Inspiring creativity and collaboration in the classroom

Li'l Robin Li'l Stories

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Li’l Stories is a flexible system of tools that inspire creative thinking and collaboration in elementary school classrooms. Li’l Stories’ child-centered approach puts students in the driver seat: they have fun, are engaged and learn to express themselves through visual, spoken and written storytelling. Li’l Stories guides students through the collaborative creation and sharing of a visual narrative. It uses storytelling as a tool for integrating literacy goals across multiple content areas: the system successfully teaches English Language Arts skills, reinforces classroom topics and fosters creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication.

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Anke Stohlmann developed the system in the classroom. Working with several teachers and classes at P.S. 3 in New York and the Children’s Museum of the Arts, she tested various prototypes to determine how best to structure collaboration, teach story structure and sequencing, create a child-centered capturing flow and make it an engaging activity. Once the format was refined, the teachers found Li’l Stories to be extremely useful, and the students loved it, too.

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Prototyping at the Children’s Museum of the Arts, February 2015

Li’l Stories includes four strands of instruction (a) creating stories, (b) collaboration, (c) oral presentation, and (d) capturing stories digitally. The system consists of two parts:

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Part 1. Create and Tell using the Li’l Stories storyboard: Li’l Stories builds from the foundation of oral tradition and uses the concept of storyboards as a platform to engage students in the process of collaborative storytelling. The act of storyboarding helps children structure their narratives and organize their thinking.

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The Li’l Stories storyboard also helps structure the student’s collaboration. Students learn to listen, articulate and communicate their ideas. They practice public speaking, getting feedback and responding to it. The process prioritizes the fact that “oral language competency serves as the underpinning for students’ written-language competency in the future.” (Core Knowledge Foundation, 2010).

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Part 2. Capture and Share using the Li’l Stories App: Li’l Stories introduces students to living in a connected world. In order to share our creations, work and ideas with a wider audience online, we need to capture them. Using the Li’l Stories app, students capture their stories through image and audio. Teachers can upload the stories to their class websites, where they can be experienced by family and friends outside the classroom.

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Teachers can combine the two parts in different ways—the exercise can be a short story creation and sharing activity, or the beginning of a longer unit in which students can use the storyboard as a blueprint for producing original work which can result in written narratives, puppet shows, Reader’s Theater, storytelling parties, and animations/films.

User Journey: Magnus Sweger, 2nd and 3rd grade teacher at P.s. 3, used Li’l Stories for his 6 week unit of Pourquoi tales: students retold a Pourquoi tale read in class or created their own stories. Throughout the creation process, students shared the stories with the class. They turned  them into readers’ theater, a written dialogue as well as captured them.

Team 405, P.S. 3, March 2015

Thanks to 140 Kickstarter backers, Li’l Stories is now being used in 25 elementary school classrooms in the US as well as the Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York City.

System Design

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Li’l Stories Identity System

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Storyboard and App Design

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Curriculum Map

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Digital Flow and Data Model