Prerequisite: Components Of A Storyline

Components Of A Storyline

Storylines can become very complicated. They provide flow through entire units that address multiple standards.  But getting started like that can be overwhelming. For that reason, we are going back to basics here. 

Let me diverge for just one moment.  Before I taught science, I had a position as a long-term sub in an English/Language Arts classroom, and I had to teach old-school grammar.  Diagramming sentences was on our curriculum. Diagramming can be tricky. Many sentences are really complex, have a ton of branches, and can just be plain confusing.


You don’t start with those.

You start with the basics. “See Spot.” “See Spot Run.”

That’s what we’re going to do here. We’re going to start with the basics in this Bootcamp, and for that reason, our storyline is going to have just three parts. As you become more comfortable with storylines, you will obviously add components. I just want to be clear that we are taking this down to rock bottom basics with this Bootcamp, and once you get the hang of it, you’ll want to eventually build up to more encompassing storylines in your own curriculum in the future. 

Our storylines will begin with a phenomenon. This is the first activity, although it doesn’t necessarily take a super extended amount of time.  This activity is fairly short, and it is designed to peak student interest and generate student questions.

The next step in our basic storyline is the exploration.  The exploration is where students investigate something in a hands-on and minds-on manner. That said, hands-on doesn’t always mean literal-hands-on.  Students can be manipulating data, using online simulations, or interacting with non-explanatory texts (aka, not your textbook that just gives them the answer!) This activity is really the heart of your storyline, and it’s where students figure out the content ideas (or at least some of them). Unit storylines typically have more than one exploration, but we are sticking to our basics. We’ll dive more into the exploration tomorrow.

The final step in our basic storyline is the meaning-making activity.  After completing the exploration, students need to “digest” what they discovered. They do this through sense-making tasks and discussions.  This is also the point where the teacher can elaborate on student discoveries to provide additional content ideas. In order for students to make sense of their exploration in terms of its real-world applications, this is where students apply what they discovered to the initial phenomenon.  We take it full circle. 

That’s our three part storyline. Again, it’s just the basics. In a real unit storyline, you would have additional activities to elaborate on and expand the content, assess student understanding, and explore and make meaning of additional ideas and concepts. All of those things are like the extra branches on your sentence diagrams.  But before you start worrying about that, let’s master the basics.