Atomic Models? I Can Storyboard That!

Sometimes people ask me what do I do to entice reluctant adopters to try something with technology in their classrooms. My answer is based on my own experience: start by remaking the worst lesson. Some technology integration is likely to make the worst lesson less awful. A little success will breed enthusiasm and a willingness to try again.

For a long time, my own worst lesson was a lesson about the atomic models. I had a video I showed with excellent content, but the trouble with the video was that it was a video of a filmstrip. Literally, it was a moving picture where the pictures did not move. I used it for years, justifying this by saying that the great content outweighed the disengaging still images. When I first started using iPads in my classroom, this was the first lesson I remade. I asked my students to read about the models for homework. The next day they made comic strips to illustrate atomic history.

I have used the iPads for this for years, but now that my school is a 1:1 school, I decided to try a new tool. I have always really liked Storyboard That, so I decided to try it out this year. Storyboard That has a free and premium version of the tool. The free version allows users to create a three-cell or six-cell comic with an incredible array of customizable scenes and characters. The premium gives more options for cells. The best part of the premium plan is that you can pay for a month at a time (instead of paying for a year at a time), so you can buy it just for the month you need it. They offer a 14-day free trial, too, so you can try before you buy. I used that for this lesson.

My students found the tool easy to use. They worked most of one class period on their storyboards but they could finish for homework if needed. This was a definite advantage over using a set of iPads on a cart. They did a great job with the comics, so I printed them in color. One student said “I’m going to frame this” when I returned them! Based on that comment and these samples, you can see that students thought the assignment was fun and they were proud of their creations.


It’s very easy to create and manage an assignment on Storyboard That. The interface is quite intuitive. I created generic logins for each lab group and asked them to work collaboratively in one account per group. This worked pretty well; I’ll do it this way again in the future.

Storyboard That also has teacher guides and resources galore. If you need ideas for how you would use this tool, you don’t have to go any further than this page. In fact, if you want to try the lesson I described above, you can find a teacher guide I created here. There aren’t nearly as many guides for STEM subjects, but there are a zillion ELA resources for all ages and many history guides as well.

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