Green Screen Workshop: Children Report on News that is Important to Them


Do you ever get the audible ”agghhh” from students when presenting a writing project?  Us, too. Even better, how often do your students get stoked when they find out they have to write an informational essay?  One out of thirty? Us, too. Truthfully, as teachers, we all have experienced this disdain from students if we have ever taught writing in our careers.  We really believe though, that writing isn’t boring, we just owe it to students to package such literacy work in a way that engages them. Digital tools like green screen video technology might be the enticing packaging students are looking for to jump back onto the literacy playground.

 “Writing isn’t boring, we just owe it to students to package such literacy work in a way that engages them.”

Goals and Rationale

By creating a space where students could play with green screens, it was our hope that students would find themselves engaging in a digital outlet to foster literacy development and share important messages about issues and events they cared about. Specifically, students had the opportunity to learn about their topic, paraphrase key details, practice effective fluency and speaking skills, while collaborating with their partner throughout their green screen video project.


The audience was composed of peer elementary students, CU-Boulder Literacy Coaches (members of our Digital Literacies class), family members, the school principal, as well as other guests.  And now, our blog viewers, too!

20180410_165152CU-Boulder student-teacher assists one video team in creating a script from the Newsela article about an endangered species.

Description of The Process

Our workshop lasted one 45 minute session. The process was fairly straightforward. We launched the workshop with a 5 minute “Inspiration Presentation” for students.  We informed students that they were about to get the chance to become news reporters, using green screen videos to share important messages affecting society today. Needless to say, students got pretty excited. The agenda of our workshop consisted of the following steps:

  1. Students were paired with another peer partner as well as a CU graduate student-teacher.
  2. Students were given a choice of news articles they wanted to turn into Newcasts via Newsela.  This online resource offers articles with topics ranging from pop culture to endangered species. Each article included photos, which were important in attracting students’ interest.
  3. Students read through the article, highlighted key details, and summarized important points that would best support their message, which could be between 1-2 minutes in length.
  4. Students created a script for each person .
  5. Students practiced their script multiple times until they felt comfortable speaking.  Some practiced on their cell phones first, using the camera video to watch/listen to themselves before trying again.

Students filmed in front of a green screen. We set up 3 rooms with a green screen for students to film in, so that students didn’t have to wait along time to video. Coaches used iPads to film students’ newscast using the app Green Screen by Do Ink.      

Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 6.05.32 PM.pngGreen Screen by Do Ink

20180410_171248Students view their newscast, discuss changes, and film again. They choose their best take to produce in DoInk (above). 

Introduction and Demonstration of Project

Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 5.35.48 PMOur posted goal for students to see. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 5.33.54 PMPosted directions for getting started.

Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 5.34.52 PMPosted directions on how to edit Newsreel. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 6.28.45 PMNews reporters share information and provide images relevant to saving the Bornean Orangutans (above). 

Scaffolds and Supports

Designing this workshop to most effectively help students be successful required smart scaffolding.  First off, we were lucky that each student team had an adult coach to guide and assist them. When exploring new digital literacies, ensuring students have an expert coach with them throughout the process can’t be understated. However, this does not mean that a lone teacher cannot integrate a unit using green screens into their classroom. If attempting this in a classroom setting, just be mindful that the process will take at least three sessions. Further, if your students are in the primary grades, we encourage inviting adult family volunteers to support students throughout the process.

We felt that having students share news using the green screens was both purposeful and authentic. Yet, news can be overwhelming. We wanted to make sharing news more accessible. Thankfully, Newsela helped us do just that. For this first venture, we constrained students’ choices of news events, asking them to pick from a pre-selected set of elementary level Newsela articles (complete with pictures). Students had at least fifteen different topics to select from, ranging from an article on rhino extinction, to McDonalds removing cheeseburgers from their menu. This level of variety enabled each student team to select a topic that both excited them and was meaningful to them. Scaffolding the structure of how students created topics for their newscast allowed each team to focus more on the literacy work and less on topic generation. Plus, the Newsela “news” articles were at the “Goldilocks” level for students to be able to successfully paraphrase the main ideas. Researching and choosing their own topics for future newscasts would be an important next step for students.

Scaffolding the students’ experience allowed them to access learning opportunities at a deeper level. During the workshop, we remember looking around and noticing every single student team was completely and totally absorbed in their creative design. They seemed to forget they were in a school setting. One team was practicing their voices for their newscast, while another was debating if they should include a certain detail in their presentation, while yet another group was avidly rehearsing their scripts. It was at this moment we realized incorporating scaffolded technology really can breathe life into literacy development.

“Scaffolding the structure of how students created topics for their newscast allowed each team to focus more on the literacy work and less on topic generation.”


Showcase of Final Products

  • Two students report on endangered Bornean Orangutans

  • Another news team reports on the endangered White Rhino


Share and Reflect

Patrick: “After witnessing how engaged, thoughtful, and successful students were in their projects, I decided to immediately incorporate green screen production into my own learning community.  Students were given choices of writing or typing an informational biography of Henry Hudson OR producing a green screen video presentation with a group. Students unanimously chose to create a green screen biography of Henry Hudson.  I observed students take such interest in their projects that students were routinely taking home their scripts to edit on their own, create homemade props to add to their report, as well as continually improve their work with enthusiasm as they received feedback from fellow students as well as the teacher.  We feel that the power of incorporating green screen technology within literacy education exponentially increased quality of student work, amount of student engagement, and even the overall joy of writing for normally hesitant writers.”

Collin: “As a secondary ELA teacher, it was simply stunning to observe students read about their news topics with such ownership and authenticity. Each group worked hard to decide the most important information about their topics they should share in their newscast. They discussed and collaborated with their partners so well. I think it’s because they really bought into the idea that they needed to share about important topics affecting them, and reading, writing, and the digital tools of the green screen were simply a necessary piece to helping students develop their voices.”

Danielle: “I couldn’t be more excited to share our green screen workshop with other teachers/readers! The whole workshop process of creating and designing green screen videos is an incredible way to incorporate essential literacy skills while having tons of fun. I personally love how we get to witness our students come alive on camera. In my own classroom and during this workshop, I noticed some students who have a tendency to be more shy, or not participate in discussions, truly shine as they presented the information they chose to share. The amount of student agency, their own “want to do well,” was amazing to watch. With the growing desire to be a “Youtuber” in today’s world, students walk away thrilled with their final product, and the want to do a project like this again.”

“After witnessing how engaged, thoughtful, and successful students were in their projects, one of our team members decided to immediately incorporate green screen production into their own learning environment.”

Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 5.56.46 PM.pngThese news reporters chose relevant background images to be revealed within their newscast.

Three Things to Change for Next Time

  1. More time! Next time, we would want to break up the workshop into more than one day. We were pressed for time in our workshop and thus had to rush the creative process. Although time constraints can be useful in many cases, we could have used another workshop to practice more or edit finished videos.
  2. Photos! Finding appropriate photos to go with overall message is an important media literacy skill. It is easy to quickly Google search for a photo that goes with your topic. However, if students had the time to carefully choose their photos, our students’ videos could be even more engaging.
  3. Microphone! Including a microphone would pick up students’ voices, even those students who are a bit more shy than others. In a loud room, a microphone can amplify student voice making for a more professional video.

Three Adaptations for the Classroom

  1. Amount of green screen availability.  The more locations containing a green screen, the more efficiently you can get video production completed. And, locations need to be quiet.
  2. Teams of three or more students.  A group can allow students to experience the various components of film production, such as filming, editing, or sound.
  3. Volunteers!  Para-professionals, parents or other supervision would be beneficial as students will often film in multiple rooms to ensure productivity of the entire class.


About Us

We are all teachers and lifelong learners pursuing our Master’s in Literacy – Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Colorado @ Boulder. We are passionate about discovering innovative ways to develop students’ literacies.


News Report Team: Patrick, Danielle, Collin

Digital Safety & Citizenship

By: Hannah Gebrosky, Madi Drake, and Emily Chatburn 

May 1, 2018

Why Make Time for Digital Safety?

Our classrooms buzz with conversations surrounded around Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. Students are constantly connected to the web and it’s essential that they understand how to interact with this new daily medium. Through the world of digital literacy, digital citizenship is an important aspect to ensure students are using technology in an appropriate and meaningful way.

Design Process

As we designed our digital safety workshop, our hope was that students would be able to learn and apply the guidelines of digital citizenship on a digital platform. We hope that as you read this post, you will be able to learn about ways to make digital citizenship engaging, fun, and interactive.

As we began thinking about this lesson, we thought students could create digital safety posters using paper and markers. After some thought, we recognized that using a paper/pencil medium would not allow them to learn important aspects of being a digital learner. We weren’t entirely convinced until we started searching for websites and apps that allowed students to make posters online. We found a website called PosterMyWall that engaged students and facilitated the design process in a simple manner. When exploring this website, we recognized that this medium would also allow for us to easily share the posters digitally with an authentic audience at any time. Typically with traditional posters, they are confined to one space and no matter how beautiful they end up, they are either thrown in the trash, stuffed in the back of a closet or sent home with a student to do who knows what with?!

Then we went forth to look for the aspects of Digital Citizenship. We presented the students with a mini lesson around internet safety and opened with the inquiry, “Why is it important to be safe when using the internet?” After a quick class discussion, we dove into six specific rules that we felt pertained to our elementary aged audience, but feel free to choose ones that fit better for you and your students. The following are six rules that our students explored:

  • Log off of your computer
  • Communicate kindly with others
  • Don’t post personal information
  • Make hard to guess passwords
  • Use credible sources
  • Only interact with people you know

Before students went off to design, we talked to them about how to make their posters most effective and appealing. Color, layout, font, and images were some of the aspects students were encouraged to think about when designing their posters. We gave them a few creative constraints, asking them to include 3 main elements on their posters: their safety tip, an example, and why that tip is  important. We showed two model posters and the group discussed the pros and cons in each. Students discovered that different audiences prefer different designs. We wanted to encourage student choice so students would be passionate about their project. Students chose a tip and a partner they could collaborate well with on this project.

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                                 Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 5.44.47 PM.png

Workshop Time

During the workshop, students interacted and engaged in the following ways:

  • Students worked with a partner and a coach (teacher leader)
  • Explored PosterMyWall
  • Decided on background color/theme/feel of their Internet safety tip
  • Developed quick poster phrasing that conveyed the message of the guideline
  • Designed layout of text and font
  • Ensured that it was appealing to audience and purpose, revising and adjusting the design
  • Designed a visual balance between empty space and content
  • Collaborated with partner and coach-teacher
  • Shared posters during final class celebration with families and other guests.

Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 6.00.47 PM.png

Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 6.00.36 PM.png

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We were shocked to find out how much students enjoyed this project! Not only did they enjoy working with PosterMyWall, with little to no frustration, they also had fun with learning about the different digital safety tips. Through the process students were asking really great questions and also expressed how they wanted their posters displayed in their school computer and media labs! We were so pleased with the outcome of these posters and the content that they learned, however more importantly, that it also gave them the opportunity to express their identities as multimodal composers. We also learned that this was a great platform for students to utilize and practice persuasive writing techniques.

At first we were worried about the amount of time that the students had to complete this activity- 50 minutes. Once again, we were amazed at how well students adopted a new application and created such quality work in a short amount of time.That being said, the session would have been more cohesive and impactful if we could have had more time to work.  If we were able to have more time for this session, we would include a revision, editing and sharing day before their publication. This is important because the students would then be able to get peer feedback and be able to teach others about their digital safety tip. In addition, we would want to give students the opportunity to explore each digital safety tip so they would more deeply understand the importance of each guideline and feel like they had ownership of the tip that they would choose in the end.

As teachers who are passionate about giving our students meaningful experiences in the world of digital literacy, we value student safety, collaboration, artistic design and expression, and seeing literacy come to life! Through this project, we feel like these values were conveyed and gave students a clear path of how to interact and appropriately use the tools and relationships in a digital world! 

If you decide to implement this lesson into your own classroom, we would love to hear your experiences. Good luck!

About the Authors

We are three 3rd grade teachers in Boulder, Colorado. As we continue to expand our educational expertise, we are currently pursuing our graduate degrees at CU Boulder in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in K-12 Literacy. We love to be outside and enjoy all of the fun adventures Colorado has to offer! 

Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 6.52.42 PM.png





Sensory Literacy: Children Design Tactile Fables

By  Anna G and Rebecca Wild

Posted May 14, 2018

Imagine creating a story without written words or being able to see the pictures on the page.  The goal of our digital literacies workshop was to create a multimodal composition that opens up a different learning process for children to create a narrative story.  Children chose a fable from a selection that we had curated and retold it in their own words, while creating a tactile illustration using the senses of touch and sound.

Their tactile fable was created in two sixty-minute workshop sessions to allow time to work through the creative process. This design activity opens the door for students to find a new way to use multimodal composition with a written story and gives students the opportunity to think outside the box about literacy. Our target audience is anyone who is excited to learn new ways to help children grow to be a twenty-first century learner.

Copy of IMG_1072

Fables are a great sources for composing a retelling

Creation through Touch

Throughout the composing process children were able to have their visual ideas come off the page through physical application.  We started with giving the children blindfolds and clay to produce the textured sculpture of an animal without the use of their dependent visual sense. It helped the children visualize what they would like to create as they used the sense of touch to help guide them in their design.  They exchanged their clay models and guessed what it might be, thinking about the distinctive characteristics of different animals.  After this sensory immersion experience,  children were asked to create a picture for their fable, using materials such as cotton balls, glitter paper, felt, and any other craft supplies to help the picture come alive.


“The Wolf and the Lamb”

Adding Sound and Braille

After children composed their fable picture, they added sound and Braille to provide another dimension to their story.  Children used Makey Makey ( along with Scratch ( to produce sound effects and narration. Scratch is a free programing language that allowed students to find or record specific sounds for their fable. Makey makey is a tool that children used to create a circuit that connected wires from the computer to the copper tape on the illustration to allow sound at the touch of your fingers. This makes the visual story become more sensory friendly to all, including those who cannot see the page.

    IMG_1077.JPG      downloaddownload (1)

“The Ant and the Grasshopper”. Makey Makey and Scratch made it possible to add sound to the tactile illustration.

Another layer of the multimodal composition was to add words to the tactile illustration through Braille. Children were able to use a Brailler slate and stylus to press Braille onto the page. Braille engages all readers in feeling the words and opens up a new way to read the story.


”The Town Mouse and Country Mouse”  as experienced through a tactile illustration with Braille.  


The Braille alphabet, which was used to braille labels and titles. 

The final component of the tactile fable project was for  children to retell the story they created in their own words, either orally or in writing. Children presented their final product to the workshop group while reflecting and describing their experience. They then shared it with their family and others at the final workshop celebratory event.

Tools and Materials:  

  1. Craft materials (cotton balls, ribbon, foam pieces, glitter,  popsickle sticks, feathers, and whatever scraps you have around.)
  2. Makey makey materials
  3. Braille materials ( Braille slate and stylus and the Braille Alphabet)
  4. Printouts of 14 fables – text and illustration
  5. PPT tactile picture book – example of illustration with sound
  6. Computer with Scratch program for sound enhancements

IMG_1074.JPG            turtle and rabbit retelling

Children share their tactile illustration of the “The Rabbit and the Turtle” 

rabbit and turtle fable retelling


This project was part of the Build a Better Book initiative at CU Boulder, led by Tom Yeh, Computer Science, Stacey Forsyth, Science Discovery, and Bridget Dalton, School of Education ( Throughout the activity children were able to learn through the process of trial and error as they figured out which materials would aid in making the story come off the page. To our surprise children were more engaged and began to learn from their mistakes, instead of feeling frustrated and discouraged.

This project creates a new view of literacy and how to tell a story without written printed language. It also lends itself to learning through the creative process using multimodal materials and tools, which supports teachers in bringing literacy into the twenty-first century.

We liked that the children were able pick a fable that they connected with, and were able to learn through the process of hands-on creation. We thought that this helped our children pay more attention to other senses and to emphasize the story through sound and texture. Our students began to connect sounds to different aspects of plot and character such as suspense and excitement for the climax or ending of the tale.

One thing we would change in the future is to add a workshop dedicated to Makey Makey and Scratch to allow the students to create more of their own sounds for their fable. We would also like to be able to have their picture become more of a completed book, with several tactile illustrations, rather than a single page.

About the Authors

Anna and Rebecca are both full time elementary school teachers while continuing their education in K-12 Literacy Instruction at CU Boulder.


Rebecca has taught 3rd Grade at a Charter school in St Vrain, for 3 years.  Her teaching lisences is from Metropolitan State in Denver, CO.

Anna has taught 5th grade at a Charter school in Brighton for 3 years. Her teaching lisenses are from Rocky Mountain College in Billings, MT.

Stop Motion Animation: Composing an Action Scene

by Nicole Wilson and Casey Morsberger

posted May 6, 2018

Did you ever enjoy watching Wallace and Gromit as a kid? What about “The Nightmare Before Christmas”? Stop motion animation was a technique used to create these classic films, but it can also be used in a variety of different ways to support student learning. During our Literacy and Media Lab workshop, children explored the process of planning, designing and filming a stop motion movie.

Stop motion animation projects are created using a sequence of images that are compiled together. Television programs, commercials, music videos, and other media regularly use stop motion animation to create movement with otherwise inanimate or immobile objects. Each image captures the same object, which is moved only slightly between each frame, and it creates an illusion of fluid movement when the sequence of images is played back. Stop motion animation videos can be as short as three seconds, or as long as twenty minutes. No matter the length of your video, a lot of hard work and creativity is needed in order to effectively tell your story!

Screenshot 2018-05-06 at 10.49.39 AM

This dinosaur clip used 47 images, but was only 8 seconds long! It was created by two 5th grade children in our workshop, using paper cut-outs, a camera, and a stop motion app.

This technique can be embedded into your classroom curriculum to allow students to engage with media, collaboratively work in groups, and demonstrate knowledge in ways that transcend ‘traditional’ classroom assignments. Teachers could use this process to have students create videos about specific topics such as erosion, the human body, problem solving in math, fractions, counting, spelling, vocabulary study or to summarize a story. The possibilities really are endless!

In our Literacy and Media Lab workshop, children had the freedom to build their stop motion animation by creating a character that performed an action of their choice. This method is reflective of project-based-learning, where students demonstrate their knowledge and skills by developing a public product or presentation for a real audience. It was important that students had a creative time constraint, where they were asked to produce a final product in only 40-45 minutes. By taking on this endeavor in your classroom, you’ll find that there are so many ways to incorporate the standards and objectives in your curriculum! You’ll also find how engaged and motivated your students are when allowed the freedom to create, play, and explore.

Think about how much this Grade 4 Speaking and Listening Common Core Standard addresses the collaboration needed to work through the stop-motion animation process: “Students will engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.”


Now you’re ready to take this on! Here’s how to start:

Tools and Materials:

Ideas for ‘focus object’ (or objects) of the video:

  • Template of animals, people, or characters to cut and assemble (in resource link below)
  • Craft materials to create animal, person, character, or other object that can be manipulated between frames
  • Scissors
  • Legos
  • Wooden Mannequins

Other necessary materials:

  • Brads (brass fasteners)
  • background paper or setting
  • Device to capture images (smartphone, iPad, or tablet)
  • Stop Motion Movie App
  • Tripod

Downloadable Resources

Introduction/Demo – 15 minutes

  1. We began our workshop by showing students examples of stop motion animation, including one created by me, Nicole (see Swimming Fish below!).  


Dinosaur Stop Motion Animation

Faster Dinosaur Example

Dog Chasing a Ball

Coach Example – Swimming Fish

2. We reviewed the steps that children needed to take to be successful, emphasizing ways in which they could positively communicate with one another. Children partnered up and found a coach to work with. 



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Workshop – 45 minutes

  1. Children had access to a variety of different cardstock, Legos, and animal clip art that they could cut out. Using brads, they were able to make arms, legs, or other pieces that could be manipulated. Surprisingly, many students were drawn to using the pre-created animal figures, which we found was an essential scaffold. This also helped students create their products quickly so that their time and effort could be focused on filming their movie and using the Stop Motion app.  Choice was important, though, and one team drew and cut out their characters and scene props , while another team used Legos.
  2. As children created their character(s), they discussed with their partner what action to showcase.
  3. Coaches facilitated children’s collaboration by asking guiding questions, such as, “How did you decide what character to make?” or “Why don’t you ask your partner’s opinion?”
  4. Given the option to be “Filmer” (capturing images on the camera device) or “Stager” (manipulating the character(s) and objects), children took a series of images using the Stop Motion Movie App.
  5. Children considered partner and coach feedback in order to make changes as they developed their film.

Student Stop Motion Animation Final Products

This 56 second video shows 5 different stop motion videos created by children in the workshop: Snowboarding, Elephant and Cupcake, T-Rex Falling, Elephant Family and Peanut Butter Hound. Enjoy their creative storytelling!

Share and Reflect:

In front of an audience of peers and coaches, children had the opportunity to share the title of their video and their inspiration for their stop motion animation film. After viewing, the audience asked questions such as, “What problems did you come across?” Not only did this provide a venue for sharing, but allowed students to reflect on their collaboration process. At the final celebration event with families and guests, the children showcased their animation videos a second time.

Our Reflections

What Did We Learn?

Nicole: “I learned that children were capable of creating incredible projects in a short amount of time. When introducing students to new technology, I found that providing them the opportunity to explore was extremely beneficial.  Before jumping into using these resources primarily to teach curriculum, I think it’s important to begin by setting aside time to encourage students to experiment. Prior to and following our workshop, I enjoyed researching and brainstorming ways to incorporate stop motion animation into the curriculum. I saw that using this tool enabled children to design and collaborate which directly led to engagement.

Casey: “I agree with Nicole that given such a short amount of time, children created amazing projects. They had to quickly brainstorm a character and an action, effectively express their ideas with their partners, create their character, and sequence their steps as they navigated using a new app. I learned how children who may be quieter in a larger classroom setting were able to effectively negotiate, compromise, and converse with their partners to work to a common goal.”

What Would We Change for Next Time?

Nicole: “I wouldn’t change much. The workshop went really well. I would elaborate on our workshop to link to curriculum in classrooms in the future and perhaps add on to the materials that children could access to build their animation.”

Casey: “In future planning, I would think about how students can accomplish this task in relation to content objectives. At first, it was great to have the only goal be: “Create stop motion using something performing an action,” because children were able to have so much freedom. I’d love to see what children can create when they need to make a stop motion animation video that represents a character from a specific story or demonstrates knowledge of a plant’s life cycle.”

What Do We Value?

Nicole: “As an educator I value investing time into researching and trying new tools and technology in the classroom. Our workshop model provided a low-stress space to try many of the projects I had always envisioned for my class. I’ve learned that there is great value in taking risks as a teacher, try new things, and design creative projects because it is engaging for students and easy for us as teachers to share our passion for learning. ”

Casey: “I value allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of ways, because not all students enjoy simply writing what they know. While it was nerve-wracking to ask students to complete a project that I had only completed once myself, I learned that they were so incredibly engaged with the process. Not only were they on-task the whole time, they also had a finished product they were proud to show off!”

About Us

Nicole and Casey
Nicole (left) and Casey (right)

Nicole: I completed my undergrad at CU Boulder in May, 2016. Currently, I am a graduate student pursuing my Masters degree at CU in Literacy Curriculum and Instruction. I began teaching in fourth grade at Red Hawk Elementary, taught in the Westminster Public School District and will be returning to the St. Vrain Valley School District to teach 3rd grade next year.

Casey: I received an undergraduate degree in Special Education and Elementary Education from University of North Carolina Wilmington in 2014. I taught special education in Howard County Public School System for a year before moving to Colorado, where I’ve spent 3 years teaching elementary special education in the Boulder Valley School District. I’m also a graduate student pursuing my Masters degree in Literacy Curriculum and Instruction at CU Boulder. Go Buffs!