Monday, July 16, 2012

Making a Digital Story with Kids - Guest Post

Kim Chatel is an author, fiber artist and photographer. She regularly visits schools and libraries, bringing her art and books to students and inspiring them to create their own. Visit Kim at Chatel Village, where you’ll find recipes, movies, book reviews, contests, crafts, and her latest children's book, “Horse Camp” It's the fuzziest website on the Net!

Making a Digital Story with Kids
by Kim Chatel

Genna's Digital Story, Cat Love
Children’s ability to absorb knowledge is always astounding, especially with technology. They don’t have to be told more than once how to use a remote or control a video game. They take naturally to the keyboard and computers. And while parents might groan about children being ‘plugged in,’ computer time doesn’t have to be down time. Apart from the many programs for learning, simple paintshop or movie-making programs can bring out a child’s creativity, while sating the need for computers.

As an experiment, my ten year-old daughter, Genna, and I made a simple digital story in movie format, using Mac’s iMovie. I should mention at this point, that I make video trailers for a living, so I have an unfair advantage in movie-making knowledge. However, there are many movie programs that are user-friendly and part of the silly fun can be about learning them together. For me, I enjoyed sharing a big part of my work-life with Genna.

Genna’s movie , Cat Love, took about an hour to make. I wouldn’t suggest a longer project for first-timers.

If you'd like to try telling a digital story with your children, choose your software first, and get to know it. PhotoStory is a nice program for Windows and Macs mostly come with iMovie. We collected images from royalty free sites. Check out this list of royalty-free media resources. It can give you an opening to talk about copyright with your child. Just because something is “free” on the internet, doesn’t mean the copyright is “free” to use.

Next, create a rough storyboard. Genna decided on a story about cats. We created our storyboard after looking at some pictures to give us ideas, then wrote a simple script. Distilling a story down to a few words is a difficult and creative task even for an adult. It’s a talent kids will use many times in their school careers and beyond. Once we had the images and script, putting it together was easy. Genna loved playing with all the special effects, and transitions.

The last element was music and sound effects. She was intrigued (as I am) with how the mood of the movie changed with different clips of music. We spent much time giggling over silly sound effects.

Here are a few tips for parents eager to make movies with their children. Resist the urge to do it all. Let your child stumble over the keyboard, make mistakes and go back. I made sure that all the big decisions were Genna’s, including the text, images and music, but I steered the little decisions, like making the font larger and in an easy-to-read color. She was so proud of her movie when done, she squealed through the first showing!

Afterwards, I asked Genna to answer a few questions about making movies:

Kim: Did you find making a movie fun, hard, easy?

Genna: Fun because I got to do it with my mommy.

Kim: What was your favorite part of making a movie?

Genna: Adding music and sound effects. I thought the sound effects were really silly.

Kim: Was it hard to learn how to make a movie?

Genna: No. The program was easy to understand.

Kim: Would you make movies again in the future?

Genna: Yes. I would like to make them with my friends.

Kim: What other uses can you see for movies like this?

Genna: I could do them for projects in school like science projects or community service messages. I could teach other kids about things that are important to me.

With the abundance of programs available, kids can explore movie-making in new and extraordinary ways. This is the generation that will grow up in a truly multimedia world and I can’t wait to see-hear-feel the art they will create.


Thanks Kim! If readers are interested in more detail about making book video previews, Kim has generously provided excellent, comprehensive instructions on her website.


  1. Anonymous17 July, 2012

    Fantastic post! I would like to try this out during the summer holidays, when we have some time to spare. Thanks for sharing!

  2. @childtasticbooksGreat! Please come back and leave the link to your movie when it's done!

  3. This is a great post and a great idea. I think this would be fun to do over summer break with kids.

  4. @Jackie H.Do let us know ow it goes, Jackie!

  5. This was super-helpful (both the explanation and the links). I can put them together in a way so that students can do better productions more independently. Thanks!

    Janet |

  6. @Janet Abercrombie Great to know, Janet. Video trailers are such a great way to get kids creating, and thinking about communication.

  7. is also a great way for kids to make a movie using their own artwork and voice or music! Easy and simple, a kindergartener can do it! Free and teacher accounts are free, too!


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