Sometimes I get a serious mental block about something. I’ve had one about digital storytelling, which is why I haven’t posted anything on this blog in far too long. I know what digital storytelling is. I love it. I can imagine it being a tremendously amazing force in a classroom. I want my students to use it to create something incredible, beautiful, thought-provoking, and moving. I want them to move their audience to tears or to action. Then I remember that we are currently learning how to order food in a restaurant. And thus begins my mental block.
Although Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling says, “Digital storytelling at its most basic core is the practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories,” the 7 Elements of Digital Storytelling seem beyond what I feel able to link to what I am covering in my classes. Honestly, a dramatic question and emotional content are a bit tough to have beginning foreign language students incorporate into a digital story. Even on the adapted list for elements to include in digital storytelling for educational uses, the need for “a dramatic question” still remains. We may pose the question “Qu’est-ce que tu as fait le weekend dernier?” (“What did you do last weekend?”), but that isn’t exactly a “dramatic question”. I’m a little afraid that any attempt at a dramatic question or emotional content will end up resembling Flight of the Conchord’s song, “Fou da Fa Fa,” and not in a good way! As much as I really do love that song (grammatical errors and all), I’m not sure I want to do a middle school version of it and proudly call it “digital storytelling.”
So, I decided to do some digital storytelling in my classes, but adapt it to the needs of my students who are just learning how to use the past tenses in French. The end result may not even qualify as digital storytelling since it has no dramatic question. The story isn’t even original. It is actually digital storyREtelling, not telling. But despite those flaws, it was an amazing project for my students and it was perfectly appropriate for their language development.
My advanced 7th and advanced 8th grade French classes had both been studying the passé composé (a past tense), and they read the short story “Le chouette bouquet” from the classic children’s book, Le Petit Nicolas. Reading this story was challenging for my students, but gave them the opportunity to see the past tense in a more authentic context. The story is written from the first person perspective of Nicolas. For a digital story(re)telling project, my students were to retell the story from the third person point of view. Some groups did the retell in the past tense, but some groups were not ready to use the past tense themselves, and they were able to retell the story in the present tense if they chose to do so. My 8th graders did the retelling project as an RSA video. My 7th graders were allowed to retell the story with an RSA video, with a digital comic, or a traditional comic. Only a few groups of 7th graders chose to do the RSA video option, but the ones who made an RSA video had great results.
My students prepared by doing a storyboard first, and then practiced drawing the full story a few times, as well as telling the story while using their notes for practice. Because I didn’t want my 8th grade students to just read the storyboard for the actual recording, they were not allowed to have access to any notes. They had to tell the story from memory for the final recording. My 7th graders were allowed to have notes, but they were supposed to keep the use of those notes to a minimum. I am still finding it a challenge to balance my desire to have a polished final product with the fact that I also want my students’ speaking to be as authentic as possible. Even without using their notes, I am still proud of how the final projects went. They worked out pretty well for a first digital story(re)telling project.
We’ll keep working on a “dramatic question” for an end of the year project!
Blendspace with the 8th grade Digital Story(re)telling Projects:
Here is also a really cute video that some of my 7th graders did.