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Storyline approach

Natalie Rooney shares her experience using the storyline approach.

Primary Teacher, Donibristle Primary School, Fife

As a student teacher, I was enthused and excited about the opportunities for cross-curricular work within a storyline approach. I recently had the opportunity to develop and plan my own storyline topic for my Primary 1 class.

Having done a lot of research, I realised that the key to a successful Storyline is to have an exciting and dramatic start that captures children's imagination and enthusiasm.

Introducing the story

My first episode saw children coming into their classroom to find that an alien had crashed in through the ceiling (through a large hole in the roof). The impact had to be huge so the desks were knocked over, there was space dust all over the classroom, and the class teddy bear was hiding under his bed sheets!

The children were encouraged to put the pieces of the jigsaw together to try to determine what had happened. One child found the broken spaceship and the whole class stood with bated breath while he opened up the door . . .

Findings

Having found an alien inside the spaceship, the children then decided to look inside his bag. They looked at the range of objects and as a class we pieced the story together to work out who this alien was and why he was here.

They found that this name was Alin and they also found his mission document, detailing his tasks. The tasks were directly related to the key questions of the class Environmental Studies project "Me and My Family".

Integrating learning experiences

The children were then encouraged to think of ways we could help Alin the alien with his task and this led them off on a variety of learning experiences.

Alin went home with pupils to find out about life in their family, children took photographs of him and wrote entries in his logbook to describe their activities.

The storyline also saw children adding up nuts and bolts in order to help Alin repair his spaceship. They created dramatic role-plays to show family roles and children were enthralled by the chance to write a story for the "Galactic Times".

A classroom display was developed with the storyline and children were encouraged to contribute. They created blow paintings of Alin's alien family and friends, and this became a central focus of the classroom and provided children an opportunity to share their learning with parents during our weekly "busy start".
Planning the storyline

My planning for the storyline started out with a basic frame of 6-7 key episodes, but was adapted and changed to meet children's interests and the development of the story that the children were creating.

It was essential to let go of the reigns and let children have ownership of the project while facilitating and planning interesting episodes.

Enthusiasm

I was really wowed by the enthusiasm of the children and it was great to see that they were motivated and engaged with the dramatic context.

Parents commented how much they had heard their child speak about Alin the alien and how enthusiastic they were to write their logbook entries.

Concluding the story

After a few weeks it was time to draw the storyline to an end. A clear ending is just as important as a dramatic start, in order to bring closure to the experience for the children.

The children in my class became very attached to their visitor and many had dismissed suggestions that he would eventually leave.

The penultimate episode saw Alin receive a letter from his mother saying that she missed him and that it was time for him to come home. Children were able to sympathise with Alin's mother and could relate their own feelings about being separated from a family member and could empathise with Alin.

The class decided a suitable way to say farewell to their friend before he departed for home. Alin left school one evening on his newly repaired spaceship after a space-themed farewell party.