Monday, January 25, 2010

Education manifestos...part 4, the Storyline Method

The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget introduced theories of child development that became powerful shaping forces in educational reform in the sixties and on up to the present. In simplistic terms, Piaget asserted that children pass through four stages of development from sensory experience, to magical thinking, to concrete thinking to formal thinking. In addition he argued that children construct their own meaning out of their own experience. From his work sprang the educational concepts of developmental readiness and of child centered curriculum.

In the late sixties a group of Scottish educators set out to develop an thematic, interdisciplinary method of instruction for elementary students. What they came up with has come to be known as The Scottish Storyline Method. The Storyline Method was introduced to the US in the eighties by an American Fulbright teacher, . There are now Storyline schools in California and the Northwest, including Highland Magnet School in Bend and Creative Science School @ Clark in Portland.

Storyline is an innovative approach to curriculum integration. The essential elements of a Storyline are setting, characters and events or incidents. The unfolding of the story each day in the classroom provides a structure and logical connection to the curriculum. The difference between thematic teaching using a topic web and Storyline is the presentation of key questions which moves the story along. In a topic web the activities are random, whereas the investigations which take place during a Storyline are in a logical sequence which is dependent upon the preceding episode.
The critical elements of a storyline are:

* Setting the scene in a particular time and place--Students create a "frieze" or 3D representation of the setting in their classroom.
* People or animals or both--Each student creates a character which he or she then becomes throughout the "storyline." This provides students with a chance to be someone else of a different age, race, culture, personality, time period, etc.
* A way of life to investigate--Daily life is explored as well as rules and expectations of that particular day and age.
* Real problems to be solved--The teacher and students create incidents which could possibly come up in the given setting. Students then must work together or individually (in character) to solve these challenges.
* Celebration or Culminating Activity--Each storyline ends in a way which students are able to share their knowledge with others. Often this is through a presentation for parents, a field trip or community outreach.
* Reflection and Assessment--Students are always given opportunities to reflect and assess their learning in a variety of ways.

For example, with an Oregon Trail topic, the students become pioneers leaving home in the East to settle in the West. The journey requires students to investigate why people migrate, what supplies are needed, what rules they must follow along the trail, what are the possible hardships and challenges. Carefully planned episodes engage students in actual practice and application of basic skills within the context of the storyline. The story motivates students to extend those skills and refine them for "real life" challenges.

The development of the storyline is guided by the following features:

* The story is progressive and sequential.
* The teacher sets out key questions within each episode that the students must address.
* Each episode has limitless potential as every student investigates and contributes depending on their personal experiences and innovation.
* Each student will reach different levels within each key question and will return to the storyline for the next question.

In 1997 Jeff Creswell published Creating Worlds, Creating Meaning: The Scottish Storyline Method. You can read a review of it here.


Blogger qoo123qoo123 said...


5:57 AM  
Blogger K said...

Regarding this last comment in Chinese. I ran it through an online translator which gave me this: "Your tribe standard is very good, I anticipated that renews." I'm not sure what that means or if it's even in the ball bark but I can live with that.

3:28 PM  

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