One of the most frustrating things for a teacher is a student who is unwilling to engage in a lesson or unit. Putting in the hard work to develop an integrated curriculum only to have your in-class lessons fall on deaf ears can be extremely disheartening. One subject where maintaining student interest can be especially difficult is social studies. Often children are unable to grasp the relevance or importance of studying historical events, leading them to check out and begin to distract other students. Avoid this scenario by using the Storypath instructional strategy in your social studies class.

What is Storypath?

Storypath is an instructional strategy for developing and organizing social studies units. It uses a narrative structure to give a sense of context to the information that is being taught. By framing historical events as stories in which characters experience certain events and are affected by them, you can engage students who will become interested in what happens to these characters with whom they have become familiar:

Developing a Storypath Lesson

In order to develop a lesson using the Storypath framework, you must familiarize yourself with the underlying structure of the technique. Each Storypath unit is comprised of the following episodes:

  • Creating the Setting
  • Creating Characters
  • Context Building
  • Critical Incidents
  • Concluding Event

It is important to note that students are responsible for completing the tasks outlined in each episode. The teacher is not responsible for telling students a story of history; rather, students must insert themselves into the historical lesson through a narrative structure.

Example Storypath Lesson

This example lesson will teach students about the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia.

  • Creating the Setting: Have students create a mural depicting the layout of the settlement along with the surrounding natural resources.
  • Creating Characters: Students create their own characters who live or interact with the Jamestown settlement. Keep in mind that these shouldn’t necessarily be historical figures. For example, one student might be an English tobacco importer while another is a Christian missionary at Jamestown.
  • Context Building: Have students create a journal for their character that includes their experience and interactions in Jamestown.
  • Critical Incidents: Students must find ways to overcome various obstacles such as food scarcity, harsh winters, malaria outbreaks and local legislation.
  • Concluding Event: Bring closure by having the students plan and participate in the transplantation of the Jamestown settlement to Williamsburg.

This is only one way of incorporating the Storypath instructional strategy into your social studies lesson. With a little creativity, this framework can be applied to almost any topic.