Activity: Write a Data Storybook

Storytelling is an art form, and we don’t get to practice it very much.  This activity lets participants practice putting a data story together into a narrative, as a storyteller would.  Participants sketch their story and play with different ways of telling it in a fun storybook form. This process creates a narrative that can tell their stories in a convincing way. This activity builds capacity to turn “dry” information into a compelling story.  It also reinforces the link between data presentation and story-telling.

What you need:

  • large pieces of paper (butcher paper works great)
  • crayons or markers in lots of colors
  • an example data set to work with (this can be quite small if it resonates well with the participants)
  • an example storybook you’ve made about the dataset

How you do it:

Introduce the example data set.  Talk about how important it is to tease apart a strong narrative in order to create a compelling data story.  Tell everyone they are going to make storybooks, and read them your example.

Break the participants into groups of 3 or 4 people, giving each a large piece of paper and some crayons or markers with different colors.  Demonstrate how to fold a big piece of paper into a ‘zine (click here for the best instructions I’ve found).

Give them 10 minutes to sketch out a story on the paper.  Encourage them to use drawings, words, shapes and color creatively.  Tell them the first page must include the phrase “Once Upon a Time”, and the last page must include “The End”.



To wrap it up, have each small group read their stories to the entire group. These generally turn out really funny, and groups love to share them with each other!


We learned this great activity from Angela MorelliTom Halsør and Mushon Zer Aviv at the 2013 Tactical Technology Collective Info-Activism Camp.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s