Teacher's e-course on the S@TM: Developing your own story


E-lesson 13: What makes a Good Science Story?

Aim of e-lesson 13 is to increase your motivation in creating new stories. You will definitely need this motivation since creating a new story is a worthwhile but challenging task.

Time required: 30΄


Read the following adapted extract according to storytelling Teaching Model: http://science-story-telling.eu

What Makes a Good Science Story?
According to Klassen (2009) there is not an established basis to evaluate stories apart from their effect on learning science by students in the classroom context. “Although there is advocacy for using science stories and even some evidence that they are effective in improving teaching and learning of science”. He refers to the study of Norris et al. (2005) who has set 8 basic criteria for evaluating science stories, rating them to see whether they qualify as narratives. These are:

  1. event-tokens,
  2. the narrator 
  3. the agency
  4. the structure
  5. past time
  6. narrative appetite
  7. the purpose
  8. the role of the reader or listener

There are 2 more criteria established by Kubli (2001):

  1. The effect of the untold
  2. The irony

 We will use the analysis of Klassen for these 10 criteria in order to be used for the distance learning course.

I.       Event-tokens
According to Klassen (2009) “Narratives consist of events that involve characters and the settings in which the events take place. The story’s events are related by an underlying chronological sequence which may be explicit or implied. Successive events are made more significant in the light of preceding events. Events lead to changes of state.

II.      The narrator
The narrator, either a participant in the story or an observer, determines the point and purpose of the story and selects the events and their sequence.

III.     Narrative appetite
A skillfully told story will raise curiosity in the listener on account of a desire or need to know what will happen next. The use of suspense and foreshadowing in the story will produce narrative appetite.

IV.     Past time
A story takes place in the past—that is, the narrator recounts events that have already taken place. Even though the events underlying the story are historically sequential, the telling of the events may move back and forth through time by means of flashbacks. The important aspect of the events is that they are portrayed as unique and unrepeatable.

V.      The Structure
A sense of structure in the story is already implied by its string of event-tokens. According to Toolan (1988), “[a]n event bringing a change of state, is the most fundamental requirement of narrative” (p. 90). The overarching structure of the story has an opening situation, complications that produce rising action, and a resolution in the end; which may be either a success or failure.

VI.     Agency
Stories involve characters who are moral agents—that is to say, the characters must make choices and live by the consequences of those choices.

VII.    The Purpose
Stories generally help listeners better understand their world and people’s place in it. They do so while raising a sense of empathy in the listener or reader. Stories often have a “moral” or point to them.

VIII.      The Role of the Reader or Listener
The story assumes a certain type of listener who will respond in a certain way; for example, the listener must recognize the genre of story and interpret what is being told in that con- text. The listener must want to know what will happen next, engage in the story, and develop empathy. But, more importantly, the listener should be forming questions in response to the story. According to Schwitzgebel (1999), these will likely be “why” and “how” types of questions.

 IX.    The effect of the Untold
A brief story cannot include very many details of the events that took place. According to narrative theorists, the sparse nature contributes to listener engagement, since the listener must either “fill in the blanks” between provided pieces of information (Kubli 2001; Shrigley and Koballa 1989) or form questions which could be answered, later.

X. The irony
Often stories turn out differently than the listener is led to believe in the beginning. Some- times expectations that the listener has are contradicted by the story. For instance, listeners may be led to believe that Slotin is headed for fame and recognition as a result of his important role in bomb assembly. However, the fame and recognition is only achieved in his tragic death—a supreme irony. Although irony is an important element of narratives, it is not essential in the same sense as the previous features. There is, after all, no reason why a story cannot turn out as expected.


  • Klassen, S. (2009). The Construction and Analysis of a Science Story:  A Proposed Methodology. Science & Education, 18(3-4), 401–423.
  • Kubli, F. (2001). Can the Theory of Narratives Help Science Teachers be Better Storytellers? Science & Education, 10(6), 595–599.
  • Norris, S., Guilbert, M., Smith, M., Shahram, H., Phillips, L. (2005). A theoretical framework for narrative ex-planation in science. Science & Education 89(4):535–554
  • Schwitzgebel, E. (1999). Children’s theories and the drive to explain. Science & Education 8:457–488
  • Shrigley, R.L., Koballa, T.R. (1989) Anecdotes: what research suggests about their use in the science class-room. Sch Sci Math 89(4):293–298
  • Toolan, M.J. (1988). Narative: a critical linguistic introduction. Routledge, London


Write down what are the most important steps for storytelling



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