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Interactive alternative copy tools for the Web


Students explore a variety of multimedia tools and experiment with one of them.


  • Students will identify eight unique online tools.
  • Students will outline the strengths of each tool and determine when each would be most appropriate to use.
  • Students will use one tool to report and tell a story that can stand alone.

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.


Three 50-minute periods


Slideshow: An introduction to alternative copy tools

A generic account created for each of the Web tools. A staff account would be appropriate for student media staffs.

Sample online stories with interactive elements, multimedia: Choose your own, or select from “2014: The Year in Interactive Storytelling, Graphics, and Multimedia” via The New York Times

Handout: Alternative copy tools for the Web quiz and Key

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction — 10 minutes

Begin by showing students the sample online stories. Quickly go through the definition of alternative copy and briefly explain why alternative storytelling forms on the Web would be a good choice in some cases.

2. Survey of tools — 25 minutes

Using the slideshow, introduce students to the short list of online tools. Introduce each tool and show an example of the tool in action using the links in slideshow. Then give students examples of stories that might utilize the tool.

Students should take notes during the presentation using a 2-column chart. On the left they should put the name and description of the tool. On the right, they should note examples and story ideas. The right side should include a sketch of what the tool looks like when embedded.

3. Activity — end of Day 1 and one full class period (65 minutes)

In small groups, students will learn how to use one tool and will teach that particular tool to the class. Divide the class into groups, then give each group one tool to use.

Each group should begin by looking at examples on the tool’s website and reading any how-to material. Their job is to use the tool creatively to teach others in the class about the tool. Their instructional version of the tool will be embedded into a post on the website. (Note to teacher: The post can remain hidden or placed in a category that does not appear on the publication’s front page to prevent readers from seeing it.)

Using a story recently published on their website or in their print publication, students should use the tool to create alternative copy for the Web. When finished, they will need to embed the tool into a post on their website.


1. ScribbleLive/CoverItLive (easy)

2. Google Maps (medium)

3. TimelineJS or other interactive timeline tool (medium)

4. ThingLink (easy)

5. Infogram/Piktochart (easy)

6. SoundCloud/SoundCiteJS (easy)

7. QuizSnack/ProProfs or other quiz building tool (easy)

4. Sharing — 50 minutes

Students will now do a jigsaw in which they present their tool in a mixed group. They will present their tool to the group and share with their group members their reflections on the following:

  • What does the tool do well?
  • What glitches or complications did your group encounter?
  • When would using this tool be helpful or appropriate?
  • What do users need to do to prepare to use this tool (reporting, material)?
  • What are three different stories you could imagine using this tool for?

Prior to meeting in mixed jigsaw groups, group members who worked together should plan their responses to the questions above.

5. Assessment

After sharing, or at the beginning of the next class period, give students the three story scenarios and ask them to select a tool to use in covering each story. They should be able to justify their choices.

To extend into a full activity, follow with partner sharing and discussion in small groups. The teacher should use the whole-class discussion time following to guide and correct. The following questions may be helpful:

  • What added value will readers get from this story format?
  • Why might readers be more engaged with the story when presented in this format?
  • How might your reporting be different given the tool you chose?
  • How long do you think it would take to produce the story using this tool? Does the story justify the time spent?