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55 Word Video Stories

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Keywords: Flip Video, English Language Arts, Writing, Photo Images, Story Boarding, Plot Elements, Publishing
Subject(s): Spelling, English/Language Arts, Photography, Reading, Writing, Podcasting, Technology, Video, Art, Grammar
Grades 7 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: East Union High School, Manteca, CA
Planned By: Kim Bell
Original Author: Kim Bell, Manteca
55 Word Video Stories

Lesson Objective:
The object of this lesson is to develop and honor the literacy skill sets of students in the 21st Century. During this project, students will learn: 1) to use as few words as possible to convey an idea, in this case a story, 2) to create a short video clip of their story, and 3) to publish their finished work electronically on YouTube and the class blog. Students will:
• write their own stories or re-write a pre-existing story.
• create a video of their 55 word story using video cameras.
• merge ther videos together to create a class video and post it on Youtube.com.
• post the finished video on the class blog.
• chose to submit their story to the Fifty-Five Fiction contest for publication.

For the writing and story boarding portions of this lesson, students will focus on the main plot elements of a short story:
1. setting (exposition)
2.a character or characters (exposition)
3. rising action, conflict
4. climax
5. resolution

•Book: The World’s Shortest Stories, Edited by: Steve Moss, Illustrated by: Glen Starkey, ISBN-10: 0-76844-0300-4
• Video cameras
• Internet
• Movie maker
• Computer
• Graphic organizers
• Paper

This assignment will take several days and will unfold in the following steps.
1. Discuss the concept of writing a 55-word story and a 55 word short story can have a huge impact.
2. Read examples from the book.
3. Discuss the need for precise words when writing the story.
4. Hand out Elements of a Plot graphic organizer
5. Have students brainstorm ideas.
6. Hand out writing assignment (see below)
7. Peer edit and revise until students are happy with their stories.
8. Discuss how to create Short Films of the 55-word stories using:
a. Story-boarding (hand out Story Board graphic organizers)
b. Photo images
c. Video cameras
d. Movie Maker
9. Working in groups, have students help each other film their stories, they will:
a. Help each other choose appropriate images to add to their films.
b. Help each other choose appropriate background music for the films.
c. Read their stories for the camera.
10. Merge the finished video clips into one video and post it to www.youtube.com.
11. Download the finished video to the class blog. www.msbellonline.com.
12. Submit individual original stories to the Fifty-Five Fiction contest, if they wish to compete.

The Writing Assignment:
1. Write anything you like but do not use more than 55 words, you may:
a. write an original story (suitable for entry into the 55-Fiction contest), or
b. re-write a pre-existing story.
2. Words defined: Any word found in the dictionary
a.) Hyphenated words count as two words. For example robin-red dress would count as three words.
b.) Words that do not become free-standing words when the hyphen is removed count as one word. For example re-entry would count as one word.
c.) Story titles are not counted in the word count.
d.) Story titles cannot have more than seven words.
e.) Contractions count as one word. (Hint: Contractions can help keep down the word count.)
f.) Contractions used as a shortened form of a word count as one word. For example: “’em” for “them.”
g.) Initials count as words because they are abbreviations of complete words. For example: J. Joyce would equal two words.
h.) Acronyms count as single words because they have the same effect as single words. For example: CBS, IBM, or ASAP.
i.) Numbers count as words, whether they are written out or expressed in numerical form.
3. Punctuation does not count as words
4. Avoid clichés like having the reader find out at the end of the story that it was all a dream or the protagonist was really a cat. Something that sounds like it is a sexual act but really isn’t, is considered a cliché and to be avoided, and is especially inappropriate in stories written for high school or lower grades.


1. Type the story(s) on a separate sheet of paper – one story per page.
2. When submitting a story, make sure to include name, address, and telephone number on each story.
3.You can submit your stories to:
Fifty-Five Fiction
Dept. 55
197 Santa Rosa Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
Making videos of original work is a terrific way of honoring the literacy of students in the 21st century. Students not only get a chance to create a visual interpretation of their stories, they get a chance to understand the importance of writing and how it is translated into movies. They get a chance to connect visual art forms with written art forms. This is an easy lesson to adapt to many age groups, and diverse populations. It is also a way of getting students excited about reading and writing.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Teachers can adapt this lesson to drama classes, photography classes, history classes, and science classes. In history and science classes, students would take on the role of teacher and summarize a lesson into fifty-five words then create a visual documentary to go along with the audio part of their summary. In drama, students could act out the stories for the camera. In photography classes students could create original photographs to complement their stories, and then film the images using flip books, or programs such as PhotoStory 3. Or, Photography students could also create books out of their stories on blurb.com. Math teachers could have students film themselves demonstrating math concepts as they explained what they were doing in 55 words. Journalism students could learn how to create 55-word "Bumps" the term used for the video images shown on news casts.
Students can take their stories and expand them for publication into a class book on Lulu.com. They can also share their videos with lower grades.
Materials: Worksheets, Web Page, Podcasting, Word Processor, Mice, Writing, LCD Monitors, Keyboards, Power, Camera/Video Accessories, Projector Screens, Portable, Projectors, Flip Video, Video Tools, Internet Services, Student Resources, Assessment