5 free apps for digital storytelling and sharing kids’ ideas

Digital storytelling simply means using computer-based tools to tell stories. The 5 apps below are some of my favorites for allowing kids to create, illustrate, record, and share stories and ideas.

Digital storytelling is easy to do with these apps, and can be done even if you don’t have access to much technology at school. If you or your students have a single iPhone or iPad in the classroom, you can do this! My app recommendations are targeted toward PreK-6, but some can be used in secondary classrooms, too.

Puppet Pals

What it is: Puppet Pals lets kids choose their characters and backdrops and drag them to the puppet show stage. They can then record themselves as the voices of the puppets to create the show.

How to use it:  This is a great app for practicing dialogue. Because there are lots of fairy tale-type backdrops and puppets to choose from, it’s a nice app for remixing traditional stories and creating fractured fairy tales. However, it’s also nice for non-fiction: have students present ideas their group learned during cooperative research through a digital puppet show (instead of giving a regular report.) Tips and tricks here.

See it in action:


Toontastic

What it is: Toontastic uses a “story arc” with characters, setting, plot, and a conclusion, so it’s perfect for kids who are learning the elements of fiction, as well as older kids who are exploring exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution. Kids can create and move their characters around the screen while recording their own voices telling the story.

How to use it: Have students write and tell their own stories using the simple story arc.  It’s also perfect for allowing them to write dialogue, and practice oral reading fluency. See a Toontastic lesson plan here.

See it in action:


Voicethread

What it is: Voicethread is my favorite digital storytelling app. It’s a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate slides and leave comments in 5 ways: using voice (with a mic or telephone), text, audio file, or video. Though you can only create a limited number of Voicethreads for free, it’s definitely worth playing around with because it’s such an easy way to promote collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity, and can be used for any subject and any grade level.

How to use it: There are so many possibilities in addition to basic digital storytelling! Make a class book. Upload student artwork and have kids narrate it. Share strategies for solving a problem. Share video of students acting out a skit they’ve written. Discuss or debate an image or video. Reflect on a field trip. Document learning for a portfolio or assessment. More ideas and resources here.

See it in action:


Show Me

What is is: Show Me is an app that every teacher should have. It turns your iPad into an interactive whiteboard! You can draw on the screen and record your voice at the same time. The interface is extremely simple and anyone can use it. More resources here.

How to use it: Create a tutorial or mini lessons for students to watch at home or in centers. Have students share strategies for problem solving and explain their thinking. Have one student read an explanation, fun fact/trivia information, or poem aloud while another student illustrates it on the screen.

See it in action:



Sock Puppets

What is is: Sock Puppets is a super simple digital storytelling app which even the youngest learners can use. However, the humor element of the sock puppets is strong enough to lure much older students in. I like it because a sock puppet theater can be produced without taking up a lot of class time: in just a few minutes, kids can have a presentation ready to share. Another example of Sock Puppets here.

How to use it: In addition to storyboarding and digital storytelling, kids can have their sock puppets ask and answer questions about a topic your’re studying. It’s a fun way to have students share ideas and communicate what they’ve learned without having to talk in front of the entire class.

See it in action:


Have you tried the apps above? How did you use them? Do you have other kid-friendly apps for digital content creation and story telling that you’d recommend? Share your ideas in the comments!

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Angela is a National Board Certified Teacher with 11 years of classroom experience and 7 years experience as an instructional coach. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has created printable curriculum resources, 4 books, 3 online courses, the Truth for Teachers podcast, and The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Subscribe via email to get her best content sent to your inbox!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Becky February 16, 2013 at 9:44 pm

I tend to use PhotoStory 3 in my classroom. Not an “app” per se, but a free download from Microsoft.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photo_Story

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2 Joni Taylor March 3, 2014 at 10:10 pm

I have used a free app, 30 Hands, with my kindergarteners. They created fiction and non fiction books. This app allows you to create “slides” by drawing, taking a photograph, or importing a photo. You can also insert a text box and/or record voice on each slide. When you “publish” your digital book, you can save to the camera roll.

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3 Angela Watson March 7, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Thank you for sharing this!

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4 Nonglak April 4, 2015 at 2:32 am

i love these apps

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