Teacher Resources Teaching Resources2023-05-07T09:29:29-07:00


Storyline Filter – Story

1. Story

Guiding Questions

  • Is the story focused with a clear main idea? Is it tightly woven and skillfully crafted?
  • Does it present a way of life to investigate?
  • Does it have an inspiring and inviting opening?
  • Does it unfold in an interesting way?
  • Is it motivating and meaningful to students?
  • Is it a story they care about?
  • Are they able to easily grasp and bond with the story?
  • Is it tailored to the conceptual development of students?
  • Can students clearly summarize the story and relate their characterʼs feelings and experiences?
  • Does it provide a structure and a logic to the developing topic-based work?
  • Does the story allow for rich character development and provide opportunities for students to tackle relevant problems and issues?
  • Does it present daily challenges for active and imaginative student involvement?
  • Does it allow for an in-depth study dealing with feelings (affective domain) as well as facts (cognitive domain)?
  • Does it allows for students to become actively involved, imaginatively and creatively?
  • Is the story designed to afford a balance between teacher control (teacherʼs rope) and student input in collaborative story making?
  • Does it provide meaningful structure for curriculum integration?

Storyline Filter – Episodes and Key Questions

2. Episodes and Key Questions

Guiding Questions


  • Do coherent episodes frame the story structure? (setting, characters, daily rhythms/rules, incidents, and culmination)
  • Do they provide a logical progression and narrative sequence that learners can understand and embrace?
  • Do they keep the story moving and the learning rich?
  • Are they are a natural part of the story?

Key Questions

  • Are the key questions big and broad for a rich and wide array of student responses?
  • Are the key questions used to determine what students know and what they need to know?
  • Do they honor studentsʼ prior knowledge?
  • Do they support students in constructing their own models first?
  • Are the key questions motivating and meaningful?
  • Do the key questions support the story, providing a narrative thread throughout?
  • Do they allow students to effectively use their imaginations?
  • Do they encourage students to speculate, hypothesize, reflect, and ask further questions, using their higher level thinking skills?
  • Do they give students a sense of purpose?
  • Do they reach to the key concepts that are being taught?
  • Do the key questions fit the curriculum into the story in natural way?

Storyline Filter – Setting

3. Setting

Guiding Questions

  • Does the teacher have a vision for the setting that incorporates the basic framework for story development, yet is open-ended enough for student input and ownership?
  • Do students participate in research, setting criteria, and development of frieze?
  • Is the frieze the studentsʼ own conceptual model?
  • Is it kid-generated and kid-constructed?
  • Is student ownership and pride evident?
  • Have prototypes and a best parts list been created?
  • Have teacher/students set criteria for quality work, with clear expectations for process and product? (structure before activity)
  • Have students critiqued and revised the frieze to promote quality?
  • Is the frieze is up and completed as soon as possible to keep the story moving and interest high?
  • Is the frieze is alive and continually growing and changing with the story?
  • Is it a working backdrop for incidents?
  • Does it provide a site for character interaction and story development?
  • Are writing, poetry, and vocabulary lessons included?

Storyline Filter – Characters

4. Characters

Guiding Questions

  • Has the teacher selected one of the following types of characters to best fit the Storyline?
    1. fictitious characters that the students create and develop
    2. characters playing a defined role (students as themselves)
    3. multiple characters through which students view the story (book based study)
  • Do the characters fit naturally into the story and have a vital purpose?
  • Are they easy for students to identify with?
  • Do the characters enhance the story and bring it to life through active daily roles and meaningful activities?
  • Do the characters create a strong Storyline community?
  • Have students developed and expanded the story through the eyes of their character?
  • Do the characters explore the affective as well as the cognitive domain?
  • Do they develop and change as the story moves along?
  • Are characters developed and kept alive by students throughout the Storyline?
  • Have students gathered information about charactersʼ physical characteristics, clothing, occupations, etc. through research and detailed study?
  • Have teacher/students set criteria for quality work, with clear expectations for process and product? (structure !before activity)
  • Have biographies been written and characters introduced?
  • Have activities been included for characters to get to know each other?
  • Has a routine been established for getting in character?
  • Are opportunities provided for characters to develop as the story moves along?

Storyline Filter – Rhythms and Rules

5. Rhythms and Rules

Guiding Questions


  • Have students built background about the daily lives of their characters through research, discussion and practical activities?
  • Have students envisioned their characterʼs way of life and defined patterns? (seasonal, weekly, daily, etc.)
  • Have the rhythms been designed to fit the unique narrative of the Storyline? (in a single episode, integrated within, or both)
  • Have students developed their own conceptual model of their characterʼs actions, thoughts, feelings, interactions, experiences, etc. within the rhythm cycle?
  • Do the rhythm activities allow for student speculation and anticipation?
  • Have teacher/students set criteria for quality work, with clear expectations for process and product? (structure before activity)
  • Does the Storyline offer choices for students to explore the daily rhythms of their characters using a variety of modalities? (art, drama, kinesthetic movement, etc.)
  • Did students develop and enrich the story by sharing their rhythms piece with their fellow characters in the story?

Rules (for some Storylines)

  • Has a question or problem led to a consideration of possible rules/laws or modes of behavior?
  • Have students created a list of valuable rules for their community, effectively exploring reasons and desired outcomes?

Storyline Filter – Incidents

6. Incidents

Guiding Questions

  • Are the incidents real problems to be solved?
  • Are the incidents relevant to the story?
  • Are problems clearly defined?
  • Are key questions used to determine what students know and what they need to know to conduct an enquiry?
  • Is the studentsʼ sense of ownership engaged and does the story drive the solution?
  • Do the incidents move the story along in a natural progression?
  • Do they offer valuable insights into the story?
  • Do incidents vary in how they occur?
  • Do they allow for a variety of creative responses or products?
  • Are incidents included that allow for in-depth research and investigation?
  • Do they often include the element of surprise?
  • Are the incidents designed to make characters think about their feelings, beliefs and attitudes, as well as to make decisions and solve problems? (affective and cognitive)
  • Do they generate strong character interaction and development?
  • Have teacher/students set criteria for quality work, with clear expectations for process and product? (structure before activity)
  • Do the incidents tie in curriculum in a meaningful way, or have a defined objective that enhances the story?
  • Are the curriculum content objectives listed?
  • Are incidents designed by the students as well as the teacher?

Storyline Filter – Culmination

7. Culmination

Guiding Questions

  • Is the culmination a special event?
  • Does it brings the topic to a satisfying conclusion?
  • Is it a natural ending to the story?
  • Does either the culmination or the reflection (Storyline Filter #8) provide the opportunity for students to share!their learning and re-tell the story?
  • Does the culmination demonstrate that kids are doing work that has value, purpose and reason?
  • Do students provide keen insight into their story and learnings in the presentation?
  • Is the value of a Storyline study evident?
  • Have teacher/students set criteria for quality work, with clear expectations for process and product? (structure before activity)
  • Is the culmination student-planned and student-powered?
  • Is a real-world audience included? (parents/families plus additional school/community members)

Storyline Filter – Reflection and Assessment

8. Reflection and Assessment

Guiding Questions


  • Is the activity/reflection theory of learning used throughout the Storyline?
  • Is it a natural part of the topic work?
  • Does reflection involve the cognitive domain where students reflect on their learning process and product?
  • Does reflection involve the affective domain where students make connections to their own reality, thoughts, and feelings?
  • Do students broaden their reflections as they consider how to extend skills and concepts learned?
  • Does either the culmination (Storyline Filter #7) or the reflection provide the opportunity for students to share their learning and re-tell the story? (topic books, homefun cloze activity, etc.)


  • Has the teacher defined the goals of the topic work with desired outcomes as well content standards that will be addressed in the topic?
  • Has the teacher identified outcomes that are worthy of assessing and determined the forms of assessment?
    Is assessment varied and carefully planned?
  • Is assessment on-going and embedded in the topic?
  • Are students formulating and using their own criteria to judge the quality of a product?
  • Is student learning and assessment communicated to students and parents?

Storyline Filter – Activities and Groupings

9. Activities and Groupings

Guiding Questions


  • Has the teacher selected activities that blend naturally with the story and enhance it?
  • Are the activities of high quality and motivating for the characters?
  • Are all activities directly related to goals, objectives, and concepts being taught?
  • Do the activities present realistic things the characters would do within the story?
  • Do the activities move the story along and are they a catalyst for the next episode?
  • Are the activities hands-on, collaborative, investigative and/or imaginative?
  • Do they incorporate visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic learning?
  • Do they arise from the affective as well as the cognitive domain?
  • Have important decisions on content of assignments been made by students?
  • Have teacher/students set criteria for quality work, with clear expectations for process and product (structure before activity)


  • Are a variety of student groupings are incorporated? (whole class, small groups, partners, individual)
  • Are process/product outcomes shared with the whole class?
  • Have students/teacher set behavior expectations for successful group work and for quality products?

Storyline Filter – Curriculum

10. Curriculum

Guiding Questions

  • Is the curriculum covered in a highly creative and meaningful way within the story?
  • Is the content organized using the story as the cement between curricular areas?
  • Have a full range of disciplines been brought together in the story for a full array of discipline-based perspectives?
  • Is there is a major curriculum focus that allows for an in-depth study?
  • Are minor curriculum focus areas included?
  • Are important key concepts identified?
  • Does the curriculum fit naturally in the story with logical connections?
  • Does it enrich and develop the story?
  • Are the following student outcomes incorporated?
    1. self-directed learner
    2. collaborative worker
    3. community contributor
    4. complex thinker
    5. quality producer
  • Is the curriculum grade-level appropriate?
  • Are the learning outcomes clearly stated and the content standards to be covered listed?

List of Art Techniques for Storyline Friezes

This is a list of art techniques that I have found useful for making Storyline friezes.  This list was compiled at various Storyline classes and workshops.

  1. painted paper with tempera on butcher paper
    try using colored background paper
  2. crayon resist
  3. sponge paint on butcher paper or painted paper
  4. Seurat or VanGogh dots and lines
  5. rubbings
  6. color with crayon then crunch and wrinkle
  7. chalk on black paper
  8. tissue paper with starch
  9. cellophane
  10. 3D
    using table to extend frieze
    extending things out from the frieze
    hanging things from ceiling in front of frieze
  11. torn paper
  12. mosaic with cut or torn paper
  13. papier mache
  14. wrapping paper
  15. photographs
  16. tyvek
  17. collage
  18. water color alone or with salt
  19. starch with Qtips on black or dark paper
  20. tempera paint with pastel texture
  21. printing
  22. wall paper
  23. splatter for texture
  24. painted bed sheets
  25. box  models
  26. home depot plaster
  27. powdered tempera
  28. liquid wall paper paste
  29. roofing paper
  30. painting both sides of the paper
  31. crumpled paper
  32. velum/onion skin
  33. raffia
  34. liquid hand soap plus tempera

*Various combinations of the above

Dynamic Storyline Friezes Presentation Outline

Prepared for the Storyline International Conference

August 2009 – Colleen Vallerga


  • What makes a dynamic frieze?
  • Framing the Story
  • Art Lessons
  • Building the Knowledge Base
  • Key Questions/Detail Questions
  • Setting Criteria
  • Grouping Students
  • Art Techniques
  • Frieze DVD


1.       What makes a dynamic frieze?

*Frieze has main idea/topic is clear

*Kid generated/reflects kid ideas

*Pre-taught lessons support development

*Art work critiqued/revised

*Elements of art and design are incorporated

as well as a variety of media

*Frieze is interactive and flexible


2. Framing The Story

Gabriella’s Song by Candace Fleming

How can we design a meaningful frieze for this topic?

What is the central theme?

What should the focal point and or main idea of the frieze be?

Where do the characters live?

What part do the characters take in the setting?

How does the setting draw the characters into the context of the story?

How will the incidents occur on the frieze?

How would it look through the eyes of a child?

What part does the teacher take in shaping the frieze?

The Art of Display  (main idea/theme)

3.       Art Lessons

Elements of Art                           Elements of Design

line                                             repetition

shape                                     variation

color                                             proximity

texture                                    focal point



light and dark


4.       Building the Knowledge Base

Read alouds–Venice.  Poetry.  Nonfiction writing.

Students bring items from home.

Key Question

What makes Venice a special place?


Explore nonfiction books about Venice.  List things on chart paper that make Venice a special place.  Read Author’s Note at the beginning of the book, and add new information about Venice to chart paper.


What do we know about the history of Venice, Italy?

How old is it?

How was it built?


Brainstorm and list ideas.  See videos/DVDs about Venice.  Encourage students to bring books and information from home.  Read books about Venice history.  Research and record information on chart paper.

Writing:  Venice Italy Facts


What is an interesting fact you learned about Venice?

What more can you tell about it?


Review facts of Venice on chart paper.  Have each student pick a fact to write about.  Set criteria.  Have students share their fact with the class.


Venice, Italy:  Facts

Appendix Three:  Writing and Poetry (pages 59-60)



How can we say, in a few words, how special and beautiful Venice is?

What are some describing words we can use?



Brainstorm describing words and list on chart paper.

Brainstorm a list of Venice words to use.  Keep this list to use for future writing projects. Have students create an acrostic poem and a poem of similes about Venice.

Set criteria.  Have students share their poems with the class.


5. Key Questions/Detail Questions

What key questions will we use?

Brainstorm and list possible questions.  Discuss reasoning.

What detailed questions will we ask?


*View (do not read) pages 1 -14 of text.  Stop before the composer appears at the piano.  (Pages can be projected to screen on a document camera.)

Key Question

What does Gabriella’s Venice look like?


View pictures of Venice in Gabriella’s Song. List details on chart paper.  Add details from Venice books and other resources that were shared.  Teacher sketches student ideas on chart paper. Teacher and students generate criteria for homes, church and opera  house.

Homes:  Sample Criteria

1.         long rectangular shapes

2.         tile roof

3.         4-5 windows on each building (choose one window shape)

4.         front door (choose shape)

5.         address plate

6.         chimney

7.         shutters, window boxes, and balcony are all optional

Church:  Sample Criteria

1.         wider shape than homes

2.         bell tower

3.         tile roof

4.         large entry doors with half round shapes at the top


What colors are the buildings in Venice?

How can we mix these colors?

What size will our homes and church be?


Identify and create paint colors, doing a color mixing lesson.  Make a decision on the size of the homes and church and cut butcher paper to size.  Have students work in groups to draw and paint buildings using their prototypes and developed criteria.  Create a total of 6 to 7 homes, a church, and an opera house.


What else do we want to include in our setting of Venice?

What famous place would we like to include?


Brainstorm a list of additional details to include in setting.

Sample brainstorm:  Grade One

water, gondolas with pole markers, canals, bridges, cobblestone walkways, store windows (for bakery on first floor of a home), hanging laundry, towers, stairs, flag, pigeons, flower boxes

Make a group decision on a famous place to include in background.

Examples of famous places:

The Grand Canal, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Rialto Bridge, The Campanile, etc.

In pairs, students draw prototypes of Venice, including the homes, church, and opera house

they just created plus additional details that were brainstormed.  Prototypes are shared.  A best-parts list is created.  Teacher works with students to sketch the final prototype on chart paper for students to use while creating the frieze.


How will we size the canals, cobblestones, etc. so they will blend with the houses?

What colors will we use?


Estimate sizes of the new frieze additions and mix colors for each item.  Plan student groupings (canals, bridges, towers, cobblestones, etc.)   Students create additional details for setting.  Teacher works with students to put the parts together on the frieze, using the final prototype as a model.


6.       Setting Criteria


How does it look?

Does it meet our criteria?

What can we add/delete?


7.       Grouping Students

How do you group students when they are working on the frieze.

What about students who are done?

How can parents help?

How can individual student ideas enhance the whole?


8.       Art Techniques


framing/display techniques


9. Frieze DVD

Storyline Character Development Worksheet

1.          What is the Story?

What does life look like for the characters in the story?

*Find a story that allows for rich character development  and valuable curriculum study.  The story should have a setting in which the characters can be active, have a purpose, and develop as the story moves along.  The story should be age appropriate for students.

*What will the characters be doing?

Examples.  The characters will be:

Designers———————- Creating an art museum

Trainees————————Training to be Junior Park Rangers

Students————————-Attending music school in Venice

Sailors————————–Journeying to the Davis Straits for whales

Scientists———————Studying the rainforest

People of the Past————-Living as Native Americans in the 1500’s

Publishers———————-Creating a publishing company.



2.         The Narrative

*Write a simple narrative of the story that includes character roles.

*Keep the story simple and clear so students are able to understand the story and their character’s unique life in the setting.


3.         What do the people look like?

*Note physical characteristics, clothing, etc. Pay attention to detail.

*Set criteria for creation of characters unique to the setting of the story.


4. What will your name be? Who are you? How are you unique?

*Guide students as they select unique names for their characters.  Simple names that can be remembered, work best.  Use the setting and the story to guide the choices.  Some Storylines allow for names that set personality traits.  Example:  Native American—Curious Mouse

*Set criteria for biographies that allows for personality development.

Best traits/worst traits, People will tell you that I’m…, etc.

*Students can draw character traits out of a hat, to portray in their character.

*Teacher creates a character to model assuming a different personality and developing it.

*In some Storylines, families can be created.  Families provide another layer for character development.


5.         Who lives in our land?

*Have each student introduce their character.

*Post characters in the room and/or on the frieze to keep them visible and active in the setting.

*After characters are created, instigate activities that allow characters to get to know each other.

Memory game, Willaby Wallaby Woo, Who’s Missing, etc.


6.         Getting in Character

*When students enter the classroom, the teacher puts on her name tag and speaks in character.  Students know to get their name tags on and switch to Storyline time.

*Lights can be turned off to signal time for Storyline characters.

*Teacher and/or students can wear an article of clothing from the Storyline milieu.

*Only Storyline names are used during this time.


7.         Keeping Characters Alive:  Incidents

*Design Storyline activities/incidents that are in the context of the story so the characters can interact from their character’s point of view.

*Design activities for active character development.

*Vary character experiences as life in the setting is varied.


7 Intelligences








*Give characters opportunities to solve problems in a variety of ways and             in a variety of groupings.


Bloom’s Taxonomy







*Vary character groupings.

whole class, small groups, partners, individuals.


8. Writing

*Design writing activities that allow for character development and reflection.

*Some writing activities can be done in context of the Storyline and some in a morning loop lesson.

*With each writing activity, include criteria for voice/personality development.

Example:  Curious Mouse questions her world.

*Have students share their writing to build community and foster character development.


Colleen Vallerga   2009

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