Friday, October 26, 2018

Tell a Story with Photos

by Susan Stephenson,

Telling a story with photos and text is wonderful for kids. It particularly appeals to those who like being succinct (or indeed, those who hate writing longer stories!) It’s also a way to help out those students who believe they can’t draw. Lots of teachers love it because there are so many great thinking skills and learning activities involved and they really benefit children’s writing and storytelling. The final result is proudly shared with friends and families. Kids can use a camera, or the built in camera on a phone or other digital device. If you scroll down, you'll discover two PDFs kids can use as models for their own stories.

So how do kids go about telling a story with photos? Here are some tips from The Book Chook!

Tips for Telling a Story with Photos

1. There’s no right or wrong way to start. Sometimes I begin with a story idea, and after that look for a way of telling my story in photos. Other times I look around and find some toys or other items I can use as characters in scenes I set up for my photo story. It’s quite often a bit of both, switching backwards and forwards. Let’s say you try starting with a story idea first.

2. Story ideas can come from anywhere. You could start with a joke, a nursery rhyme to retell, a fractured fairy tale, a headline from the newspaper, a word, or even some action figures you like. One story idea I had was a very short version of a longer story I once wrote for little kids. I wanted to tell that story in only five sentences, each with its own scene to photograph. I love LEGO, so I decided to use some LEGO characters I had. You can see the finished photo story, Looking for Treasure, in the image above.

3. On scrap paper, I drew five squares. In each square, I wrote one sentence and drew a very rough picture to match the sentence. This kind of plan is often called a storyboard. Get an idea of the storyboard I made for Looking for Treasure, below.

4. Now for the fun part! I set up my first scene, the one in Box 1. It just had my character starting his adventure, so I didn’t need complicated scenery, just the table top (ground and river) and a sheepskin I used for a backdrop. I popped my LEGO Ellie character into the scene and took some photos with my iPad camera. (Just in case some pics don’t work, I always take a couple, from different angles, perspectives and from different distances. Then I pick the best. ) I did the same thing for Box 2, 3, 4 and 5. Each time, I put characters where it looked best to me, and I tweaked my background to look good too. If I had one character looking sideways, i might try the next one in a closeup, front on, for variety.

5. Take a look at your photos and choose the ones you want to use. If you need to, try the process again and make things the way you want. You can be as creative as you want. You might decide to draw or paint special backgrounds. You might not like toys, but decide to make models from cardboard or sticks. In one longer photo story I made, A Tale of Two Wombats, I used a soft toy based on Jackie French’s Diary of a Wombat books. You can see A Tale of Two Wombats below.

6. Once you have the photos the way you want, it’s time to add your text. You could go back to the storyboard, or you might want to change any or all of the sentences there and rough out a new storyboard. Find some software that will allow you to add text - Word does this, so does Pages and online editors like PicMonkey. You could also handwrite on each photo once they're printed.

7. Now decide how you want to display your photo story. I often use Comic Life for telling digital stories as it’s software that lets you drop an image into a panel. You could make a slideshow. You could print the photos and story out and share them with other classes on a noticeboard. You might decide to make a digital class book or real physical book. Talk to your teachers, and your teacher librarian if you want more options. I made both Looking for Treasure, and A Tale of Two Wombats with Comic Life 3.

8. Time to reflect and think about what you created:

* Was the communication clear? Not just to you but to others?

* Was the story interesting or funny or cute?

* Were your photos a little different, each illustrating that part of your story?

* Did you try using different views in your photos, maybe some from the side, some from the front?

* What would you do differently next time?

* Which part of creating a five photo story did you enjoy the most?

PDFs: In conjunction with this article, I am offering the PDFs of the two photo stories above to any teacher, parent or librarian who would like to use them as models with children. Both are free to download from my website.

You might also like to read My Writing Tips for Kids series, Top Ways for Kids to Tell Digital Stories, or Tell a Tale with Comic Life.

I’ll be adding this article to my List of Great Ideas for Teaching Kids to Write.

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