INTRODUCTION:  I teach Reading and Study Skills at South Suburban College in South Holland, Illinois.  At some point in the semester, some students forget why they have decided to pursue a college education. They also stop doing what is necessary to be successful. Just as a road map leads a traveler in the right direction, a story board can help students from straying off course from the goals they have set for themselves.  It will help them feel successful, one step at a time. Collaterally, they build self-confidence by speaking in front of their classmates. This activity could be used in any class at any time during the semester. (For an artistic student, this activity might even suggest a new career goal, as artists can make their living creating storyboards.)  I decided to use it in the middle of the semester to remind students why they enrolled in college in the first place.


  • To re-motivate students by having them recall why they enrolled in college
  • To help them define the specific steps they need to take to reach their goal
  • To build self-confidence through classroom presentations


  • Large sheets (12” x 18”) of drawing paper for each student
  • Colored Markers


1. I tell the students, “Think about your reason for wanting a college education.  What goal did you have in mind?”

2. Next, I tell them about story boarding.  “A story board is a plan that uses rough drawings to show action changes in a film, cartoon or TV show.  The storyboarding tool is a plan that shows the specific steps needed to achieve your goals.  It helps you answer the question, ‘What should I do first, second, third, and so forth to get closer to my goal?’”  Show them an example of a storyboard, if possible. (See Resources below for examples)

3. “You’re going to now create your own storyboard. Use words and pictures. Label each step in bold letters.  Be ready to share it with your classmates. With your own action plan in hand, you’ll be on your way to success in college.” (30 minutes)

4. Invite students to present their storyboards to the class.

5. After individual presentations: “For your next assignment, answer these questions in your journal: “What did you learn from this assignment? What is the life lesson here?” Other possible questions include, Where might you get off course as you travel the path to your college degree? What inner and outer resources do you have to keep you on course?” (If you prefer, you could have students write a formal essay instead of a journal entry.)

OUTCOMES/EXPERIENCES: Some students got right to work on the project.  They seemed to know just what they wanted from their college education.  As I walked around the room, other students confessed they really didn’t have a goal in mind.  To these students I said, “If you knew you could not fail, what goal would you set for yourself?”  One student said, a little bit embarrassed, “I want to be a professional basketball player.”  Another said, “I want to be a computer animator.” “ O.K.,” I said. “Think of the steps you need to take to get to that goal.” Soon, everyone was working on his or her storyboard.  After thirty minutes, it was time for them to present their storyboards to the class. 

When I asked who wanted to go first, the class decided to present in seating order. The storyboards were varied.  Some students drew and labeled each step.  Others drew a picture of themselves after they had achieved their goals and wrote the steps to the side.  Some storyboards reflected the student’s artistic talent; other students drew stick figures. One thing the students had in common was that they all aspired to lofty goals.  There are two would be lawyers in my class, as well as three nurses, two teachers and one teacher’s aid.  There is a graphic artist, a veterinarian, a designer of clothing, a massage therapist, a computer programmer, as well as the aforementioned basketball player and the computer animator.  Most of the students included going to South Suburban College as a step toward their goals.  Other steps included attending classes, studying hard, getting good grades, and knowing what classes to take. Many included four-year colleges and some even included job hunting as a step to their goals.  The steps they included were a sensible means to the goals they set for themselves. On the whole, they were confident as they presented their projects.  I complemented each one after they presented. When they all had their turn, I applauded them for the good job they had done.  They joined me in the applause.

At the beginning of the next class session, I collected the homework assignments.  For the most part, the students seemed to understand the reason for the assignment.  They were insightful as they wrote their responses to the question, “What did you learn from this assignment?”  One student wrote, “ I learned that writing down the steps to my goal can guide me to where I want to end up.” Another wrote, “If I can think of what the reward will be at the end of my studies, then nothing can bring me down.” Other comments included: “I have a better understanding of how long it will take me to get to the career I have chosen,” “No matter what one’s goals are, unless we go through a step-by-step process, we will never reach them,” and “This project helped me see my goals and how to get there more clearly than ever.”

To the second question, “What is the life lesson here?” the responses included: “…in order to succeed in college, you must constantly do the work in class as well as at home,” “…good planning is the key to success,”  “The life lesson here is that we all can be whatever we want to be in life. We have to find our own path and figure out what we want to do for the rest of our lives,” “You can reach your goals no matter what age you are,” “We can reach our goal if we take one step at a time,” and “…don’t pass up a chance to go to school and follow your dreams.” All of the responses showed critical reflection.  These are just sample of what the students learned from this lesson.

LESSONS LEARNED: I learned that the goals the students set for themselves were lofty, indeed. With a little coaxing they would dream big dreams. Additionally, the students enjoyed taking a break from the regular class routine.  By mid-term the students can become a little restless with the routine. This project was just what they needed to refocus their attention on the goals they set for themselves. Even though many weren’t the best artists, each storyboard clearly showed the goals they had set for themselves as well as the steps to get there. 

I would recommend this activity to be used at any time during the semester.  However, I find that the middle of the semester is a good time to use it.  At this point in time, the students are bogged down in the nitty-gritty of the work and losing steam.  They need remind themselves why they are in college and what they need to do to succeed.

Most of my students are taking developmental classes in math, reading, and English. Many have a long way to get to the career of their choice. However, with persistence and a good “road map,” many of them can achieve what they set out to do.


For examples of Storyboards, see… …place curser over pictures for description

–Diana Haney, Faculty, Reading & Study Skills, South Suburban College, IL

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