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Key points in Storyline?

The Storyline is now known as a method where learning is based on the existing knowledge and experience of the pupil leading to learning by doing.

Through the teacher’s key questions the pupils are encouraged to construct their own models of what is being studied. The pupils’ hypotheses are in the beginning of a topic study based on what they know and what they imagine. In this process the pupils begin to frame their own questions, as they see what they don’t know, and that becomes the basis of testing real evidence and research.

The pupils’ models can be made in different sizes and out of a range of things, e.g. collages, friezes, and pictures employing a variety of art/craft techniques, Lego, cardboard boxes, etc. The critical elements of the Storyline are:

 - Setting the scene in a particular time and place

 - People and/or animals

 - A way of life to investigate

 - Real problems to be solved  

The teacher has from the start planned the story in the frame of these episodes and through key questions, which can involve various activities, the teacher leads the pupils through the Storyline. The teacher has the story but does not know the details of the content.

When the setting has been made the story needs characters. Characters in a Storyline can be made in many different medias from drawings to a dummy with clothes. Each pupil makes a character and biographies can be made on e.g. details on hobbies, interests, personality, etc.

Throughout the Storyline different incidents (What if…How, What - key questions) can occur in the setting or with the characters. E.g. something is stolen, a fire or a disease breaks out. Each of these incidents provides the opportunity to different activities that might need problem solving, creating, or investigation. The teacher can plan these incidents within the area of the curriculum.

Completing a Storyline can be done in many different ways depending on the topic, e.g. presentation to the parents, visits from a local expert, or visiting a place (newspaper, radio station, factory, theatre, etc.)

Planning Storyline:

A story can be very factual. It can also be a product of total imagination and fantasy or a combination of both. The theme of a Storyline could be based on the curriculum guidelines matching the pupils’ level and attainment goals. Young pupils could work with themes about “Me”, My Friends, “My home”. Pupils on a higher level could work with e.g. “The Astronaut”, “Natural Disasters”, “The First World War”

The linear structure of stories is used as a didactic model. It is the teacher who structures the Storyline in chronological episodes introducing the incidents but within that structure there is plenty of freedom for pupils to fill in the ongoing story. It is the teacher who decides about the plot, the core of the story. Creating the plot and structure of the Storyline does not necessarily mean that the teachers have to be authors themselves. Many teachers use the plot and the Storyline of existing books. The chapters or events in the book are the episodes in the Storyline. 

The key questions are the steering mechanisms for the teacher. Through key questions the teacher gets the pupils’ attention on certain elements. The key questions have to be planned carefully so the teacher knows the direction in which she/he wants to lead the thoughts and investigations of the children. They main philosophy in the key questions in a Storyline, which differs from other types of questions, is: Questions are not asked with the intention of leading children to a correct answer. The answer is not the prime target of the question, but the action pupils will undertake.

Steve Bell points out the importance of how you ask questions:

% Which sound system is in a studio?

+  Which sound system do you think there is in a studio?  

Key questions are important elements in planning a plot as they bring the teacher in control and gives dynamic to the theme. The most important aspect in the questions asked is that the teacher respects the pupils’ reply.

Scotland was the birthplace of this method. Storyline was a new way of reaching children and gradually international interest grew. Today, thirty years on, it has stood the test of time and expanding curriculum and is now well established in the west of Scotland.

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