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Storytelling Saves the World: Integrating Moviemaking into Your Curriculum

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Explore and create : Creation lab

Jessica Pack  
Georgia Terlaje  

Learn the instructional strategy that teachers in Palm Springs Unified School District are using to engage diverse learners and enfranchise student voices: digital storytelling. Students exercise autonomy and showcase mastery through telling their own powerful stories. Participants will use WeVideo and/or Adobe Creative Cloud Express to create their projects.

Audience: Teachers, Coaches, Professional developers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Some type of video editing software. Recommendations include iMovie, WeVideo, Adobe Creative Cloud Express etc.
Topic: Storytelling/multimedia
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: Language arts, ESL
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.
For Students:
Knowledge Constructor
  • Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
Creative Communicator
  • Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Attendees will create a short digital storytelling project, which can be implemented in any grade or content level via distance learning or face to face instruction. Attendees will understand how to structure these projects to showcase student learning and how to scaffold English learners for success. The educational challenge that will be presented is how to engage students in language practice that is authentic and relevant to the broader pictures of their lives. A variety of student-created examples will be shown as anchor projects. Attendees will leave with a clear understanding of the value of digital storytelling as an instructional strategy aimed at building student creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking in all students, especially English language learners.


1. Welcome, presenter introductions, attendee introductions (if number allows) 3 minutes
2. Description of educational context in which presenters work (i.e. student and community demographics, barriers). Indentifying the challenge: Making core content and language practice engaging for all students, especially English language learners. 5 minutes
3. Film angle mini-lesson =targeted to teach the 4 basic film angles (wide, medium, over-the-shoulder and close up) 5 minutes
4. "I Am Poem" project description and student-created sample videos. Attendess will view 3 short sample projects from different content areas and grade levels. Presenters will walk attendees through the lesson sequence from start to finished video project. 10 minutes
5. Main Hands-On Activity: Attendees will write and create an "I Am" poem project pertinent to a subject and grade level of their choice. Attendees will use a video editing software of their choice to execute this task. Suggestions include WeVideo, Adobe Creative Cloud Express or iMovie. 50 minutes
6. Viewing Party - several attendee projects will be shown and discussed as a group. During this discussion,, presenters will focus on the importance of authentic audiences for student work, and how to structure critical feedback to build creative confidence and growth. 10 minutes
7. Presenters will briefly identify potential pitfalls when creating this project with students and make recommendations for a smooth production process. 5 minutes
10. Closing and additional resources 2 minutes

Supporting research

Professors from the university of California Irvine published a research-based article about the digital storytelling initiative in Palm Springs Unified School District, where the presents teach and coach. This article appears in the "International Literacy Association" publication and is entitled: "Digital Storytelling: A District Initiative for Academic Literacy Improvement."

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Jessica Pack, James Workman Middle School

As a middle school teacher for 16 years and a California Teacher of the Year (2014), Jessica has continually worked to redefine what learning looks like in her classroom. An ISTE author, Jessica's book, Moviemaking in the Classroom, will be released in August 2021. She is an advocate for student choice and voice, as demonstrated by the original content her students regularly publish for a global audience. She also spent over a decade as a professional development instructor and Consulting Teacher for a digital storytelling non-profit organization called DIGICOM Learning, aimed at promoting moviemaking in southern California classrooms.

Georgia Terlaje, Palm Springs Unified School District

Georgia Terlaje has taught for 31 years and is currently and instructional coach for Palm Springs Unified. She has used digital storytelling as an instructional strategy for 11 years and has presented on the topic at both regional and national conferences. She was also instrumental in creating PSUSD’s first elementary film festival that is now in it’s 4th year. Georgia is also a teacher-consultant for DIGICOM Learning. In this role, she is a lead instructor for professional development courses for teachers in the area of digital storytelling. Georgia has a digital storytelling podcast, “Storytelling Saves the World”.

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