Books to Inspire Storytelling (With Tech Tools to Capture the Tales)

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At the beginning of each summer, as school is winding its way to the end, I inevitably pull out my books of ghost stories. I spend some quality time with the likes of Henry James, Robertson Davies, and Shirley Jackson and think back to when I was a child, roasting marshmallows and telling spooky tales over a campfire on a warm summer night. There are so many kids I see in my library with amazing and inventive stories to tell. Unfortunately some of these stories are never told, as the writing process does not come easily for everyone. Here is a list of books to inspire the oral tradition of storytelling and some tech tools that can help to capture these magical tales from the vivid imaginations of our students.

Podcasting

Two humorous stories about Coyote make up the book Coyote Tales by Thomas King, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler. In “Coyote Sings to the Moon,” Coyote causes the moon to become angry and hide at the bottom of the pond, in a tale explaining why coyotes howl at the moon. “Coyote’s New Suit” is the hilarious story of Coyote stealing the furs of animals, forcing them to steal people clothes off a clothesline.

These funny examples will inspire students to create their own animal tales or legends. Groups of students may decide to start a podcast featuring weekly animal tales. There are many podcasting apps you can download on an iPad/tablet or use the free web audio program, Audacity.

Stop Motion Animation

Wallpaper by Thao Lam is a wordless book with incredible textured collage illustrations that leap off the page. This picture book shows children that stories do not have to contain any words at all; they can be told simply through illustration.

Students can begin to create stories with pictures or take it a step further and create a stop motion video to tell their story using paper cut outs. These can be left wordless or an audio narration can be added. My favourite stop motion apps are Stop Motion Studio and Stikbot Studio (includes a green screen feature) because they are easy to use and free.

Ebook Creation

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Mr. Zinger’s Hat by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Dušan Petričić, is the story of a boy named Leo who accidently knocks the hat off local author, Mr. Zinger. Together they sit down and design a story using the inspiration they find by looking into the hat.

This story can lead to some shared storytelling between students because two imaginations are always better than one. Also, students stronger in writing can help others who may have great ideas but are not able to write them down. Students can use an e-book app, like Book Creator, to record and illustrate the story using audio instead of, or in addition to text.

Animation & Coding

A little boy struggles to record his ideas because he doesn’t know how to write words in A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Mike Lowery. His sister helps him to create symbols that represent his words and ideas, and encourages him to keep going with his story.

I love this book because it shows how some kids have such wonderful imaginations but can’t get their ideas on paper. Scratch Jr is an amazing app that can teach younger students the basics of coding and allow them to tell their stories. Characters and props (both pre-made and original), comic-style text, and voice are all options within the app. Students can code their characters to move and talk, as well as set up different backgrounds for each scene.

Video Creation

Alex and The Other is one of the chapter books in Philippa Dowding’s Weird Stories Gone Wrong series. Illustrated by Shawna Daigle, with creepy black and white illustrations, the book is about a boy who feels that he is invisible most of the time. Through a series of strange events, Alex meets his doppelganger who tries to take over his life. He must use his wits to defeat the evil twin and gain the confidence he needs to be seen.

Any of the spooky stories in this series are excellent inspiration for kids to come up creative and spooky tales. A great way to capture these stories is through a video recording with greenscreen background using the TouchCast Studio app (green wrapping paper from the dollar store can work as a greenscreen background). Students can orally tell their stories with spooky images in the background (wrap a green blanket around the student’s body and they can narrate the tale as a floating head!).

Online Storytelling

Once Upon a Line by Wallace Edwards is an imaginative picture book that uses the same drawn line to create various different pictures. Each picture includes the opening line of a story.

Students can use these first lines to create their own stories or use the idea of a single line to create different pages for a book. StoryJumper is a free website where students can create online stories with images, text, and audio.

Boosting Reading and Writing

Sit by Deborah Ellis is a collection of short stories that was nominated for this year’s Silver Birch Fiction award. These realistic stories all begin with places where the main characters sit. From Jafar, a boy who works in a furniture factory in Jakarta to Sue, a girl being shuffled from one parent to another, the kids in these snippets show incredible resilience in the face of adversity.

Deborah Ellis’ short stories will prompt students to write realistic fiction or creative nonfiction stories about their lives. For students who struggle with writing, Google Read&Write is a fabulous add on to the Google Chrome browser for voice to text and word prediction that helps get ideas onto paper.

Comic Book and Graphic Novel Creation

Four terrifying Inuit folktales make up The Shadows that Rush Past by Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley, illustrated by Emily Fiegenschuh & Larry MacDougall. Accompanied by wonderful ghastly illustrations, this book is guaranteed to capture the attention of junior/intermediate students. In “The Amautalik,” a horrible monster crawling with giant lice kidnaps a boy and takes him to her lair. In “The Mahaha,” another terrible creature kills a young woman, prompting a struggle for revenge.

These scary stories from the Arctic will inspire students to create terrifying tales of their own. One way to capture them is through the creation of a comic or graphic novel. Pixton for Schools is a great option where teachers can easily set up accounts for students to tell their stories using amazing comic images and minimal text.

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Allison

Allison Hall is a Teacher-Librarian at a K-8 public school in Brampton, Ontario. She is passionate about creativity and empowering students. She is also a bit of a Lego addict.

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July 18, 2019
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