Digital storytelling and HUE Animation

Digital storytelling and HUE Animation

Written by Ruth Barrett. Ruth studied traditional animation at Southampton Solent University and is our resident animator at HUE. She has a wealth of experience in creating stop motion animated music videos and commercials, and she has also worked with children in schools and at private workshops. 


Are you interested in introducing your children or students to digital storytelling? Do you need inspiration, resources, or guidance to get started? If you do, then this is the blog post for you! 

Digital storytelling is the technique of using digital media and computer-based tools to take an audience on a narrative journey through sound, pictures, text, or a combination of all three. Digital stories can come in many forms, such as Google Slides presentations, podcasts, videos with sound and subtitles, blog posts, or even animation. 

Stop motion animation is a highly popular medium for creating digital storytelling projects in schools. Because there are so many different roles involved in creating an animation, every student, no matter their interests or abilities, will be able to contribute their unique talents to the assignment. 

Whether children are skilled artists, team leaders or technicians, digital storytelling is the perfect project-based activity for encouraging creative and academically-minded classmates to communicate and learn from each other as they work together towards a shared goal. Add the fun and excitement of stop motion animation, and the result will be engaged learners who are motivated to tell amazing digital stories.

The best part is that you do not need a great deal of equipment to get started with stop motion, and you may well have many of these things to hand at home or in school already. Grab some art supplies, a camera, and a computer with HUE Animation software, and you are ready to go. 

Of course, if you want to make things even easier on yourself, an all-in-one kit such as HUE Animation Studio is perfect for introducing school children to digital storytelling. It comes with an ingenious animation book and a whole host of fun resources to inspire young storytellers.

How to get started

You can break down the digital storytelling process for stop motion animation into eight simple steps, each of which offers a wealth of opportunities for cross-curricular and social-emotional learning (SEL) along the way. Whether you want to create one short video or an end-of-year film festival, breaking the activity into manageable chunks will help students plan, set realistic goals, and enjoy appropriately scaffolded learning experiences.

Step 1: Brainstorming story ideas 

Every story starts with an idea. You could reimagine a historically accurate tale, or you could set your mind free and create something wild and imaginative. A spark of inspiration can come from literally anywhere: favorite books, a piece of music, a holiday adventure, a local myth or legend, or even a conversation with an elder relative.

Students can work independently, in small groups, or if you have a document camera handy, you could engage the whole class in a lively group brainstorming discussion.

Click here to download this free worksheet from HUE’s Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Step 2: Research and information gathering

Now you have come up with a brilliant idea, it is time to research, explore and learn about your topic. Whether you want to create a work of fact or fiction, you must gather information and reference materials to help bring your story to life.

Step 3: Organizing and planning

Each student will need to be assigned a different role at this stage in the project. Who will be the director? Who will be in the art department? Who will make the invitations for the movie premiere film screening? 

Assigning different roles to students could provide the perfect opportunity to allow them to take the lead on the project and introduce them to self-organized learning environments (SOLE). Just make sure to let everyone know how long they can spend on each task. 

Click here to download this free worksheet from HUE’s Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Step 4: Write scripts, draw storyboards and record audio

If you plan on animating a well-known fable, you could use a picture book in place of writing scripts or drawing storyboards; however, if you are animating a personal story or invented tale, you will not have that luxury. On the plus side, the act of scriptwriting and storyboarding is a fantastic way for kids to practice narrative and literacy skills without them even knowing they are doing it. 

Visual sequencing activities such as storyboarding can also benefit children with Special Educational Needs (SEN), providing them with a way to put their thoughts on paper and express their ideas pictorially. 

If you haven’t made a storyboard before, the folks at Howcast.com have got you covered with this super simple explanation video

Click here to download these free worksheets from HUE’s Teachers Pay Teachers store.

HUE Animation makes recording audio for your digital stories easy. All you need is a microphone, which many computers already have built in. HUE Animation Studio includes a HUE HD camera with built-in microphone as well as the animation software. 

To help bring your stories even more vividly to life, check our blog for a fantastic selection of free music and sound effect sources for your film projects.

Step 5: Make models, puppets, props and scenery

Depending on how much time you want to spend on the project, there are different animation styles and mediums you can choose to fit your timescales. You could try claymation or paper cut-outs and make painted backgrounds and hand-crafted props but, if you are short of time, you can create compelling animated movies with toys and a few found objects. 

We love how Wood County District Public Library brought the story of The Three Little Pigs to life with toy models, some fabric for a backdrop, and pen and paper subtitles.

Step 6: Lights, camera, action!

Now it’s time to bring everything together and animate your story. Using your storyboards, you could assign each scene or shot to a different pair of students, so everybody has a chance to animate a section of the film. If a child in your class has made stop motion movies before, they might even like to take the role of ‘teacher’ to help guide less confident students through the animation process. Stop motion animation is not too tricky to get the hang of and most children will be able to become proficient animators in a matter of minutes but, if you do need some help to get started, you can check out these stop motion tips and tricks or watch this handy HUE Animation tutorial video from YouTuber and teacher Matthew O’Brien

Step 7: Publish and share your finished movie

Pop some corn, dim the lights and get comfy because it’s SHOWTIME! Sharing your finished movie is a beautiful way to celebrate everyone’s hard work, which can also present extra learning opportunities. Whether sharing your film in class on the big screen, uploading your film to YouTube or TikTok, or creating a blog post to share your movie with the world, there are numerous ways to make the most of this seemingly simple step.

Step 8: Reflect and evaluate

An often overlooked but by no means less valuable part of the digital storytelling process. At the end of your project, reflecting can help build children’s critical thinking skills and empower them to take ownership of their achievements and learning goals. The Empowered Educator has some excellent tips, ideas, and resources for making self-reflection fun for young children if you need a helping hand.    

We hope you have found this article interesting and helpful, but if you have any questions or need any other advice, please let us know in the comments section. And, if you make any digital stories, we would love to see them, so please share your creations with us through the website, or tag us @HUEcameras on social media.  

Additional resources for digital storytelling

Future Learn: Teaching Literacy Through Film 

Tech4Learning: Making Claymation in the Classroom 

Bookcreator App: Bring Creativity to your Classroom

Pobble: Think Writing, Think Pobble

Google Web Stories

HUE Animation Storyboard Template 

HUE’s Comic Strip Starter Kit

Storyboard That: The World’s Best Free Online Storyboard Creator


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