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Storytelling with a Document Camera

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Keywords: Storytelling, Folktales, Legends, Stories
Subject(s): English/Language Arts, Reading, Writing, Social Studies, Art
Grades 3 through 5
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
View Full Text of Standards
School: Emmet D Williams Elem School, Shoreview, MN
Planned By: Chia Xiong
Original Author: Chia Xiong, Shoreview
Storytelling with a Document Camera

LESSON SUMMARY: Students will use the document camera to retell and put on a presentation of a Native American folktale, legend, or story that they read. This project aims to help students practice and enhance their reading fluency, comprehension, and speaking skills, as well as understand Native American history and culture.


• Students will read and comprehend a Native American story and summarize the main events.
• Students will describe elements of a story, including characters, settings, theme, and plot.
• Students will retell a story in their own words with descriptive details, using a clear voice and expression.
• Students will understand the importance of oral tradition in Native American culture.

Reading – Literature
Social Studies – Native American History and Culture

APPROXIMATE TIME: 5 days (approximately 40 min each day)

• Native American legends and stories related to nature or life lessons (see Resources section)
• White drawing paper (8" x 11.5") - plan on having more than 2 sheets per student or student group
• Coloring materials
• Story Summary worksheet or notebook paper
• Document camera, a projector, and SMARTBoard (or other interactive board)

• This lesson goes well with social studies, specifically Native American units. Prior to giving the assignment out, you want to give your students some background knowledge on Native American history and culture. Define oral tradition – the practice of telling stories orally, rather than written down, from one generation to another to preserve one’s culture, history, and traditions.
• Choose a Native American folktale or story to read to the whole class and plan to use this story as an ongoing example throughout this project.
• Plan to demonstrate the final project by making your own setting backgrounds, characters, and props of the story you read and plan to execute the storytelling on the document camera, as described in DAY TWO.

DAY ONE – Assign groups and stories

1. Students can work individually. However, if you wish to group students into pairs or small groups of 3, you should determine groups prior to handing out materials and assigning tasks. Partner or small groups may be more ideal for large class sizes or students who are struggling readers. You may also group students if you have limited amount of books or stories to use.

2. Give each student or student group a Native American folktale or story and hand out a Story Summary worksheet. Students will read the story they are given and record the characters, settings, and summarize the plot. If you prefer, students can record this information in a notebook or separate sheet of paper.

DAY TWO & THREE – Introduce project and create props

1. Introduce the storytelling project to students.

You will become a storyteller and share a Native American folktale or story with the class. You will not be reading the story to us like a read aloud, but you will be retelling the story to us as many Native American groups did who practiced "oral tradition.” But you will also create settings and props to tell your story, like you are putting on a theater show. You will need to know your story very well and understand the message, lesson, or natural explanations in your story, so you can share that story and information with your audience. Yesterday, you listed the characters, settings, and plot. Today, you will begin planning your storytelling.

Demonstrate your own storytelling using the story you read to the class. Using the document camera, display your backgrounds, changing them as needed throughout your storytelling. Move your characters and props on the backgrounds to create a theater-like storytelling.

2. Have students reread their stories with intentions of better comprehension. They will create a story map to complete a sequencing of their story from beginning to end. Explain that their sequencing must include all the important parts of the story. Tell your students, You know a part is important in a story when the story doesn't connect or make sense if you leave that part out.

3. Distribute white sheets of paper to each student or group. First, instruct students to create their settings on full 8" x 11.5" paper. If there are multiple settings in their story, you may want to limit students to designing two to three backgrounds. After completing their setting backgrounds, they can start making their characters and props on white paper. Instruct students to draw their characters and props, color them, and cut them out. As students work on the art part of this project, this is a good time to check in with students and groups and make sure they comprehend their stories and are sequencing important parts of the story.

DAY FOUR – Practice

1. Students will use this day to practice their storytelling of their legend or story. First, discuss voice as a very important element of storytelling, including volume and expression. How do you differentiate one character from another with your voice? How can you keep your audience engaged with your volume and expression? Take time to demonstrate the difference between engaging storytelling (energized voice, changes in expression to match characters and events in the story) and disengaging storytelling (flat voice, muttering, soft volume, little and no expression).

2. Give students time to practice their storytelling using all their props.

DAY FIVE – Final productions

Students or student groups will present their stories on the document camera. Turn on the document camera and projector, and turn off the lights and let the shows begin!


List of Native American folktales, legends, and stories:

Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian Tale – by Gerald McDermott
The Boy Who Lived with the Bears and Other Iroquois Stories – by Joseph Bruchac
Brave Wolf and the Thunderbird – by Joseph Medicine Crow
Clamshell Boy: A Makah Legend – by Terri Cohlene
Coyote and the Grasshoppers: A Pomo Legend – by Gloria Dominic
Coyote: A Trickster Tale from the American Southwest – by Gerald McDermott
Crow and Weasel – by Barry Holstun Lopez
Dancing Drum – by Terri Cohlene
Eagle Boy: A Pacific Northwest Native Tale – Richard Vaughan
The Earth Under Sky Bear’s Feet – by Joseph Bruchac
Favorite North American Indian Legends – by Philip Smith
The First Strawberries – by Joseph Bruchac
Fire Race: A Karuk Coyote Tale of How Fire Came to the People – by Jonathan London
Frog Girl – by Paul Owen Lewis
Gift Horse: a Lakota Story – by S.D. Nelson
Gift of the Sacred Dog – by Paul Goble
The Girl Who Helped Thunder and Other Native American Folktales – by James Bruchac
The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses – by Paul Goble
The Great Ball Game of the Birds and Animals – by Deborah Duvall
How the Stars Fell into the Sky: A Navajo Legend – by Jerrie Oughton
Ka-ha-si and the Loon: An Eskimo Legend – by Terri Cohlene
The Legend of the Bluebonnet – by Tomie dePaola
The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush – by Tomie dePaola
The Legend of the Lady Slipper – by Margi Preus
The Legend of the Old Man of the Mountain – by Denise Ortakales
The Legend of the White Buffalo Woman – by Paul Goble
Little Firefly – by Terri Cohlene
Love Flute – by Paul Goble
The Magic Hummingbird: A Hopi Folktale – by Ekkehart Malotki
The Mud Pony: A Traditional Skidi Pawnee Tale – by Caron Lee Cohen
North American Indian Tales – by W.T. Larned
The Opossum’s Tale – by Deborah Duvall
The Polar Bear Son: An Inuit Tale – by Lydia Dabcovich
Quillworker: A Cheyenne Legend – by Terri Cohlene
Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest – Gerald McDermott
The Rough-Face Girl – by Rafe Martin
Song of the Hermit Thrush: An Iroquois Legend – by Gloria Dominic
Star Boy – by Paul Goble
Storm Boy – by Owen Paul Lewis
Turquoise Boy: A Navajo Legend – by Terri Cohlene
The Wing – by Ray Buckley
The Woman Who Lived with Wolves & Other Stories from the Tipi – by Paul Goble
Zinnia: How the Corn was Saved – by Patricia Hruby Powell

Story Summary Worksheet

CHARACTERS: Who were the people, animal, or other subjects in the story?

SETTINGS: Where did the story take place? Name all the different places if there is more than one.

PLOT: Summarize what happened in the story.

MESSAGE: What is the message, lesson, or natural explanation of the story?

Cross-Curriculum Ideas
This lesson can be integrated with reading and social studies curriculum.
1. Share or do presentations in front of other audience groups.

2. Compare and contrast folktales and stories that each student or student group presented.
Materials: Projector Screens, Projectors