An introduction to Li’l Stories, a student-centered framework for the elementary classroom that leverages the power of storytelling to foster learning.


At Li’l Stories our mission is to prepare children to be thinkers, problem solvers, and innovators. We envision a world where all children, regardless of zip code, enjoy learning and have opportunities to exercise creative thinking in the classroom.

Public schools today are dominated by standardized test culture, leaving no time for the creativity and exploration that is so essential to authentic learning and healthy child development. As a result, students are disengaged and lack the critical 21st-century skills demanded by today’s evolving job market: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and digital literacy.

Li’l Stories offers a solution.


Li’l Stories is a student-centered framework for the elementary classroom that leverages the power of storytelling to foster learning. With a set of easy-to-navigate tools, Li’l Stories guides students through the process of creating and sharing visual, oral, and written narratives about academic content. Along the way, students learn to think critically and creatively, communicate their ideas, collaborate with peers, solve problems, and navigate digital resources.

Rooted in play-based learning theory, Li’l Stories believes that play is how children learn to make sense of the world. Our approach is similar to those used at Montessori, Emilia Reggio, and Waldorf schools. We believe learning should be fun, collaborative, and student-centered. Allowing children to learn through storytelling not only taps into their intuitive approach to learning, but allows them to construct the personal and meaningful narratives
that make learning relevant and lasting.


Storytelling is universal. Regardless of age, culture, language, or ability, stories provide us with a creative and collaborative way to make sense of the world. Using storytelling as a framework for teaching and learning creates many benefits and opportunities for students and teachers:

Student-centered Learning

By building narratives around academic content, students deepen their learning and make the ideas their own. Getting to play with content in this manner helps students make personal connections to new material, leading to greater transference of knowledge and skills to new contexts.

Encourages Creativity

Storytelling encourages students to think creatively about academic content and contribute new ideas to the learning process. With enough practice, innovative thinking becomes the mindset with which students approach all learning and problem-solving.

Encourages Critical Thinking

The storyboarding process teaches students to organize their ideas in logical structures. In using academic content as the building blocks for creative narratives, students analyze and break apart new material into digestible components, then rebuild knowledge in ways that feel logical and personally relevant.

Builds Communication Skills

Storytelling allows students to express their ideas about academic content in creative ways. The story creation process invites students to contribute ideas and provides tools for organizing their thinking. The storytelling process helps students build oral presentation skills while also teaching active listening through peer feedback. Students can also build digital literacy skills by creating and sharing stories through the Li’l Stories App or programs like iMovie.

Makes Learning Collaborative

The Li’l Stories process is collaborative by design. By building collective narratives in pairs or small groups, students develop communication skills, navigate conflict, and learn how to combine and build on one another’s ideas. When students share their stories, they learn to give and receive critical feedback.

Engages All Learners

Storytelling creates more entry points into academic content by reaching multiple intelligences. The Li’l Stories story creation process involves listening, watching, reading, discussion, drawing, organizing, writing, and oral presentation, engaging nearly every learning style and making content accessible to English Language Learners as well as learners with special needs.

Storytelling is a creative process, rather than a content-specific skill, making it amenable to any academic content area. Li’l Stories tools can be easily integrated into any unit of study and practicing this same process across multiple subjects reinforces cross-curricular understandings.


The Li’l Stories framework is flexible and easy to integrate into any unit of study, working equally well as an entry point into new material, as a formative activity, or as a culminating project. There are three key steps in the process, each of which is explained in greater detail later in this guide: 1) Planning; 2) Storyboarding; 3) Storytelling

Teachers can guide students through all three steps or use individual steps as an entry point into new content. The core skills and tools involved in each step can be easily adapted for any content area. Additionally, Li’l Stories provides optional extension activities for sharing stories and building skills in the arts, writing, and/or digital literacy.


The Li’l Stories process consists of three basic steps that can be used as introductory, formative, or culminating learning activities. Teachers can easily integrate some or all of these activities into any unit or lesson plan.

Story Creation

1. Planning

Students conduct research, mining their academic content in search of details to include in their stories.

2. Storyboarding

Using academic content and a Li’l Stories storyboard, students collaboratively create their story through drawing and writing.

3. Storytelling

Finally, students tell their stories to the rest of the class, providing feedback and suggestions for improving the story.

Story Extension

Teachers can end the Li’l Stories journey here, or they can guide students through revising and sharing a final version of their story, using one or more of the provided extension activities: Digital Extension, Writing Extension, and Arts Extension.

Digital Extension

Students can use the Li’l Stories App, or a program like iMovie, to record and share their stories as images, eBooks, audio and/or video files.

Writing Extension

Students can use Li’l Stories writing boards to develop written narratives or scripts for their visual stories.

Arts Extension

Students can illustrate and publish their stories as accordion books or bring stories to life through plays and/or Reader’s Theater.


While the Li’l Stories process can be used to augment learning in any content area, it is directly aligned with the English Language Arts & Literacy strands of the Common Core State Standards.


The Li’l Stories process involves customized and easy to navigate tools that can be used in any combination. The most critical of these tools is the storyboard.


Designers and filmmakers often use storyboarding as a framework that provides a structure for linear storytelling. Similarly, the act of storyboarding helps students organize their thinking and structure their narratives. Storyboards can be used as part of a larger storytelling project or as merely a prewriting tool.

Input boxes are the initial story elements to prompt story development. Academic content can be used to inspire characters, settings, and plots for students’ stories.

Story boxes sequence the core events of the story. Students can retell stories they read in class, or create original stories around specific topics or story structures.

Disruption boxes are optional additions to have students add characters, change the setting, or add facts at the point(s) indicated.

Collaboration boxes help students assign boxes so that the story creation process is shared equally by all.


Li’l Stories is a flexible system that can be adjusted for any content area, grade level, or learning goals. One of the key strategies for adapting and modifying the process is by using various versions of the storyboard:
9-box storyboard for 2nd-5th grade students
6-box storyboard for K-2nd grade students
6-box storyboard with disruption box for K-2nd grade students
Bifurcated storyboard
2-page storyboard to combine a retell with a prediction for a fictional text


In addition to storyboards, Li’l Stories provides other tools to aid in the storytelling process.

Writing Boards

The boards allow students to transition from visual to written narratives. Students can transfer their storyboard drawings to a writing board, writing descriptions to go with each illustration.

The Li’l Stories App

The app is an easy to use tool for iPhones and iPads that allows students to capture, record, and share a digital version for their story.

Story Cubes and Illustrations

The cubes are a fun way to gamify story creation. Like dice, each side of the cube has a different character or setting. Students can roll the cubes to determine these elements of their story at random. Illustrations provide anchors and scaffolding for students who may need more guidance in the story creation process.

Editing Guides

The guides are customizable checklists to help students make sure their story follows the correct structure and includes all required elements of a good story.


There are four ways teachers can bring Li’l Stories into their classroom. You can read more about each option in our Teacher’s Guide which is included in the Li’l Stories Toolkit for Educators. You’ll find all our resources in the Li’l Stories Resource Library.


Integrate Li’l Stories as a way of thinking and organizing ideas by using:

Li’l Stories Storyboard as a Graphic Organizer: The visual nature of the Li’l Stories storyboards makes it a great tool for organizing ideas. Even if you are not teaching a Li’l Stories lesson or unit, the storyboard can help students organize and sequence ideas for a variety of purposes.

Li’l Stories Mini Activities: If you are looking to integrate Li’l Stories strategies more regularly, the Li’l Stories Mini-Activities may be right for you. They can be completed in 10-20 minutes, making them perfect for daily routines and learning center activities.

Li’l Stories Mini-Activities


One of the easiest ways to launch Li’l Stories in your classroom is by using one of our ready-made downloadable units. These storytelling units include 4-6 hours of Common Core-aligned content, which we recommend spreading across one week. While the subject matter varies, each unit guides students through storyboarding and storytelling activities, as well as at least one extension activity, culminating in a final story product.

Visit the Li’l Stories Resource Library to find and download complete storytelling units and lesson plans for all grade levels and subject areas.

Li’l Stories Project Plans


If you are looking for the most flexibility in the Li’l Stories process, we recommend using Li’l Stories tools and templates to plan your own storytelling unit.

To build your own storytelling unit, follow the steps outlined in our Teacher’s Guide, using the Li’l Stories Unit Planning Tool to organize your ideas. Templates and tutorials are included in the Li’l Stories Toolkit for Educators.

Li’l Stories Toolkit

Host a Li’l Stories Storytelling Lab

If you are in New York City, invite the Li’l Stories team to your classroom to facilitate a week-long customized storytelling lab with your students.

Our language arts framework uses visual, spoken, and written storytelling to immerse learners in a creative writing process. Our program can have a variety of outcomes, from oral presentations to written narratives and story videos. Our Labs reinforce classroom topics and nurture creative thinking, cooperative learning, and digital literacy. Students love it and learn to work together and express themselves.

Li’l Stories Labs