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Using Photo Story 3 in the PreK-2 Classroom

Module by: Patricia Boyce. E-mail the author

Summary: This module explores several uses for Photo Story 3 in the early elementary classroom. It includes an overview of the program, as well as several tutorials. It also features a collection of digital stories that teachers and students have created, as well as other ideas and tips for incorporating Photo Story into the classroom.

Module by: Patricia Boyce and Sarah Williams


About Photo Story 3

Photo Story 3 is a program designed by Microsoft to create slide shows and digital stories out of still pictures. The program is very easy to use with a “wizard” style of guiding the user through the process of creation. The user has the option to add music, text, or even recorded audio to personalize each story and enhance its impact.

Using Photo Story 3 in a PreK-2 Classroom

Due to its accessibility and versitility, Photo Story 3 can be used to give presentations, show student work, and engage children in lessons quickly and with just a basic knowledge about software usage. It can create appealing and up-to-date classroom videos to share on a class website, or for students to familiarize themselves with new technologies.

The websites and examples of using Photo Story 3 that are featured in this article are created by teachers with student contribution. The software does require basic computer knowledge as well as reading and writing skills in order to create usable products. However, each classroom features the use of Photo Story 3 in unique ways and serving many purposes.

The program is available for free download for Windows users here.

How to Get Started With Photo Story 3

From the Beginning

The program is very user-friendly and the directions are often self explanatory. Upon opening Photo Story 3, the user is prompted to choose either begin a new story, edit a project, or play a story. To begin, select “begin a new story”.

Photo Story 3 Welcome Page

Adding Pictures

The next directive is to upload pictures. As the user collects photos to use in the digital story, it would be wise to save each photograph in the same folder. This way, locating the pictures at this time will be much faster. The next step is to edit the pictures, which Photo Story does with very little user input.

Adding Text

Adding text is the next step. The user can select text placement, font, and text color. Following text, the user can add several audio options. The first is to record speech or sound using a microphone. Another option is to add recorded music from your computer library or to create music using the Photo Story program. Finally, the completed product can be saved in many ways, including to your personal files or Smartphone.

Adding Text


There are several additional options that the user may or may not choose to include in creating a digital story. Changing the picture's direction and red eye reduction are both options in the import pictures section, along with a few other features. On the menu to add text, the user could use one of several different photo effects, including black and white, diffused glow, and negative. Lastly, the user could choose to customize the motion of each photo and the transitions between pictures. This includes the amount of time spent on one picture as well as fading in and out between slides.

Adding background music

Additional Resources

In addition to the Microsoft website, there are many other pages to find more information about using Photo Story 3.

  • Digital Storytelling includes screen shots guiding the user through the process of creating a digital story using Photo Story 3.
  • TeachNet is a tutorial with teachers in mind. It gives ideas on how to incorporate the program into a classroom environment.
  • Tech and Learning combines elements from the first two links, including the snapshots and teacher suggestions. It also offers information for teachers and students on copyright rules and regulations.

Classroom Examples

How to Wash Your Hands

This example demonstrates step-by-step how to wash your hands. It is designed for PreK students who are learning classroom etiquette and how to prevent spreading germs in a community environment. Each step is accompanied by a demonstrative picture and audio (presumably recorded by the teacher).

The video would be especially good at the beginning of the year, as students are being reminded how to keep a healthy classroom environment. To give students a sense of responsibility, the teacher might opt to remake the video using their own students so that the children can feel good about their contributions.

Sight Words

In this video, students are featured, displaying their knowledge of sight words. Each clip includes two children wearing bibs with individual letters that spell out the sight word. In conjunction with the clip, the children sing a song about the word they are showing. Although the words in this video are easy and aimed at a PreK audience, it could easily be adapted for older students.

This video is a good example of the capabilities of Photo Story 3. The photos and transitions have to be timed to match the specific sight word song (which are all unique). The students would be able to see their progression throughout the year, as the story could be edited from time to time to include new knowledge.

Making Book Trailers

This site suggests using Photo Story 3 for students to generate interest in books that they have enjoyed reading. Students can create and scan their own images to make a digital reading journal, or use images from the text or internet. By recreating and retelling the story, the student must demonstrate reading comprehension skills. It also requires the student to be able to summarize and highlight important details without giving away too much.

One consideration might be to allow small groups of students to work together on a project such as this one, particularly in younger grades. Time would have to be maximized to allow for each child to contribute. A suggestion might be to include the option to work on Photo Story during small group reading time or during stations.

Story Narration

This video uses images from the book David Goes to School by David Shannon, but is narrated by two girls in a choral reading. The contribution by the students seems limited to reading the text, as it may be more beneficial for the teacher to construct the video and sync the timing of the reading with the movement from picture to picture.

One idea is to use the digital story as part of a portfolio. The teacher would have the option to share the video with parents either in conferences or back to school functions. In addition, the video could also be used to demonstrate progress to the children who have been recorded; to show how fluency has developed over the course of the year.

Mrs. Keenan's Class Website

In Watertown, New York, Mrs. Bridgette Keenan's kindergarten class displays their classroom adventures through various Photo Story projects. Her website includes introductory activities, such as an adaptation of the familiar story Brown Bear, Brown Bear that acts as a video "yearbook" of her students.

Mrs. Keenan also highlights special activities in which her students have participated. The children are shown during an assembly about character, that Ronald McDonald emcees. They are also featured as they parade their Pinwheels for Peace. By making these resources accessible, the students are able to share their school activities at home and with extended family and friends.

Assessing Photo Story 3 for the Classroom


User-friendly. Because of the “wizard” style directives of Photo Story 3, even the most technologically uneducated could create a finished product. Young students can be included in the process because of its simplicity.

Availability. Photo Story 3 is free for all Windows users. If it does not come with your system package, it is easily and quickly downloaded from multiple sites.

Versatility. Starting a new digital story is starting with a blank page. Any topic can be addressed and made appropriate for any audience. It is very adaptable and the option to record personal audio makes it even more so.


Windows-only. Photo Story 3, as a Microsoft product, is only available to Windows users.

Limited. Although the linear progression and limited options allow for ease of use, even for those who are technologically challenged, Photo Story 3 cannot be manipulated. It is another step in the progression from projectors to PowerPoint and now to Photo Story. It does not offer the wealth of options necessary to create diverse end products as in the case of other video and audio programs.

Time consuming. The step-by-step process of Photo Story allows for easy use, but construction of a product does take time. Photos must be located and imported, and timing the synchronization of video and audio is arduous.

Resource consuming. It would be preferential for another adult to be present during student creations, so that internet usage could be monitored. This takes a helping hand away from other classroom activities that might have a more beneficial impact on student development. Without the teacher being the creator, it seems difficult to integrate seamlessly into classroom instruction.

Considerations for Teachers

  • If students are being expected to present a final product, they need time allowed to explore and understand all the features that Photo Story 3 offers.
  • During times of student creation, the teacher may want to select appropriate photos and save them on the desktop to keep students on task and save time.
  • Consider using Photo Story creations as an assessment or portfolio component to share with parents and students, demonstrating growth.
  • If the teacher is considering uploading the videos for public viewing, ask for student and parent permission first. However, also consider making the videos available privately through a school-regulated website so that students may view their work at home.
  • Before incorporating certain materials into a video, check copyright guidelines.

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