Teacher Consultant

Clifford Lee

Life Academy High School
Oakland, California

Bay Area Writing Project

Writing the Voiceover Script


Students begin the pre-writing process by interviewing an immigrant (twice) and gathering the "data" for their "autobiography" essay. In pairs, students write a two-page background of their subject, from a first-person perspective. Out of their interview transcript and two-page autobiography, students will extract three specific anecdotes that really encapsulate their subjects' experience of push and pull factors in coming to America and their subsequent experience here.

From the beginning of the project, students are informed about and shown video footage of the final Exhibition Night of their digital story. Because they have all participated in the Exhibition Night experience during their ninth-grade and tenth-grade years, they know that their audience will include their subjects, classmates, teachers, and other community members. Some students have also seen the previous class's American Immigration digital stories, so they are very clear about what the final output of the project will be. Their teachers are also constantly reminding them of the purpose and audience for the digital stories.


For the written voiceover narrative, the pairs of students work collaboratively in coming up with their text and are constantly given feedback from their classmates (through peer-editing) and their teacher.


Students are shown a plethora of models of previous digital stories by alumni, current students at Life Academy, teachers from our summer workshops, and digital stories from other school sites (found online). We highlight certain aspects of different models to teach a variety of lessons (tone, inflection, pace, clarity, volume, etc.). We analyze different storytellers and evaluate their performance, discussing the feedback they gave, and why. We model for our students the variety of storytelling techniques we discussed and have them practice them in pairs or in small groups.


We allow students to record their voice independently, and to listen, analyze, and revise their recording as often as time permits. Most groups re-record their voiceovers (at least segments within their piece) a minimum of three to five times. Most students acknowledge their mistakes and, if not, their partner usually makes note of them and helps with pronunciation, diction, flow, tone, etc.


Unlike other types of essays, the digital story voiceover narrative allows for an automatic proofreading process when the student is forced to read aloud his or her writing with a partner. If there are major grammatical/mechanical issues within the written text, it is usually quite notable to the student or the partner when the student attempts to recite out loud. Nonetheless, each pair must go through a multi-level process in peer-editing their voiceover narrative prior to recording.