with their artwork.

Step 16: Students edit, peer tutor, master, copy their DVDs

Students help each other edit their movies, create and master the DVD.

Step 17: Give copies to parents, students, participants

Everyone involved with the project was given a copy of the final DVD, including - and especially - parents. It is a good idea to make as many copies of the DVD as possible and give them to school board and community members, as well as anyone else you feel should know about the great activities your school promotes.

Step 18: Celebration and public showing

It's important to celebrate success! And one of the best ways to do that is to have a public showing of students' work. A final group showing is a great event. Invite the school and community!


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