I love walking with my kids to and from school. The rhythm of walking, breathing in fresh air and the changing environment, leads to all sorts of conversations. We’ve talked about the size of galaxies and the plot twists of tv shows, the nature of pathogens and the character of different professions. Often, it’s a time for Olive and Theo to bring up things that are frustrating them.
“I’m mad at the king,” Theo told me on the way home Monday. “When I was a messenger during the war, he didn’t care about us colonists. Then, he made it so we can’t move west. Now, I have to pay every time I turn in papers to Jan.” In quick step, my ten year old son had reflected on the colonial experience of the French and Indian War, the Royal Proclamation of 1763, and the Stamp Act. He had done so with a motivating sense of historical empathy and imagination, gifts endowed with deft elegance by his teacher, Jan Zuckerman, using the Storyline approach.
Jan has long been using Storyline to lead students to this kind of depth of understanding across disciplinary lines. Her use of the approach results in students caring about the past. In her hands, Storyline is immersive, engaging students wholly, drawing them in using multiple access points: emotional, intelletual, visual, auditory, artistic…
Students develop characters, based on primary and secondary sources. They build a world in which those characters interact. Things happen in that world: Royal dictates, crises, and conflicts that keep students thinking about multiple perspectives, options and consequences. The landscape of their learning is guided by the world they’ve created, represented on one of the classroom walls (pictured above.) Their imaginary land is guided by historical sources that give them room to respond independently and analytically while developing insights into the past.
I strongly encourage teachers to think about using Storyline – I’ve seen it effectively employed with students as young as kindergarten through high school, and across disciplinary lines. If you’d like to discuss my experiences with Storyline, drop me a line!
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