Project Members

Farin, Emily, & Lara


For this unit, fifth grade students will be creating digital story telling projects about diverse world cultures. The digital novel Inanimate Alice ( is used to introduce students to the world of digital storytelling and its possibilities as a narrative format. While our lessons will cover many education standards, a major focus will be the Maryland State Curriculum's strand "Peoples of the Nation and World." To meet this curriculum standard in an interesting, technology-based way, students will learn how to use several technological resources and the Photo Story 3 Program to create a multimedia story telling experience that includes images, text, and audio about a selected world culture.

The Topic & Standards

In our lesson, fifth graders at a Montgomery County elementary school will learn the facets of digital storytelling and research a foreign country. At the end of the lessons, we hope to change the student's perception of narrative writing to show that technology can be used to enhance the standard text and pictures in a story. Each student will write a story that takes place in a specific country. The story will include specific facts and cultural details about the country. Inanimate Alice (, the Web-based novel about a young girl's travels across the globe with her family, inspired our lesson plans. Alice's tales incorporate the many ways a story can be told using text, sound, images, and even interactive games while educating the reader about the country where she resides in each episode. We will use Photo Story 3 to teach students how to build a narrative similar to Alice's about the local cultures of different countries. The story must include all of the necessary storytelling components, such as characters, plot, and dialog, as well as show the information students learned about the culture of the place they visit in their story. Our students will be required to research, use multiple forms of technology, and learn about writing narratives which in turn encompasses many learning standards. While the achievement level varies among the students, the lesson plans will be structured to ensure that all students will be able to reach the educational goals the teacher and library media specialist have set for them. Plenty of classroom assistance will be available to the students that require it. The standards that will be covered in the lesson plans include requirements for teacher guidance as well as individual choices. Project guidelines for the Photo Story 3 production and other instructional aids will be provided to students to make the project's objectives clear to students. We will cover the Montgomery County Public Schools curriculum, Maryland's state curriculum, Common Core standards, NETS Student Standards, and American Association of School Librarians' (AASL) Standards for the 21st Century Learner in our lesson plans. The connection between the standards taught in the lessons is generally a natural one, born from the nature of the digital storytelling process. Our goal is to incorporate these standards without draining the fun from the lessons.

From the Maryland state curriculum, we will use the following elements:
Social Studies, Grade 5:Standard 2.0 Peoples of the Nation and the World
Student will understand the diversity and commonality, human interdependence, and global cooperation of the people of Maryland, the United States, and the World through a multicultural and a historic perspective.

Reading/ELA, Grade 5:
Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text
Students will read, comprehend, interpret, analyze, and evaluate literary text.
Indicator 2. Analyze text features to facilitate understanding of literary textsObjectives:a. Identify and explain how organizational aids such as the title of the book, story, poem, or play, titles of chapters, subtitles, subheadings contribute to meaning.b. Identify and explain how graphic aids such as pictures and illustrations, punctuation, print features contribute to meaning.

Standard 4.0 Writing
Students will compose in a variety of modes by developing content, employing specific forms, and selecting language appropriate for a particular audience and purpose.
Indicator 5. Assess the effectiveness of choice of details, organizational pattern, word choice,syntax, use of figurative language, and rhetorical devices in the student's own composing.
a. Assess the effectiveness of word choice that reveals a student's purpose for writing.
  • Language appropriate for a particular audience.
  • Language suitable for a given purpose.
  • Words/phrases/sentences that extend meaning in a given context.
b. Explain how specific words/phrases/sentences affect reader/listener response.
c. Examine and use transitions showing importance and relation such as "because," "additionally," "unless," "although," and "so."

Standard 5.0 Controlling Language
Students will control language by applying the conventions of standard English in speaking and writing.
Topic C: Mechanics
Indicator 2. Apply standard English punctuation and capitalization in written language.
a. Use commas correctly in direct address and to separate adjectives and parenthetical expressions such as on the other hand, for example, by the way.
b. Use apostrophes in plural possessives and nouns that end in –s.
c.Use quotation marks and commas in dialogue.
Topic D: Spelling
Indicator 2. Apply conventional spelling in written language.
a. Spell grade-appropriate high-frequency and content words.
b. Spell multi-syllabic words with complex spelling patterns.
c.Use suitable traditional and electronic resources as a spelling aid.

We will use multiple Montgomery County Public Schools Curriculum standards in our lessons:
Reading/Language Arts
  • Determines purpose and audience and maintains focus for writing.
  • Revises writing by using criteria or checklists.
  • Edits writing using standard English language conventions correctly (complex sentence structure, varied punctuation, usage) to clearly communicate message.
  • Selects appropriate structures and features of language for purpose, audience, and content.
  • Shows evidence of traits of effective writing.
  • Uses resources effectively to spell words.
  • Connects descriptions in ways that make a topic clear and interesting to the reader.
  • Uses strong beginnings to engage the reader.
  • Develops a research question based on a selected topic and uses multiple resources to locate information.

Because MCPS is moving to implement Common Core Standards, these standards will be incorporated:
English Language Arts Standards - Writing - Grade 5
Text Types and Purposes
W.5.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
a. Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
b. Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, description, and pacing, to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.
c. Use a variety of transitional words, phrases, and clauses to manage the sequence of events.
d. Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely.
e. Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.

Production and Distribution of Writing
W.5.6 With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with other.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge
W.5.7 Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.

Range of Writing
W.5.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

The following ISTE NETS Student Standards will also be applied:
1. Creativity and Innovation
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
a. Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes.
b. Create original works as a means of personal or group expression.

3. Research and Information Fluency
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.
a. Plan strategies to guide inquiry.
b. Locate, organize, analyze, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.
c. Evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on appropriateness for specific tasks.
d. Process data and report results.

5. Digital Literacy
Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.
a. Advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.
b. Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.
c. Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning.
d. Exhibit leadership for digital citizenship.

6. Technology Operations and Concepts
Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations.
a. Understand and use technology systems.
b. Select and use applications effectively and productively.
c. Troubleshoot systems and applications.
d. Transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies.

AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner will also be important to our lesson plan, because the research lesson will be co-taught by the library media specialist:
1. Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.
1.1 Skills
1.1.1 Follow an inquiry-based process in seeking knowledge in curricular subjects, and make the real world connection for using this process in own life.
1.1.2 Use prior and background knowledge as context for new learning.
1.1.6 Read, view, and listen for information presented in any format (e.g., textual, visual, media, digital) in order to make inferences and gather meaning.
1.1.8 Demonstrate mastery of technology tools for accessing information and pursuing inquiry.

1. 2 Dispositions in Action
1.2.3 Demonstrate creativity by using multiple resources and formats.
1.2.6 Display emotional resilience by persisting in information searching despite challenges.

1.3 Responsibilities
1.3.1 Respect copyright/intellectual property rights of creators and producers.
1.3.5 Use information technology responsibly.

1.4 Self-Assessment Strategies
1.4.1 Monitor own information-seeking processes for effectiveness and progress, and adapt as necessary.
1.4.2 Use interaction with and feedback from teachers and peers to guide own inquiry process.
1.4.3 Monitor gathered information, and assess for gaps or weaknesses.
1.4.4 Seek appropriate help when it is needed.

2. Draw conclusions, make formed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.
2.1 Skills
2.1.1 Continue an inquiry-based research process by applying critical- thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, evaluation, organization) to information and knowledge in order to construct new understandings, draw conclusions, and create new knowledge.
2.1.2 Organize knowledge so that it is useful.
2.1.3 Use strategies to draw conclusions from information and apply knowledge to curricular areas, real-world situations, and further investigations.
2.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to analyze and organize information.
2.1.6 Use the writing process, media and visual literacy, and technology skills to create products that express new understandings.

2.2 Dispositions in Action
2.2.4 Demonstrate personal productivity by completing products to express learning.

2.3 Responsibilities
2.3.2 Consider diverse and global perspectives in drawing conclusions.

3. Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society.
3.1 Skills
3.1.3 Use writing and speaking skills to communicate new understandings effectively.
3.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use, and assess.
3.1.6 Use information and technology ethically and responsibly.

3.3 Responsibilities
3.3.7 Respect the principles of intellectual freedom.

4. Pursue personal and aesthetic growth.
4.1 Skills
4.1.3 Respond to literature and creative expressions of ideas in various formats and genres.
4.1.5 Connect ideas to own interests and previous knowledge and experience.

The Setting and Context

Our lesson will be taught in a fifth grade classroom at Greenwood Elementary School, a public school located in Brookeville, Maryland, an area of upper Montgomery County. The Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) system is the largest school system in Maryland and the 16th largest school system in the United States. It serves 144,064 students in 200 schools. Because of its large size, many policies, including those that concern technology, are made at the county level and cannot be controlled by individual teachers or schools. The complications of this will be discussed in further detail below.

The MCPS system is currently transitioning to the Common Core State Standards through the development of its own county-wide curriculum, called Curriculum 2.0. The new curriculum has a strong focus on critical and creative thinking through the integration of technology, arts, sciences, and social studies into the core subject areas of reading, writing, and math. However, Curriculum 2.0 has not been written for fifth grade yet, and will not be available until the 2014-2015 school year. Until Curriculum 2.0 is available, fifth grade teachers will continue to use the old MCPS curriculum. However, many upper-grade elementary teachers have been encouraged by their administrators to begin integrating subjects and increasing their use of technology in daily lessons. Our unit lessons will use the fifth grade Common Core State Standards as well as the unit topics of the current MCPS fifth grade social studies, reading, and writing curriculums, but we will introduce new technologies that are not specified in the curriculum. Augmenting or changing lessons from the old MCPS curriculum is a common practice among MCPS teachers and will not pose additional boundaries to our unit plans.

In this MCPS elementary school, the students are a highly motivated group of learners. The demographics of the fifth grade classroom in which we will work closely mirror the school’s racial and economic statistics: approximately 10% of the student population is Asian, 6.5% Black, 8.5% Hispanic, 70% White, and 5% are of mixed race. 5.5% of the students have qualified for FARMS. One of the students in this particular class reads at a second grade level and has qualified for special education services. He has an IEP which allows all test materials to be read to him. Another student is in the ESOL program but has made significant progress since her arrival in third grade from Honduras. A meeting is set up for next month to discuss releasing her from the ESOL program. One student has a 504 plan for a speech impediment but is described as a “gifted“ learner. Additionally, the teacher has highlighted that two of the students have difficulties organizing themselves, especially with multi-day assignments, and are on a behavior contract to assist them with self-monitoring their learning behaviors. Finally, four students have been identified as “gifted” and participate in the William and Mary reading program with the reading specialist. While the social economic status of Montgomery County residents and the residents of Brookeville varies, in general, the students from Greenwood Elementary come from mainly middle to upper middle class families and a small portion of high-income families.

The final unit project will be planned, taught, and assessed collaboratively with the fifth grade classroom teacher. The lessons for the project will be planned for a time shortly following the teacher’s teaching or reviewing of some of the foundational language arts skills necessary for the project. During these lessons the LMS will introduce students to the technologies in fixed and flexible computer lab sessions, while the teacher is there to assist and support students. The development of this project’s lessons will pose a challenge on the teacher and LMS to find planning time, as their daily schedules do not accommodate this. Their only mutual free time is before or after student hours or during the student’s lunch/recess period.

In addition to the challenge of the LMS and teacher finding mutual planning time, there is a scheduling challenge in the computer lab. Each homeroom class has a fixed 45 minute period in the computer lab each week. This allows for some supplementary flexible scheduling, but it is minimal. Additionally the computer lab is used as a testing center for MAP-R and MAP-M at three points throughout the school year. During those times the computer lab is closed for a three week period. To help assuage this situation, the school LMC has purchased 25 Dell laptop computers which are stored on a cart that can be reserved by classroom teachers. The laptops are connected to the school network and can do all of the same functions as the desktops in the computer lab. The laptops will be used for our lessons if the computer lab is unavailable. The laptops require a small additional amount of time for set-up and clean-up that is not required when using the computer lab.

The majority of students in this school have computer and Internet access at home. Students are familiar with a variety of software including, but not limited to: Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Type 2 Learn, and Paint (the image creation/editing program). Students know how to choose files from organized folders, attach and upload files (including pictures), and save files in appropriate locations. Students also have a general knowledge of photo editing software techniques such as cropping and resizing. This allows us to plan a lesson that builds upon the students’ current background knowledge and extends that knowledge through teaching them the specific use of Photo Story 3 program, something that they have not used in school before this unit.

The technology skill of teachers at Greenwood varies, but the 5th grade teacher with whom we are working is fairly average within the school. Her main use for the computer is e-mail, which is how she communicates with parents and other staff members. She often uses Word and PowerPoint to create worksheets and presentations for lessons. She also uses the internet on a regular basis to find lesson ideas, resources, and images but has never incorporated Web 2.0 technologies into her lesson plans with the students. Each 5th grade classroom has a mounted Promethean board, and the classroom teacher reports that she uses her board from time to time, but wishes that she knew how to use more of its features. The teacher demonstrates a willingness to learn technologies and is quick to pick them up once they are presented. She apologizes for her current low level of technology use in lessons and says that she wishes she had more time and professional development for learning different programs. Her willingness to learn allows us to incorporate the use of new technologies into our lessons. Before the lessons in this unit are taught, the teacher will be given a quick overview of Photo Story 3 and CultureGrams. Therefore the teacher will be able to assist the LMS in providing support to students during the lesson.

The computer lab at Greenwood Elementary has 30 desktop computers. One computer is designated as the “teacher computer” and is hooked up to a projector and Promethean board. There is a color and monochrome printer located in the computer lab. The LMC has eight desktop computers, one of which is designated strictly for catalog use. There are also three small computer labs with 10 desktop computers in each; however these labs are reserved for K-2, the grades that are implementing the Curriculum 2.0. Each classroom in the school has two desktop computers. All computers in the labs and classrooms are linked into the network and have access to a reliable high speed internet connection. As mentioned above, there are 25 Dell Laptops on a cart and a Promethean board in the 5th grade classroom. The LMC has cameras and video cameras that can be checked out. There are no tablets or mobile devices. Students are allowed to bring their cell phones to school but there is a strict policy on maintaining them silent and in student backpacks. For our lessons we will need all students to have access to a computer for all three lessons. Additionally they will need to access a computer between lessons to complete any unfinished work. We will do one of the sessions in the fixed computer lab time, and the other two will either be scheduled into flexible time or through the use of the computer cart. The teacher will sign-up for any additional time that is required for work completion. Due to the computer situation, we must be flexible in our scheduling and choose times when the resources are available to us. This is not a difficult task, but planning well in advance makes this task much easier.

A large limitation on technology use is the MCPS district-wide policy of filtering social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace and video sharing sites such as Youtube. While Web 2.0 programs such as Glogster and StoryBird are not blocked by MCPS’s filters, teachers are advised against using any site that saves students’ work externally rather than on the school’s network. This is because MCPS would like to be able to monitor and control content that students create. In sites where work is saved externally, the school cannot delete any inappropriate content that has been created. Teachers are not banned from using these sites altogether but are cautioned to maintain an extra close watch on student usage, which can often be a deterrent for many teachers. Despite their system-wide restrictions, a benefit to belong to a large school system is that MCPS provides subscriptions to many useful resources such as NoodleTools, Encyclopeedia Britannica, ProQuest databases, and CultureGrams. In our lesson we chose to use videos from an approved website, Inanimate Alice. The videos are not blocked so we will be able to show them to the students for inspiration. We also are using Photo Story 3 which allows students to save their work to the MCPS network, thus complying with their recommendation. Finally we will be using the MCPS subscription to CultureGrams to provide students with a safe location to access information and photos about the county that they are researching.

If the internet is down on the day that we plan to teach the lesson, it will cause significant challenges. The Inanimate Alice videos would no longer be accessible because the videos can not be downloaded. Instead of using CultureGrams, print resources from the library could be substituted, but this would be less efficient. Once Photo Story 3 is downloaded onto the desktops, students would still be able to edit their videos; however, they may not be able to access the pictures and music that they will need to create their content. This could be remedied through the creation of a “bank” of saved pictures and music in a folder which students can access. The lack of internet would require creativity and flexibility. The teacher and LMS might decide to rearrange the schedule and attempt the lessons at a later time.

The Materials and Technology Tools You will Need

Technology Needed:

Instructional Materials:

The Implementation, Assignments and Lessons

(Prior Knowledge - Students already have a knowledge of story elements such as characters, setting, plot, conflict/problem, resolution/solution, etc. They will build upon this knowledge to learn about digital storytelling. Students also have an understanding of how to use proper grammar and spelling when writing narratives.)

Lesson 1 - Introduction to Digital Storytelling
This unit will begin with a lesson that introduces the concept of digital story telling to students. The popular digital novel Inanimate Alice ( will be used as a model of how authors can use a multimedia platform to tell a story in a unique way. Students will learn about and compare the similarities/differences between traditional storytelling and digital/multimedia storytelling.

Student Assignment and Activity 1 - Venn Diagram Comparison of Digital and Traditional Storytelling; Closing review activity (Digital, Traditional, or BOTH!).

(Prior Knowledge - Students already have a knowledge of the AGOPPE Research Model. This is the research model used by Montgomery County Public Schools and students have had previous exposure in earlier grades and with other projects in 5th grade.)

Lesson 2 - Exploring Diverse Cultures Using the AGOPPE Research Model

Within this lesson, students will begin exploring various world cultures using the AGOPPE Research Model. They will choose a country and culture to include in their own digital storytelling project. Alice, the main character of Inanimate Alice, lives in various places throughout the world and students learn about different countries through this digital novel. Students will explore the cultures introduced in Inanimate Alice along with others through the CultureGrams website. The AGOPPE Research Model will be used to facilitate research about the county and culture that students select.

Student Assignment 2 - Research Collection

(Between Lesson 2 and 3 - Students will be introduced to the PhotoStory 3 program and given the opportunity to explore its capabilities and uses. Students will also be introduced to the various sound and image resources available to include in their final project. )

(After Lesson 2, students will be encouraged to watch the remaining episodes of Inanimate Alice on their own either during free time at school or at home.)

(Prior knowledge: Students have already reviewed citation and copyright previously with the Library Media Specialist.)

Lesson 3 - Story Mapping and Digital Storytelling

Students will map out their own digital stories, incorporating the information they gathered about their selected country. The narrative form students choose for their project can be fictional or based on an authentic experience; however, specific elements will be required regardless of narrative style. This lesson will prepare the students to write the final draft of their story. They will also be introduced to the Digital Story Project Guidelines, which specifies the required project elements. Within this lesson, students will also discuss ethical use of resources and how to cite resources properly within their projects.

Student Assignment 3 - Use of story mapping to create a digital story.

(Students will have the opportunity to finish their digital stories during designated lab time on subsequent days or on their own time for homework if they wish. When all projects are complete, the LMS will upload the videos to a password protected sharing site such as Vimeo so that videos can be shared with family and friends of students and the school community. A Digital Culture Fair will be jointly organized by the LMS and teacher to provide an opportunity for students to share their work with their classmates and other invited guests. Laptops with digital stories loaded will be setup throughout the venue area for students and guests to walk around and view the various digital storytelling projects. To make the event even more exciting, the LMS and teacher may encourage students to wear clothing similar to the culture they selected for their projects. Different types of food related to cultures represented could also be brought to the event and the venue area could be decorated to reflect various cultures.)

Works Cited List