Developing Self-Expression and Creativity
The goals of this practice are to enhance students' learning, self-expression, and creativity with projects and products, and build technology skills by using a range of media, including text, still images, audio, and video.
Practice in Action
What Is It?
Developing Self-Expression and Creativity involves using technology tools to produce a variety of creative works. Activities usually begin with a central theme or content area focus—for example, literacy for storytelling, journals and publications, science and math for reports, and arts through digital images and video production. Students work together in groups, with the instructor guiding the activity and assisting the groups. By completing these technology-enriched activities, students develop and enhance their technology skills.
What Do I Do?
Decide whether the project or product will focus on literature, science, math, art, or a combination of content areas. Consult with the school-day teacher to get ideas for an activity that will be enriching to a specific content area or theme that is currently being taught. Work with students to decide on an appropriate project or product. Tap students' interests, and include them in the planning process to increase their sense of ownership and participation in the activity. Form small teams or groups that are appropriate for the activity and your students' age level. As the project progresses, make any necessary adjustments and look for extension opportunities. When the project or product is complete, students could present their work to their families, friends, and the larger community. Evaluate the overall project experience, and plan the next one. After school programs have had success with a wide range of projects that connect to many subject areas and interests. Some examples include:
- Writing projects that use the World Wide Web (poetry or journalism)
- Video and multimedia projects that feature performing arts, writing, design, editing and animation (see example video on this page)
- Photography (digital and other formats)
- Music composition, recording, production, and engineering
- Documenting performing arts performances or presentations
- Technical aspects of the performing arts such as set design or lighting
Remember that assessing student skills, completing the activity, and determining computer needs are all part of the planning process. Getting Started: Considerations for Activity Planning (PDF) will help you get underway
Why Does It Work?
Students build independent thinking skills, gain ownership, and learn from one another when they are engaged in creative challenges.
Planning Your Lesson
Great afterschool lessons start with having a clear intention about who your students are, what they are learning or need to work on, and crafting activities that engage students while supporting their academic growth. Great afterschool lessons also require planning and preparation, as there is a lot of work involved in successfully managing kids, materials, and time.
Below are suggested questions to consider while preparing your afterschool lessons. The questions are grouped into topics that correspond to the Lesson Planning Template. You can print out the template and use it as a worksheet to plan and refine your afterschool lessons, to share lesson ideas with colleagues, or to help in professional development sessions with staff.
Lesson Planning Template Questions
What grade level(s) is this lesson geared to?
How long will it take to complete the lesson? One hour? One and a half hours? Will it be divided into two or more parts, over a week, or over several weeks?
What do you want students to learn or be able to do after completing this activity? What skills do you want students to develop or hone? What tasks do they need to accomplish?
List all of the materials needed that will be needed to complete the activity. Include materials that each student will need, as well as materials that students may need to share (such as books or a computer). Also include any materials that students or instructors will need for record keeping or evaluation. Will you need to store materials for future sessions? If so, how will you do this?
What do you need to do to prepare for this activity? Will you need to gather materials? Will the materials need to be sorted for students or will you assign students to be "materials managers"? Are there any books or instructions that you need to read in order to prepare? Do you need a refresher in a content area? Are there questions you need to develop to help students explore or discuss the activity? Are there props that you need to have assembled in advance of the activity? Do you need to enlist another adult to help run the activity?
Think about how you might divide up groups―who works well together? Which students could assist other peers? What roles will you assign to different members of the group so that each student participates?
Now, think about the Practice that you are basing your lesson on. Reread the Practice. Are there ways in which you need to amend your lesson plan to better address the key goal(s) of the Practice? If this is your first time doing the activity, consider doing a "run through" with friends or colleagues to see what works and what you may need to change. Alternatively, you could ask a colleague to read over your lesson plan and give you feedback and suggestions for revisions.
What to Do
Think about the progression of the activity from start to finish. One model that might be useful—and which was originally developed for science education—is the 5E's instructional model. Each phrase of the learning sequence can be described using five words that begin with "E": engage, explore, explain, extend, and evaluate. For more information, see the 5E's Instructional Model.
Outcomes to Look For
How will you know that students learned what you intended them to learn through this activity? What will be your signs or benchmarks of learning? What questions might you ask to assess their understanding? What, if any, product will they produce?
After you conduct the activity, take a few minutes to reflect on what took place. How do you think the lesson went? Are there things that you wish you had done differently? What will you change next time? Would you do this activity again?
Digital Storytelling (1-12)
Students create original stories that include text, drawings, photos, animation, audio, and video, and use technology tools, such as digital cameras and computers, to bring their stories to life.
Duration: Several sessions
- Enhance communication skills through asking questions, expressing opinions, constructing narratives, and writing for an audience
- Develop and strengthen computer skills using software that combines text, still images, audio, video, and other media
- Choose the technology tools that are appropriate for the skill level of your students. The following are some basic recommendations:
- One computer for every 2 to 3 students
- Word processing software and presentation software such as PowerPoint; some recommendations for Mac and PC platforms can be found in the Resources tab
- Digital cameras
- Tool for voice recording (most computers have this feature)
- Post-it notes or index cards and poster paper to use for creating the storyboards
- Internet access for instructor and student computers (optional)
- Electronic projector for instructor computer (optional)
- Microphones (optional)
- Scanner (optional)
Instructors should determine students' computer skills level and select appropriate technology tools. Instructors also should be familiar with multimedia software applications and equipment, or enlist the help of a volunteer who is.
- Become familiar with the digital storytelling process by completing at least one tutorial from the links on the Resources tab.
- Ask school-day teachers if digital storytelling might enrich learning in a particular academic content area.
- Arrange for volunteers to assist students.
What to Do
Introduce students to digital storytelling.
- Ask students what stories they first remember hearing. Who was the storyteller? What were their favorite stories? Which did they like telling themselves? Lead the discussion to digital storytelling. You may choose to project on screen examples of digital stories linked to from the Resources tab.
Explore some story ideas.
- Students might draw ideas from personal experiences, special events, their community, their school or afterschool program, family, and pets.
- After completing this brainstorming session, discuss what story the group wants to tell. Constructing a story as a group about a topic meaningful to them will help their learning of both the storytelling process and the software needed to develop a digital story.
- Note: This can be a group or individual activity. If this is the first time your group has created a story, a group effort may be easier to manage.
Draft a story (on paper) based on the chosen idea.
- Remind the class that they may make changes to the draft at any time. For younger students in particular, review basic storytelling concepts (a story has a beginning, middle, and end, for instance).
- As you guide your students through the storytelling process, use the seven main elements of digital storytelling, created by Joe Lambert, co-founder of the Center for Digital Storytelling. Visit the Resources page to read Lambert's Digital Storytelling Cookbook.
- Remember that the story—not the technology—should drive this project. Although audio and visual media may enhance certain aspects of a story, students should focus on how best to communicate what's at the core of their story.
- Different students can develop different parts of the story. Also, if this is your students' first experience with digital storytelling, keep the story short—no more than three minutes in length.
Introduce students to storyboarding.
- Hand out small colored sticky notes and sheets of paper with empty boxes drawn on them to resemble an empty cartoon strip. Take them through the story frame by frame, discussing the pictures through which—and the sequence in which—they will tell their story.
- After students have determined the text and picture sequence, discuss transitions, visual effects (if any), and a soundtrack. Always keep in mind the skill level of your students for planning ways to represent their ideas.
- For more resources that may be helpful for this part of the lesson, including links to digital images and sound clips that can be freely used, see the Resources tab.
Note: Working from a single computer with projection to create the group story would be greatly enhanced by use of an interactive whiteboard.
Help students prepare their final draft.
- Break the class into small groups based on age and skill level. Ask each small group to develop one or two pieces of the storyboard. One group will be in charge of assembling the pieces into one story using PowerPoint or another software application.
- If the group wishes to record narration, ask them to divide the story so that everyone gets to read. Before recording, demonstrate how to narrate effectively. Discuss the differences between using emotion and no emotion in your speech, and what effect quick or slow speech has on the story. Suggest that students practice the narration before recording.
View the group's story, then have students share their project with other students, teachers, and their parents.
- You can also share the community story with the community by posting it on your local Chamber of Commerce Web site, for example. If time allows, plan a follow-up activity in which students will develop individual stories.
Explain the value of collaboration in creating a digital story.
- Have each student tell a partner about the special contribution he or she made to the project and why it was important. As a group, discuss what students learned about storytelling. Allow students to add and change their story based on their new understanding.
Compare the two types of storytelling.
- As a class, discuss what students found to be most interesting about digital storytelling compared to traditional storytelling. Check for student understanding that, by using other media, stories can be far more than just text.
Outcomes to Look For
- Student participation and engagement
- A discussion that yields insightful comparisons between digital and traditional storytelling
- An understanding that media can help make stories far more than just text
Find and download a rubric for students to use to evaluate their projects.
What Makes our Community Special? (3-12)
Students use technology tools to discover and document unique features of their chosen community, and to collaborate on a final product—a storybook, newsletter, electronic presentation, poster, or Web site.
Duration: Several 45 to 60 minute sessions
- Work together collaboratively on a learning activity, using multiple technology tools
- Gain or enhance technology skills that can be used to communicate with an outside audience
- Integrate several academic areas, such as math, literacy, history, and art, into a multidisciplinary unit
- Instructions and student role assignments for each activity station
- Computers with an Internet connection
- Computers with graphing software or electronic spreadsheet and presentation applications
- Digital cameras
- Technology instruction guides
- Print resources about the community (from a local library or visitor's bureau)
- Brainstorming worksheets and pencils for note taking
Instructors should determine students' skill level with the Internet, digital cameras, electronic spreadsheets, and electronic publishing or presentation software, and select the appropriate technology tools. Instructors should also be familiar with these tools, or enlist the help of a volunteer who is. Instructors and volunteers should try out the activity ahead of time to make sure they understand the concepts and logistics.
- Consider the different communities that students might explore. Will it be the classroom, school, neighborhood, city, or other "community"?
- Organize activity stations and materials based on the available technology and tasks to be completed. Prepare instructions and student role assignments for each station and include these in folders.
- Develop a rotation schedule and a project timeline for activity stations.
- Provide a chart defining project expectations so that students will know what to include in their final projects.
- Assign students to work groups. Be mindful of different age and skill levels.
- Plan for, reserve, and test all necessary technology throughout all phases of the project.
- Print a brainstorming worksheet for each student to use during the introductory phase of the activity.
- Station 1: "Community Walkthrough"—digital still or video camera (1 per 3 students)
- Station 2: "Community Culture and History"—print resources and bookmarked Internet resources
- Station 3: "Community Profile"—online access to the U.S. Census bureau or other data source for data gathering about the community
- Station 4: "Project Creation"—final project assembly (groups may join to complete this station together)
What to Do
- Engage students by asking them to define "community" and identify what makes their community unique.
- Ask students the following questions. Record their answers on the board or have students make notes on their brainstorming worksheets:
- What are some notable features, places, landmarks, well-known persons, or popular events?
- What do they like about their community and what they might do to improve their community?
- How might they promote what is special about their community to others? Examples include a local newspaper or poster.
- What resources might they draw from to help communicate their ideas? Examples include magazines, newspapers, libraries, historical sources, personal profiles on the Internet, and photographs.
Gather essential information using technology.
- Explain the workstation setup and the technology at each station. Mention that what they gather from each workstation activity will be used in a final project.
- Divide students into groups of two or three, and assign one group to each station. If you have more than nine students for the first three stations, arrange for additional materials, computers, and digital cameras at each station.
- Explain that project teams will rotate through each station over three consecutive sessions to allow for equal use of the different technologies. Adjust schedule as necessary.
- Be sure to assist students with activities, If necessary, arrange for another adult to be present. Students should be allowed to go outside to take pictures nearby or within the school building.
- Once students have completed all the workstations, discuss as a group what they learned at each station, what they liked best, and why.
Explain the final project.
- Each project team can make an electronic poster, presentation, flyer, or newsletter to "publicize" what's special about their community using presentation software, word processing software, or other digital media. Share with students any project requirements you have, such as a minimum number of slides to prepare.
- Provide additional planning guidelines and solicit final project ideas from the entire group before they return to their project teams and getting started.
- If a computer is not available for each team, students should plan their slides or documents on paper before creating the final project on the computer.
Have students present their final projects to other students or adults.
- Discuss other projects that students could do using the same or other kinds of technology, and either the same or a similar workstation setup.
Outcomes to Look For
- Student discussion, comments, and final projects that reflect learning and an appreciation of their community
- When possible, students make connections to multiple content areas, (such as literacy, mathematics, science, and arts)
- Acquired or enhanced technology skills through use of various technology tools
- Collaborative participation and engagement
Getting the Word Out (8-12)
Students use blogs (an online journal or diary) to practice writing, share ideas, and interact with their peers.
Duration: Ongoing sessions of 30-45 minutes each (number of sessions determined by instructor)
- Understand the purpose and role of blogs for communication
- Develop self-expression and communication through blog entries and comments
- Improve reading and writing skills
- Improve word processing skills
- Computer with Internet access and projector (teacher)
- Computers with Internet access (students)
- Internet browser with bookmarked blogs
- Student blog accounts
- Copy of Internet safety guidelines for each student
- Signed parent permission forms if blogs will be viewed by the public
- Student blogging software (optional)
- Digital cameras (optional)
Education World provides great information for instructors who want to use blogging, including a techtorial to help you get started. The following blogging cautions are from that resource:
When blogging, remember to:
- get parental permission;
- know your school's and district's acceptable use policies (AUPs) and convey them to your students;
- avoid blogging sites that require students to publish their complete names and/or e-mail accounts;
- avoid sites that ask students for any personal information;
- make students aware of what subject matter is appropriate and permissible;
- teach students the importance of tone and respect for others' opinions;
- have clear expectations, rules, and consequences; and
- remember that with risk comes growth and learning.
For additional information on Internet safety and blogging, consult the following article:www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech/tech217.shtml/.
- Find age-appropriate examples of blogs to show to students. One possibility is Buster’s Blog (based on Buster’s character from the PBS animated series, Arthur (pbskids.org/buster/blog/). Conduct an Internet search for "student blogs" to find examples of other student work.
- For education and privacy purposes, consider Class Blogmeister (classblogmeister.com) or 21 Publish, two blogging tools that allow you to create multi-blogger communities where the instructor can review and edit student posts and comments before making them public.
- Investigate whether your school has any firewalls that will prevent you from visiting these Web sites.
- Review current online blogs from your local newspaper or television station.
- Practice posting blog entries, reviewing submissions (if this is an option with the blog host you use), and creating comments on entries.
What to Do
- Engage students by asking them what they know about blogs and what blogs they like (if they are familiar with them). Show some examples of blogs you have bookmarked and look at some student suggestions (after making sure they are appropriate for school). After telling students that they are going to create their own blogs, review Internet safety guidelines.
- Brainstorm blog topic ideas as a class and make one practice entry as a group.
- Assign each student a blog account with the host you have chosen and review the steps for creating and posting entries. Give students time to write about whatever interests them. Once they have become familiar with blogging, you can give them more structured assignments.
- Show students how to share blogs and post comments. They will be working "offline" at this point. Many blogs will allow users to upload pictures, audio files, or link to other sites. Once students have mastered blogging basics, show them how to personalize their blogs.
- Review completed blogs for appropriate content, and then post the entries online.
- Have students read each other's blog entries and post comments when the afterschool group meets again.
- Share blogs with parents, instructors, or students in another afterschool program.
- Consider making video blogs.
Outcomes to Look For
- Enhanced writing skills and the ability to express creative, logical, and clear thinking while following Internet safety guidelines
For more information and ideas to support this lesson, see the Resources tab.
Ringstaff, C., & Kelley, L. (2003). The learning return on our educational technology investment: A review of findings from research.San Francisco, CA: WestEd Regional Technology in Education Consortium in the Southwest.
George Lucas Educational Foundation. (2001). Project-based learning research.Retrieved June 22, 2007, from Project Based Learning Research
Jonassen, D. H., & Stollenwerk, D. (1999). Computers as mindtools for schools: Engaging critical thinking.NY: Pearson Education.
The following resources provide tutorials, examples, and guidelines for digital storytelling:
Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling
This site is a great place to begin preparing for a digital storytelling project. It's an excellent comprehensive resource which includes not only how-to directions for storytelling projects but also technology tutorials and digital story examples
Digital Storytelling Cookbook/Memory's Voices: A Guide to Digital Storytelling (PDF)
Authors Joe Lambert and Nina Mullen from the Center for Digital Storytelling have written a 100 page guidebook which includes "7 elements of a digital story" and directions for storyboarding and digitizing materials.
Lesson plan includes tutorials on creating a "multimedia story format" and an "interactive story format with multiple endings"
Digital Storytelling Resources
Instructor-created website includes ideas for digital stories across the curriculum, Inspiration templates, and examples of digital stories
Authors of the following articles have used digital storytelling in their classrooms and share their practical insights:
Sounds, music, and images can be downloaded for your students' digital stories from the following public domain sites:
Rubrics and Evaluation
A free source for several types of rubrics and templates for project evaluation
The following resources provide information about blogging in an educational context:
Blogging sites that can be used and privacy maintained if instructors create accounts to be viewed only by "friends" [other classmates] and the instructor.
Blogging tools that allow you to create multi-blogger communities where the instructor can review and edit student posts and comments before making them public.
Find local city information that also includes photos
Technology Tutorials for Teachers
This online site offers multiple tutorials and instruction for a variety of computer software applications including Adobe, FrontPage, Inspiration, KidPix, Kidspiration, Inspiration, MS PowerPoint and MS Word.