The Storyline 1 course is validated by Portland State University. To gain credit the participants have to attend all five days of the course, keep a reflective diary with an entry for each day and turn in a storyline plan for their grade level. This five day programme has been running for a number of years and has been designed to combine practice and theory. During the first two and a half days a storyline example is developed. The storyline plan is then analysed in terms of curriculum opportunites. On the morning of day four experienced storyline practitioners share their experiences with course members and in the afternoon grade level groups look at the required curriculum and consider which topics might be taught in a Storyline. The fifth day is devoted to Storyline planning. Participants are encouraged to adapt the Storyline they have experienced for use with their own classes or to plan a Storyline with a similar structure. This year thirty two teachers took part in the course. Most of the participants said they had heard about Storyline from colleagues and were interested to learn more about this way of working. This positive attitude made it easy for the course tutors to start work on the chosen topic which was ‘New Neighbours’.
“STORYLINE 1” at Parkrose High School Oregon, USA 28th June – 2nd July, 2004
Course Tutors: Jeff Creswell of Storyline Design, Portland, Oregon, USA
Sallie Harkness of Storyline Scotland, Glasgow, Scotland
In the first episode groups were invited to design a house which would become part of a street frieze. These houses, which were produced using simple paper collage technique, were very attractive and each group created an individual design which included a garden area. The tutors also made a house which was included in the street.When the frieze had been displayed and admired, course members set to work to create the family who lived in their house. The visualisation chosen was ‘little people’ and the figures were displayed on the frieze. Biographies were written and used to introduce the characters to the class. Immediately the level of imaginative involvement rose as participants began to see the possibilities for storymaking. However the activity which followed was to create a ‘day in the life of’ diary entry for each character.
At this point a sold sign was posted on the tutors’ house and the family groups were asked to discuss the kind of new neighbours they would like to move in. After feedback had been shared the tutors informed the class that a family with a disabled child had bought the house. Basic details about this family were provided and the class was divided into two main groups. The first group was given responsibility for creating portraits of the new characters (mother, father, grandfather, son – in wheelchair, and daughter) The technique introduced was paper sculpture faces using painted paper. Using ‘old’ clothes the boy and his mother were created ‘life-size. Two teachers transformed a classroom chair into the wheelchair. While this was going on the other main group were given the task of creating box models to show how the house would be adapted to the needs a wheel chair user.
Next in the Storyline came the episode when groups considered how each family would respond to the new neighbours and, of course, how the newcomers would view the residents. This discussion provided many ideas for further development as incidents for storymaking. Also there was agreement that a neighbourhood welcome party would make an excellent culminating event for the topic.
The welcome party became the focus for a five act drama in which each group were asked to create an act. The sequence of events was agreed and criteria for success listed. Groups were given time to work out the details of scenarios, assign roles and ‘rehearse’ before presenting their piece to the rest of the class.
During this exploration of the topic tutors modelled a variety of teacher behaviours and participants took part in a range of different structured activities. The diary activity mentioned above enabled course members to reflect on their experiences and to analyse their reactions. Each day time was set aside for questions and answers.
The reflection and analysis was continued in the second part of the week when tutors endeavoured to link the Storyline experience with the demands of the required curriculum and to help participants understand how the basic principles of the Storyline approach can be realised at different grade levels. One of the most successful sessions was the sharing by expert witnesses. Jeff Creswell was able to show how ‘New Neighbours’ had been developed in his 6th grade class. His wife Sarah shared Storylines developed in kindergarten and primary grades and Sallie Harkness contributed a short picture tour of Storylines from the Scottish context.
For everyone involved the week passed by very quickly and soon everyone was immersed in the final planning day. This is ‘pay-off’ time when tutors discover whether or not participants have grasped the basic principles. It is a busy and demanding day but also satisfying when one hears of new ideas for topics and realises that the course members are truly enthused by their experience. By the end of the day most groups have arrived at a Storyline plan which should work in their classrooms.
My regret as a visiting tutor is that I do not always have the opportunity to follow up course members through the school year. I know from my experience in Scotland that some teachers find difficulty in getting started, also that others encounter unexpected problems as their Storyline develops. The course experience sustains them but sometimes they become confused and lose their sense of direction. Now the wonders of the electronic world make communication so much easier and the purchase of a new lap-top means that I can receive pictures as well as words. In our final course discussion we talked about networking and an e-mail address list was compiled. Now I am here in Glasgow, Scotland, hoping to hear good news from my friends back in the USA.
Sallie Harkness, August 2004