A Story in Four Parts: Students as Story Creators and Narrators

Updated on November 7, 2017

This Isn't Reading a Story from a Book.

You'll read all over the place how great it is for kids to listen to or read short stories. I can't argue with that, but it's even more powerful when the students are the creators of the stories themselves.

Here, I'll present a simple technique that gets the children involved in making a story without them necessarily needing to write it all down and worry about their grammar and spelling mistakes.

Not Quite No Preparation, but Nearly.

You need to take a few things with you to the classroom:

- Large pieces of paper (flip chart paper size is good); one per four students;

- Marker pens or felt tip pens (or ask your students in advance to bring these in);

- Pre prepared PowerPoint slides (or you can write instructions on the whiteboard if you prefer).

How the Lesson Works

To start off the lesson, you'll need to set the scene. I chose an enchanted forest as the setting for the story, telling the students an elf was trying to catch a bee in a jam jar. I'm sure you can do better then that, but it doesn't need to be complicated because the students are going to take the story wherever they want anyway. I put a few PowerPoint slides up with the story introduction and a couple of pictures, just so the students were clear, and included some instructions. You can see these introduction slides below and the link above takes you to a download page.

Put the students into groups of four (groups of three are okay too). Give one piece of paper to each group (and some marker pens if they don't have their own). Let them sit wherever they want, it's not important.

Tell them that they must continue the story. They need to segment the paper into four parts and in each they must draw what happens next in the story. There are not allowed to write any words, only draw. Stress that it's not an art class and that stick-men are perfectly fine. They have a time limit of 20 to 25 minutes for drawing.

Explain to them that once they are finished drawing, each group will come up individually and tell their story to the class. Make it known that everyone in the group is expected to tell some part of the story.

Introductory PowerPoint Slides to Get the Students on Task

Monitoring Progress and How to Present the Stories

The groups tend to be dotted all around the classroom, so you'll need to move around and keep an eye on how they're doing. Some groups will be slower or maybe trying to be too careful with their drawing (so you'll need to push them and remind them it doesn't need to be perfect). I use an on screen countdown timer from the internet on the big screen so the students can get an idea of how much time is left (and I pause it if I think they need a little more time). Drawing is not the objective of the lesson, it's bringing out their creative ideas, but you'll be surprised how good some of their pictures are in such a short space of time. I play music off YouTube in the background while they draw as I think it helps their creativity and they like it too, of course.

Decide where the stage should be; it can be anywhere in the class they wan't, it's not important. Find a fair way of deciding the order of the groups telling their stories, an insist on silence before any group begins to tell their story.

I give grades to the students based on their teamwork, effort, ideas and story telling. You can see more details about the rubric in the PowerPoint slides.

This Lesson Being Used in a Primary 6 Classroom


Reflection on Teaching

If I reflect on this lesson, I would say it was definitely well liked by the students. I used it with grade 6 EFL students initially (you can see some pictures above). Sure signs were their concentration, smiling faces, and that they wanted to hold onto their story boards at the end of the lesson. To improve the lesson I think I would somehow allocate more time for the actual story telling, as it was a little rushed. Also, some students detached too much from the original setting, so I decided to get the students to name the characters at the start so that they use them and keep within the bounds of what I was hoping for.

This refined method I used with grade 10, who took a lot longer to create their stories and also spread out far wider when working than the grade 6 kids. I had several groups that wanted to sit outside and work, which was fine with me.

Another improvement I made was to set the groups myself getting a mix of weak and strong students within the same group. I explained to the students that life is like this, you have to work with people who are not your friends. It provided good results to get them working with people with whom they would not normally mix with.

I hope you have fun if you try this lesson; let me know if you have any refinements that might improve it. Thanks.

Same Lesson in Progress with Grade 10

Grade 10 working on their story. Interestingly, grade 10 were slower (and spent more time on preparing) than grade 6.
Grade 10 working on their story. Interestingly, grade 10 were slower (and spent more time on preparing) than grade 6.

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