Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tips for Teaching How to Write Digital Stories on Immigration

Digital storytelling about immigrant heritage is a way to access a shared past and present, however distinct the individual stories are, develop reading and writing skills, and most importantly, build empathy while thoroughly engaging students. It can, however, be challenging to teach for a number of reasons: 1) uncertainty in the writing process when there may be unknown variables in immigration experiences 2) fears of technology 3) relevancy within what may be a restrictive curriculum.

The American Immigration Council’s “Crossing Borders with Digital Storytelling” is a comprehensive guide adaptable for any grade level and aligned to Common Core, but best practice often involves learning from other teachers to improve.  Middle school teacher Brian Kelley has been developing family heritage podcasting and digital storytelling with his students for several years and has shared some of his methods for working with students in writing about their immigration journeys.  His tips connect well with our curriculum.

Writing is the most important aspect to any digital story project.  What follows are tips excerpted from Kelley’s blog Walk the Walk and copied with his permission here to help teachers anticipate and meet some of the challenges in implementing this project as well as to showcase its valuable rewards.  To view the tips in detail, read 8 Tips for How to Teach a Digital Storytelling on Immigration and From Writing the Page to Pressing Play: More Tips on Teaching Digital Stories on Immigration.

Tips for Teaching Digital Stories on Immigration 


          1  Brainstorm with Students
          2  Encourage Talk at Home
          3  Bring in Good Writers and Writing
          4  Demonstrate Research Skills and Reflection
          5  Analyze Historical and Cultural Context with Students
          6  Model Writing a Short Narrative
          7  Target Areas for Revision
          8  Question When Students Say "I don't have culture"
          9  What to Say When Students Say "I don't know what to write about"
         10  What to Say When Students Say "I can't find the right image"
         11  Use Storyboards for Some But Not All
         12  Test Your Digital Storytelling Software Before Working With Students
         13  Provide Extra Support for Beginner Writers and Users of Technology
         14  View Troubleshooting with Technology as a Learning Opportunity
         15  Plan Unique Opportunities to Celebrate and Share! 

We welcome your feedback, tips, and questions for how to engage students in digital storytelling on immigration.  Email us at and follow us on Twitter @ThnkImmigration.

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