A Teaching Strategy: Storyline


Teaching does not merely entail standing before learners and talking. A teacher has to contemplate on how to present certain topic so that all learners in a class understand it effectively. This thoughtful planning of a lesson involves strategy. A teacher has to come up with the best teaching strategy for his or her learners bearing in mind that every learner is unique. Many teaching strategies can be applied to make learning meaningful and effective to learners. This paper will endeavor to look at storyline as one of the teaching strategies. Storyline approach is a topic based way of teaching in which story plays a central role, as a context for educational contents and as structure for planning of the educational process. The approach tries to give an answer on the occurring inconsistency of a lot of contemporary curricula, which are dominated by a subject structure. Subjects are used as containers for content, which correspond with aims and targets indicated by custom, cultural heritage, new experiences, insights and developments in society and science. Subject structure in itself, is a physical organising framework for content in education, but it can easily lead to inconceivable subdivision into content containers, altering the meaningful entirety of education for learners. In national curricula, as well as in teacher training programmes and educational theories, there is a propensity towards establishing more consistency and relevance in the curricular offering and in the teaching and learning practice without losing relevant aspects of curricular content (Bell, Steve, Harkness, Sallie and White, Graham 24).

Background of storyline teaching strategy

This method of teaching was first developed by a group of tutors from Glasgow, Scotland. There was a wake up call for Scottish teachers to develop teaching strategy that greatly integrated varied teaching approaches in their curriculum. During that period, most of the teaching approaches were divided into small components. There was further need for development of a teaching strategy that focused more on child learning than heavily depending on use of textbooks. The main aim was to develop necessary classroom contexts in which children could learn particular skills and concepts and would attain constructive learning attitudes. Tutors were given time to interact with teachers and other stakeholders who plaid role in curriculum development. This led to the birth of storyline approach as a teaching strategy (Stewart-Rinier and Lund-Kristensen PP.1&2).

How storyline can be used in learning environment

Storyline approach is based on recent developmental psychology and language acquisition research. Being a learner centered method for teaching of a foreign language, it is very student-oriented, relies on the students’ experiences outside the classroom and their previous knowledge from the very first stages of their language learning process. In order to be in accordance with the constructivist standard of learning, students construct and build their new knowledge structures around the themes that the teacher introduces. The teacher should formulate the questions and tasks to direct the students’ attention and prospect towards what they are soon going to learn about and to trigger their prior knowledge about the topic.

The storyline approach is about stories. It triggers the children’s example of a story structure stored in their memories since they have been told so many fairytales. They know and expect the typical setting of a story (its place and time which form the background of it), the main characters and key actors, the chain of events each with a problem and its solution leading to their completions. This structure is called story grammar and its method uses the memory structure of a story that children already have in order to teach them new content and language (Bell Par. 4).

The storyline method provides a lot of opportunities for drama activities. Being actually a drama consisting of separate acts and acting out roles, it provides opportunities for the practice of functional language, which is chunks of language with certain functions (e.g. greetings, introducing people, making promises, sharing wishes, hopes and desires and so on). It provides a context that is not a genuine one, but one that is rooted in a story structure, resembling true life. Some of them may have scripts while others may be free, and open to students’ creativity. The more guided role-plays follow the principles of communicative language teaching. They generally represent a very resourceful means for offering great opportunities for adaptations of contexts and language learning goals.

The importance of long lasting learning is interlinked to a successful language learning mechanisms. Storyline is one of the best methods to use when teaching new or foreign language to learners. Expert in storyline technique understands that there is need for his or her learners to continue improving their talking capability. At different stages, a learner finds himself or herself almost mastering the foreign language. However, it is difficult for learners to ever become fluent in the language as the native speakers. For learners to quickly learn foreign languages, they need to frequently interact with native speakers of the language. They need to ensure that whatever they convey is understood and they are capable of comprehending whatever is conveyed to them. This can only be achieved through use of storyline teaching strategy. Storyline approach provides a situation where learners are capable of interacting with other persons who might be of great help in their understanding of the language. Here learners are able to free themselves from worries of making mistakes. Teachers are aware of all manners in which learners are expected to behave and thus are capable of coping with them (Sung 3).

Reasons why the strategy proves effective in teaching

The storyline approach uses the power of stories as significant carriers of consistent educational content. Story is an important giver and in that way, a crucial feature of the curriculum and the motivation of learners. American psychologist Jerome Bruner says that the distinctive form of framing experience (and our memory of it) is in narrative form. What does not get structured narratively suffers loss in memory. Stories do motivate children; they bring things together and make them alive. The approach is concerned with the story as an element of evidence, acts and imagination in a narrative structure, with a plot, actors, scenes and incidents. The storyline approach uses also linear and encrusted structure of stories as a model for organizing educational activities in a thematically context. Children are taken by stories. They identify with the main characters in a story. They experience situations as if they are personally involved. Stories appeal to their imagination. Children anticipate to situations, imagine how things can go. They become surprised too, if a story takes unexpected turns. The relation between education and narratives is not strange. In fact, narratives are the oldest way of transferring information, from one person to another and from generation to generation (Bell Par. 6).

Storyline helps students develop the capacity of collaboration. In this approach students learn skill of working and solving problems together. No man is an island. This means that every man has to depend on others in one way or another. To improve this there is need for people to learn on how to relate with one another productively. Most of problems encountered in our day to day life require collaboration. Every state is looking for assistant from other states. By taking students through storyline approach, they are able to be prepared for future relation with their colleagues (Stewart-Rinier and Lund-Kristensen 12). Through this approach students develop culture of interdependence.

Storyline approach of teaching acknowledges the restrictive impacts that actual observations can have on learners’ originality and imagination at a tender stage of their learning. For instance, when a group of learners is asked to come up with a model of hospital, the physical model they develop reflects their actual perception of how a hospital looks like. After coming up with a model, learners are given an opportunity to visit a hospital. The essence of such a visit to learners after they have contemplated and come up with a hospital model improves their understanding of how a hospital looks like. As they organize for the visit, they usually have slight idea of what they expect to see and they are able to understand things they did not include in their models. Storyline helps in improving learners understanding of what they are being taught as well as correcting their past perception of things.

Storyline is growing in popularity due to its capability of incorporating varied curriculum. Sound knowledge theory and efficient teaching schemes are organized in a user friendly manner. The method provides a flexible environment for instructors when it comes to organizing their work plan. Due to its capability of encouraging cooperation in developing the story, it motivates both learners and their teachers thus ensuring that everybody plays a role in accomplishing their goals. By cooperating in development of the story, students are able to comprehend the relevance of the study hence understanding it more. The level of participation and sense of possession by students motivates them to take a bigger responsibility in their personal learning (Sung 5).

Storyline entails a combination of thoughts and actions. This provides an opportunity for every learner to nurture their skills, ability and experiences. Learners become more conscious of their learning proficiency. In addition, students are able to come up with materials that they feel fond of. They feel pride of having invented something in their learning process and always wish to be associated with it. This improves their desire to go on with the system of learning. Storyline helps in developing positive learning among learners as they all feel to be part and parcel of learning. It also eliminates occasions where learners feel to have unaddressed needs as they are given an opportunity to air all their problems. Teachers are able to eliminate any bias in students that might have resulted from their previous studies. They get to know their skewed teaching methods leading to them opting to alter them. It helps in improving teachers’ way of addressing problems. Despite teachers conducting numerous researches, most of them do not abandon their old way of thinking (Beijaard, Drieland and Verloop Par. 2-7).

Principles of storyline method

For this technique to be successful there are various principles that teachers need to bear in mind. Teachers should ensure that they develop the sense of anticipation in their learners. A good story draws the attention of its listeners as they get more eager to know what happens next. For students to understand the topic, they need to be enthusiastic of knowing what follows. This helps them follow the teaching stage by stage. Anticipation is also manifested at the end of the lesson where learners are seen to look forward for the next lesson. Through developing anticipation in learners, it helps in ensuring that learning continues both when students are at school or at home. There is therefore great need for teachers to ensure that they fully involve their students in their teaching in order to make them feel as part of the learning process. This help students remember whatever they are taught and prepare them to be ready to contribute in the following lessons. There is need for teacher to develop their stories based on past experience. Students understand well the topic if taken from the known to the unknown. Coming up with a clear context of the study helps students understand the importance of the study (Bell and Harkness 6).

Ensuring that there is full partnership between the teacher and students is paramount. Storyline is referred to as collaborative story making due to incidences where both the teacher and students take active role in developing the lesson. The teacher needs to come up with a curriculum to be followed in teaching. In the curriculum, he or she needs to provide for flexibilities where students will play an active role in controlling their learning process. Teachers have to ensure that their students feel to own the learning process. They have to ensure that their lessons begin by seeking students’ perception on various issues. This makes students feel to have an influence on the less. In other modes of learning, students are perceived as not having ideas regarding the covered topic. Their role in the lesson is to listen as teachers feed them with information. Seeking ideas from students frees their mentality of not knowing anything regarding the topic thus helping them participate fully in the lesson (Bell and Harkness 8).


Storyline is a teaching approach that is different from others because it recognizes the value of existing knowledge of the learner. Learners are asked questions that help in creating a setting within the frame work of a story. Both the teacher and learner make a situation through visualization, which is a stimulus in learning. The strategy is effective in art such as making mosaics or collages. It helps in integrating students’ prior knowledge with the curriculum. Best teachers identify their learners’ individual needs and provide them with learning practices that best suit them. It does not matter whether the practices comply with the set guidelines on teaching. They recognize that learners are unique and a strategy that is successful with one student might be less successful with another student. Learners are given an opportunity to come up with their own stories based on their experience through the help of their instructors. The approach provides a wide range of opportunities where learners are capable of assessing themselves as they progress with their studies. They are also capable of monitoring and evaluating their learning outcomes.

Works cited

Beijaard, Douwe, Driel, Jan and Verloop, Nico. “Evaluation of story-line methodology in research on teachers’ practical knowledge.” 1999. Web.

Bell, Steve. “Introduction to the Storyline Method“. Articles on The Storyline Method.

De Akelei, Assendelft, The Netherlands 2006. Web.

Bell, Steve, Harkness, Sallie and White, Graham (ed.). Storyline – Past, Present & Future. Glasgow: Enterprising Careers, University of Srathclyde. 2007.

Bell, Steve and Harkness, Sallie. Storyline – Promoting Language Across the Curriculum. Royston: UKLA Minibook series. 2006.

Stewart-Rinier, Todd and Lund-Kristensen, Hanne. “Storyline at a distance.” 2009. Web.

Sung, Hyekyung. “Enhancing Teaching Strategies based on Multiple Intelligences.”2004.

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