Once upon a time there was a teacher looking for new ways to teach old subjects.
While storytelling is nothing new, it hasn’t always been applied effectively in the modern classroom. Obviously, storytelling is a great way for kids to learn to love reading and writing. But almost any school subject can be considered through a dramatic frame, from history to geography to science. Even math can be taught through narrative (word problems, anyone?). Most importantly, storytelling gives kids the opportunity to be inventive with language, graphics, and design, and to share their creations with others.
The following sites and apps for storytelling range from basic to advanced. Many are designed for educators or include guides for use in education. And while most are paid products, the prices are generally reasonable and nearly every platform offers a free trial or free basic account.
The End. The Beginning.
Best Sites and Apps for Digital Storytelling
Offering professional-level animation at a deep discount to education users, Plotagon is a remarkably powerful tool for storytelling and moviemaking. Download the app or desktop software and start creating. You need only supply the story idea and text, as Plotagon’s libraries of animated characters, backgrounds, sound effects, music, and special effects cover vast territory. In fact, just browsing the libraries will help generate ideas for stories. A must-try, if not a must-have! Android and iOS: Free with in-app purchases. Windows desktop: For education users, only $3/month or $27/year, with 30-day free trial.
Boomwriter’s unique storytelling platform allows kids to write and publish their own collaborative story, while teachers offer advice and assistance. Free to join and use; parents pay $12.95 for the published book.
Buncee is a slideshow presentation tool that lets teachers and students create and share interactive stories, lessons, and assignments. A drag-and-drop interface, templates, and thousands of graphics make Buncee popular with educators and easy for kids to use. Strong support for accessibility and inclusion.
- Comic Life
Comics are a fine way to engage reluctant readers. So why not take the next step and use comics to engage kids in writing as well? Comic Life allows your students, either alone or in groups, to tell their own story using comic-style images and text. And, it’s not just for fiction – try comics for science and history class too! Available for Mac, Windows, Chromebook, iPad, or iPhone. 30-day free trial.
- Little Bird Tales
Kids create original slideshow tales with their own art, text, and voice narration. Need an idea to get started? Check out the public tales from other classrooms. Free 21-day trial with no credit card required.
- My Story School eBook Maker
A top iPhone and iPad app that combines drawing, stickers, photos, voice, and text to empower students to make their own multipage ebooks. Kids record their own voices to provide narration to their stories. Export and share as an mp4, PDF, or image sequence. $4.99
Students create imaginative videos using a wide range of animated characters who speak via AI. A great way to build communication, presentation, and conversation skills all at once. Free trial for educators. Windows 10 download (or Mac-compatible with Parallels Desktop or Bootcamp engaged).
- Pixton for Schools
An award-winning platform that’s employed by districts from Santa Ana to New York City, Pixton offers more than 4,000 backgrounds, 3,000 props, and 1,000 subject-specific templates for creating digital comics. Plus, they’ve added features based on feedback from educators to make teaching with Pixton simple, fun, and safe. Highlights include easy logins, integration with Google/Microsoft, and unlimited classrooms.
A story creation and social media site that allows students to illustrate their original text with professional graphics rendered in a variety of styles. Writing prompts, lessons, videos, and quizzes provide the support that kids need to write well.
- Storyboard That
Storyboard That’s specialized edition for education offers more than 3,000 lesson plans and activities, while integrating with applications such as Clever, Classlink, Google Classroom, and others. It’s also FERPA, CCPA, COPPA, and GDPR compliant. Best of all, you can create your first storyboard without a download, credit card, or login! 14-day free trial for educators.
- Strip Designer
With this top-rated iOS digital comic app, students construct original comics using their own sketches and images. Select from a library of comic book page templates and text styles. The $3.99 price includes all features, so users aren’t bothered by continual in-app requests to upgrade.
More than just a storytelling program, Voicethread is a great way for kids to develop critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills in a secure, accountable online format that can be customized by administrators. Users create a new slide deck with one click, then add images, text, audio, video, and links easily via the drag-and-drop interface.
Animaker’s extensive library of animated characters, icons, images, videos, and other digital assets makes it an admirable resource for creating and editing videos and GIFs. Features to help bring kids’ stories to life include more than 20 facial expressions, “smart move” instant animation, and the impressive “auto lip sync.”
- Book Creator
A powerful ebook creation tool, Book Creator allows users to embed all kinds of content, from rich multimedia to Google Maps, YouTube videos, PDFs, and more. Try a real-time class collaboration—and be sure to check out AutoDraw, an AI-powered feature that aids artistically challenged users in fashioning drawings to be proud of.
- Cloud Stop Motion
Very cool software through which users create stop-motion video projects from any browser or device. Use your device camera and microphone, or upload images and sound files, then add text and animation effects. Try out the simple interface without an account or credit card. COPPA compliant. Free organization/school accounts with unlimited students and classes, and 2 GB storage. Buy additional storage for $27-$99 annually.
An unusual collaborative platform that brings together writers, coders, and artists to create remarkable interactive digital stories, portfolios, and adventures. Ideal for STEAM projects. Free basic account permits 35 students and limited access to illustrations and sounds.
Simple online software that allows kids to write stories, generate customized characters, and narrate their own book. Excellent for younger students. The step-by-step teacher’s guide makes it easy to integrate this platform into your curriculum. Free to create and share online – pay only to publish or download books. Try it first – no account or credit card required!
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- Knight Lab Storytelling Projects
From Northwestern University’s Knight Lab, six online tools help users tell their stories in unusual ways. Juxtapose lets you quickly make a comparison between two scenes or images. Scene turns your image into 3D virtual reality. Soundcite narrates your text seamlessly. Storyline allows users to build an annotated, interactive line chart, while StoryMap is a slide-based tool for telling stories with maps. And with Timeline, students can create rich interactive timelines about any topic. All tools are free, easy to use, and include examples.
- Make Beliefs Comix
Author and journalist Bill Zimmerman has built a marvelous free site where kids of any age can learn to express their ideas through digital comics. Mouse over the main navigation and you’ll be amazed by the number of topics to explore, from 30 Ways to Use MakeBeliefsComix in the Classroom to social-emotional learning to text- and image-based comic prompts. Video and text tutorials guide users. No special talent required!
- Imagine Forest
Exceptional free site that offers features more common to paid sites, including story idea generator and prompts; built-in dictionary, thesaurus, and rhyming dictionary; writing tips and challenges; and the ability to produce assignments, monitor progress, and award badges. Images and customizable characters are supported as well. Awesome for teachers on a budget.