Learning Science through the Storypath Approach
Learning Science through the Storypath Approach
ACTIVITY, CONTEXT, AND CULTURE:
LEARNING SCIENCE THROUGH THE
MARGIT MCGUIRE, SEATTLE UNIVERSITY
What is Storypath?
The Storypath strategy uses the components of
story--scene, character and plot--to organize
curriculum into meaning and memorable
Storypath offers both a structure to organize
a strategy of teaching that utilizes an
“A clear and compelling narrative helps us find meaning,
not just scattered facts and abstract ideas. Stories help
us remember and make sense of our lives and the lives
around us….A story is not a diversion; the best stories
make our lives more understandable and focused” (p. 48).
Wiggins, G & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VI:
Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Egan, K. (2001). Imagination. in Turning the perspective: New outlooks on
education. Enschede: CIDREE/SLO
Egan, K. (1990). Romantic understanding: The development of rationality
and imagination, ages 8-15. New York: Routledge.
Downey, M. & Levstik, L. (1991). Teaching and learning history. In J. Shaver
(Ed.). Handbook of research on social studies teaching and learning
(pp.400-410). New York: Macmillan.
Creating the Setting
Students create the setting by completing
a frieze (mural) or other visual
representation of the place.
The Rainforest Setting
In the rainforest there are three layers of forest: the canopy, the understory, and the forest floor.
The canopy is the top layer of trees in the forest with leaves from the trees basking in the
sunlight. Canopy trees are covered with plants that grow in the sunlight. These plants hang onto
the trees and soak up food and water with their leaves and roots. Thus, the plants do not put their
roots into the soil of the forest floor. There are other plants such as vines whose roots drop all the
way to the forest floor to pick up nutrients. Each plant flower in the canopy has a specific color,
scent and shape. Most trees in the canopy are 60 to 120 feet tall, but giant trees grow even
higher. These trees that tower above the canopy are called emergents.
The understory is the layer of smaller trees and plants that grow below the canopy. It is dark in
the understory because the canopy keeps the sun from shining through. Woody vines creep up
the trees towards the sunlight. Ferns and palms live in the understory and they look as though
they have been there forever. The trees provide fruit and nuts for animals to eat.
to bring the
On the forest floor it is dark and damp. The floor is carpeted with a thin layer of dead, wrinkled
brown leaves. Because the floor of the forest is dark and wet, trees and plants quickly rot when
they die. The forest floor is covered with rotted wood, leaves and other decayed plants. Some of
the roots of trees are visible as they make their way into the soil of the forest floor. A few
flowering plants along with herbs, mosses and fungi can be found of the forest floor. Vines start
on the forest floor wrapping themselves around trunks and branches climbing all the way to the
GLAD: 10:2 STRATEGY
Backed by brain research
Presented by Art Costa
Reinforced by Long, Swain,
and Cummins, who state
that it is important to allow
at least 2 minutes of
student processing for every
10 minutes of teacher input
Negotiating for meaning
Low-risk environment to try
new vocabulary and
Teach students turn and face a
partner whenever you indicate
it is time for a 10:2.
Teach students to take turns
answering the question you
Teach students the quiet signal,
such as hand in the air, you will
use to indicate when it is time
to face you again.
Use 10:2s whenever you are
providing input (big books,
pictorials, narratives) or for
soliciting information from
children (sentence patterning,
process grid, editing co-op)
Application of skills in context
Development of academic language in
language of the discipline
Read and write for a purpose
Speak and listen for a purpose
Development of academic language
“Researchers…argue that people… make a best
guess about a new word’s meaning based on the
context in which they initially encounter it, and
hold onto the meaning unless it is clearly found to
“Word-Learning Study Finds Sudden Insights Trump
Education Week, June 8, 2011, p. 6-7.
Narrative Input Chart--Adapted
Choose concepts and
vocabulary that you would like
to present via narrative input
Consider adapting a story that
already exists by imbedding
standards-based concepts and
Draw or copy pictures for
narrative and attach the text to
Laminate the pictures for
Create a background for the
narrative that may be as
simple as a laminated piece of
Read a description of a setting
Talk about the description
asking questions about the
Make a list with sketches of
Make the setting as a
Once the setting is
constructed, talk about the
setting reinforcing vocabulary
Create a word bank about the
Scaffold the academic language
GLAD: Sentence Patterning Chart
Choose a key plural noun
from the unit (a noun that is
capable of producing action
Color code the headings
(Adjectives-red, Nounsblack, Verbs-green, Adverbsblue, Prepositional phrasesorange)
Create and label the grid in
front of the students.
I see _______________________
I hear ______________________
I touch _____________________
I smell _____________________
I feel _______________________
Model poetry for students
Color code the words
Brightly colored macaws
Gurgling rushing water
Velvety delicate orchids
Damp rotting leaves
Wonder in this vibrant forest
Creating the Characters
Students create characters for the story
whose roles they will play during
Job Opportunities in the Amazon Basin Rainforest
A Wildlife Reserve is being established.
The Reserve will serve three main
Provide a healthy environment for
plants and animals
Provide a place for scientists to study
the plants and animals
Provide a place for people to visit to
learn more about the rainforest
Become part of the team!
Place of birth
Choice of jobs
Why qualified for job
The application is appropriate
to the job. It is imaginative and
believable. The figure of the
character matches the
match job desired.
Jobs for the Wildlife Reserve
The Rainforest Workers
Rehearse & Self Assess
Students are involved in activities that
stimulate them to think more deeply about
the people and place they have created.
Creating the Reserve
Researching & learning
Ecosystems and much,
Scaffold the Learning: Diorama
1. What is the focus of the diorama?
2. In what area of the rain forest do you need to do your research?
forest floor understory canopy
3. What does your plant/animal need to survive?
4. Who depends on your plant/animal?
5. What other features—plants and animals—do you need to include to create
an authentic setting?
Colors of plants and animals?
6. Sketch out a plan.
Scaffold the Learning: Report
Science Report: Animal
1. Name of animal:
2. Where does the animal live in the rain forest?
forest floor understory
3. Describe the animal. Include color(s), size (length/height and weight),
and any other special information about the animal.
4. What is the animal’s life span? What is the animal’s diet? How does the
animal protect itself?
5. Who are the animal’s predators?
6. Who depends on the animal for survival?
7. Create a diagram below showing at least three ways your animal
depends on the ecosystem for survival.
GLAD: Co-op Strip Paragraphs
Create a topic sentence based on
the process grid.
Each team is responsible for
formulating one supporting
Team works to formulate
After confirming the sentence has
not already been used, the
teacher either a) writes the
sentence on a sentence strip for
the group (group frame) or b)
provides the team with a sentence
strip to record their sentence (coop paragraph).
Teams place their sentence strips
in the pocket chart under the topic
With students watching, the
teacher tears extra space off of
the sentence strips and arranges
the strips to look like a paragraph.
he class reads through the
paragraph and the teacher solicits
possible revisions (changing the
order of the sentences, combining
The class reads through the
paragraph and the teacher solicits
ideas for editing (spelling,
This can be used with emergent
readers to create game to build
reading skills. The final version is
typed and used for reading
Characters confront problems typical of
those faced by people of that time and
Episode 1: The Rainforest
Episode 2: Workers Who Manage the Rainforest Reserve
Episode 3: Creating the Reserve
Episode 4: Lumber Company Wants to Purchase the Land
Episode 5: Grand Opening of the Reserve
GLAD: T-Graph for Social Skills
Focus on different social skill for
each unit (respect, cooperation,
Brainstorm the meaning of the
word with children and record on
Brainstorm what behaviors you
would see, and what specific
words you would hear if a person
were behaving in that way
Revisit the t-graph often with
students to add behaviors that
have been observed
Contextualized within the story
Role-play/rehearse real life
Learn about civic discourse
Connect to real world
Students plan and participate in an activity that
brings closure to the story.
The Grand Opening of The Rainforest Reserve
STORYPATH: Key Attributes
Memorable through the
Use of academic language
Meeting the needs of diverse learners
provides rich exposure to English;
structures experiences so they are comprehensible to
provides scaffolding to support language acquisition;
provides opportunities for meaningful interaction;
“levels the playing field;” and
affirms learners’ contributions.
FOR MORE INFORMATION…
Margit McGuire [email protected]
Author’s webpage: http://facstaff.seattleu.edu/mmcguire/web/storypath.html
GLAD SOURCE:G.L.A.D. Resource Book, pdf: Strategy descriptions are from the
Pasco School District’s G.L.A.D. Website