How to Use Memory Objects for Digital Stories

Yesterday, a visitor asked a bit about how I teach the Memory Objects/Narrative Writing/Digital Story assignment, and I am happy to walk through what we do.

First, this writing is part of our unit around paragraph structure and paragraph writing. The emphasis for this particularly piece of writing is “narrative” and telling a story. I begin by reading the picture book Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox as a way to talk about memories. This delightful picture book tells the story of a young boy who helps his elderly friend recover her memories through a series of gifts. It’s a perfect segue into our discussions around not just memories, but the artifacts and objects that we collect to remind us of events and people and experiences.

Second, they begin their writing. Since this is a lesson around paragraph structure, we emphasize through graphic organizers some of the main ideas, and how to develop the body. This paragraph later becomes the script for their digital stories. I share my own examples with them, and show them a few digital stories from prior years. For some, the hardest part is figuring out what to write about. So, I give them a few days to mull it over.

Third, we jump into iMovie. Since most have not used iMovie before, I give a tutorial and then they had a  good part of two days to play around with the program in ways not related to the digital story. I showed them how to add titles, use transitions, embed music, drag in photos, etc. This is not wasted time. This play time gives them a chance to explore, try out techniques, fail and try again, and more. I have found they need a good grasp on the possibilities before the real project begins.

Finally, they either bring in their objects or they bring in f lash drive with images of the objects. If they have brought them in, they use PhotoBooth to take photographs (hint: use the “reverse image” feature if the object has writing, since PhotoBooth takes mirror shots). What is nice is that iMovie integrates PhotoBooth and other applications seamlessly into the program. We talk about using Garageband to create a soundtrack and Free Play Music as a source for music (which leads to a longer discussion about “mood and tone” of music working in conjunction with the mood and tone of the writing.)

When they are done, they have the option to upload to our class YouTube site, or just export to the desktop.

The whole project takes about a week (of about 30 minutes a day), although I continue to have some stragglers. That’s always the case.

This is one of the projects that I do not grade. Surprisingly, of my 80 students, only two have asked me that question (will this be graded?). Instead, I see this as a way to value writing, introduce a useful bit of technology, and offer up an authentic publishing venue for them to tell a story. The level of engagement is very high across the board. It reminds me that if the activity is enriching as an experience, the need to grade every little thing seems a little less important. At least, it does for this particular kind of writing/technology adventure.

I hope that helps you think about how to bring digital storytelling into your classroom.

Peace (in the sharing of memories),


  1. Pingback: How to Use Memory Objects for Digital Stories &...

  2. This was so helpful. Thanks for taking the time to unpack this idea. Thanks too for your blog. I look forward to reading it every day. -Aimee

  3. Would you share the graphic organizer(s) for this project. We finish the 19th, and I think it might be a fun project. I’m considering the theme being centered around a memory object from 6th grade.

    Thanks Again,

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