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Creating a StoryMap with Knight Lab


Students will learn about the stories on the web that highlight locations and the rationale for using a free online creation tool called StoryMap. Then they will create their own data visualization using this tool.



  • Students will learn how to create a multimedia data visualization.
  • Students will appropriately source images from the internet.
  • Students will discuss which stories can be enhanced by this type of data.


Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.5 Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning and evidence and to add interest.


100 minutes, with possible time at home to finish project work




Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction — 15 minutes (or more)

If students have not been instructed in data journalism, have them review the lesson on Using Data Visualizations in Online Story Packages for context. (This is not required for this lesson, but it is recommended). In addition, the News Gathering module has several related data journalism lessons.

If students have not been instructed in sourcing Creative Commons images, have them review the lesson on Understanding Copyright and Creative Commons.

Show students one or more of the examples on

After showing the example, have students discuss in small groups which kinds of stories/projects would lend themselves to this type of data visualization. Collect and share answers from each group.

Explain that the project today will have students create a short example of a StoryMap.

2. Direct instruction — 5 minutes

Students will be researching and creating a StoryMap of four famous movie locations that can still be visited.

Advise students they will only be told WHAT these things are — they are responsible for the following:

  1. Creating an original StoryMap.
  2. Finding an image of four locations and sourcing them appropriately in the “Credit” area.
  3. Writing a description. This can include facts about the area, connections to the movie, how to visit, or something else. However, all four locations should have the same type of information. Information should include the source.
  4. Placing a “pin” on the map that accurately shows where the place is.

Here are the locations to choose from:

  • Yavin IV from “Star Wars”
  • The Tribute training center from “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
  • Hogwarts from “Harry Potter”
  • Subterranean pool from “127 Hours”
  • Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters from “X-Men”
  • The baseball diamond from “Field of Dreams”
  • The firehouse from “Ghostbusters”
  • Nakatomi Plaza from “Die Hard”
  • The house from “A Christmas Story”
  • The hotel from “The Grand Budapest Hotel

3. Introducing the StoryMap tool  — 20 minutes

If the instructor is not comfortable doing that, use this slideshow to give step-by-step directions for starting the StoryMap and creating the first slide. (The teacher may forgo the slideshow and actually use a computer to demonstrate the creation at this point of the lesson.)

Tell students they can use Creative Commons, Google, and Wikipedia to help find information.

After the demonstration, allow students to work on their own story maps.

4. Application — 50 minutes

Deliver the presentation electronically so students can refer to it as they create their own story maps. Give the students a list of the locations, and let them choose four from the list (students can also choose their own to complement this list).

Students will work alone or in pairs to complete the maps using computers or tablets. The teacher should walk around the room to provide support as students work.

5. Assessment — 10 minutes

Students will reflect on their experience and evaluate themselves using the rubric provided, submitting it to the teacher in class.

Students will find the link of their maps and submit to the teacher through email, Twitter, Google Classroom or preferred method.



Depending on students’ skill level and available technology, they can work alone or in groups to complete the project.

Students may need more time and support to create the map and work with the tool.

Advanced students can be challenged to come up with their own theme for a StoryMap instead of the movie locations topic.

Once students have completed this, have students complete one of their own to complement an online feature or beat and embed the final product into their work for publication.