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. Li’l Stories utilizes children’s natural love for stories and storytelling to teach English Language Arts. By telling stories around topics they are experiencing—be it a weekend trip, reading a book, or a visit to the zoo—children are reiterating and reinforcing what they have learned. And they love it, are engaged and practice creative thinking, collaborating and communicating.

Try it at home—you’ll have lots of fun creating stories with your kid(s). Download our free Li’l Stories Starter Kit for Parents.

How Li’l Stories Works

Li’l Stories guides children through three activities: first, they create a story, and then they share it. They can also record and share their story using the Li’l Stories App, or a program like iMovie.

1. CREATING STORIES

Using the Li’l Stories storyboards, children first define their story elements, or inputs, then they create the story individually or in groups. They do this through drawing and writing. They learn about story structure, story elements and sequencing.

2. SHARING STORIES

After creating their stories, children tell them in a classroom or informal setting at home. This shows them how to articulate and communicate their ideas. They practice public speaking, getting feedback, and responding to it. You can extend the story share by uploading the stories online, where they can be experienced by friends and family outside the classroom.

3. CAPTURING STORIES (OPTIONAL)

Using the Li’l Stories App (or any other note-taking/capturing app), children capture their stories by taking a photo of their storyboard and recording each other telling the story. This helps them learn about living in a connected world and sharing their creations, work, and ideas with a wider audience online.

You can combine these three activities in different ways—the exercise can be a short story creation and sharing activity, or the beginning of a longer project in which children turn their visual stories into written narratives or develop them further into plays, puppet shows, or films.

Storyboarding

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. The Li’l Stories storyboard consists of four elements:

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.

If you’d like your children to be able to easily edit their stories, have them draw and write on Post-its, so they can move the individual story boxes. Use two different colored Post-its—one color for inputs and disruptions and the other for the story itself.

You can also create your own storyboard using Post-its (in 2” by 2” or 3” by 3” sizes) and large sheets of construction paper. Have children arrange the Post-its in one of the storyboard configurations shown earlier. Use different colored Post-its to differentiate between inputs and the story itself.

Activity Ideas

Li’l Stories was developed and tested in collaboration with several elementary school teachers. Here are a few activity ideas that proved especially successful—and popular—in the classroom:

Story Creation

  • Introduce story elements and various story structures through retelling and story adaptations of books, movies, fairy tales, and legends, etc.
  • Explore various story structures through the creation of original narratives surrounding specific content areas, like social studies and science topics.
  • Brainstorm and plan original ideas for larger projects and writing pieces.
  • Contextualize and practice new vocabulary through the storytelling process.

Story Share

  • Oral storytelling and sharing of ideas within small and whole group settings
  • Through the Li’l Stories App, students can connect and share their work with family and friends outside of the classroom.
  • Celebrate students’ works with storytelling parties or performances of complete creations.

Story Outcomes

  • Oral Presentations: The storyboards themselves serve as visual stories that students can use as a tool to articulate and share their ideas with the class.
  • Written narratives, Reader’s Theater, puppet show, animations/films: The storyboards can serve as a brainstorm or idea board for long-term projects.
  • Story Videos: Through the Li’l Stories app, students learn to participate within a connected world of online sharing and networking of ideas as they digitally capture their stories.

Tips

Here are a few tips to make it a fun and easy process for everyone:

Flexibility

The framework is flexible and you can change the story structure based on your learning goals. Children love stories and learn when using them. By telling a story about something covered in class or at home—like a book you have read together, or the way Native Americans used to live—they can integrate their new knowledge into their stories and reinforce the learning.

The story element inputs let you frame the stories the children are creating, providing them with context, and helping them figure out the themes of their narratives before they tell them.

Modeling

We recommend creating the first story together with your kids. Determine the inputs, and then either retell a story you have read together or create a new one. We have found this to be the most effective way for children to understand the storytelling framework.

When it’s time for the oral storytelling portion of the activity, explain transition words, and have them visible at home or create a list with your child. You can model it for the children by telling the story you created at the beginning of the activity.

Collaboration

Structuring the collaboration is important, because small things can derail a group. Assigning each child a number that corresponds to specific boxes helps the exercise run smoothly. Each child receives a number at the beginning of the activity when they write their name on the storyboard. Number the story boxes accordingly in the top left corner (so if there are three children in a group: 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, etc.) This gives each child the responsibility for a specific story box. Everyone can discuss the story, but only one child will draw what’s happening.

Visual Notetaking

Kids like to draw and to color. For this not to turn into a drawing or coloring activity at the beginning, it’s important to use markers and smaller Post-its. This way children won’t get stuck on the details. The goal of the activity is to take visual and written notes for a story that is being told orally, and possibly develop it further into a more fleshed-out narrative, play, or storytelling event. You can always have kids color the story boxes when they are done with their stories.

Li’l Stories Resources for Parents

Try Li’l Stories at home: The activities are easy to set up and you’ll have lots of fun creating stories with your kid(s).

STARTER KIT FOR PARENTS

Our Li’l Stories Starter Kit for Parents includes everything you need to get started: Instructions, Activity Ideas, Storyboards, Fiction Sticker Set, Story Elements Cards, and tips to make it an engaging experience. All you need is a printer, 11” by 17” sheets of paper and markers. Learn more
FREE

STORYBOARDS

Li’l Stories storyboard templates are designed to help organize and guide students through formulating their ideas into a fluid story.
FREE

Li’l Stories App (in Beta)

Capture and share! Children take a picture of their storyboard (or artwork) and record themselves telling their stories.
FREE

STORY PAD FOR GRADES 1 TO 4

This storyboard has 3 input, 9 story, and 2 disruption boxes. Each Li’l Stories story pad provides you with 50 sheets of the Li’l Stories storyboard and is 18” by 15” in size.
$28