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  • It’s great stuff! I was exposed to it through the article in Educational Leadership and I am now reading the book. It makes so much sense! Thank you for your great work! Dave Bell (Texas)

    When I started to use IE several years ago now, that I tried it out in a few lessons here and there, was amazed at the success and then began to look for other areas and subjects in which I could use the Lesson Planning Frameworks and other aspects of the theory. Pamela Hagen.

  • You are here: Unit Plans » Cognitive Tools » Narrative Structure » Examples

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    Narrative Structure: Examples

    Topic:  Ancient Civilizations (The Roman Empire)

    Subject Area:  Social Studies

    Cognitive Tool: Narrative Structuring

    What’s the story on the small Roman state that, at one point, dominated vast areas of the world? A narrative on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire can be one focused largely on human ambition. Deceit and murder were no strangers to the drama of Roman leadership. One part of the narrative, then, would focus on the nature of the ambition demonstrated by emperors of Rome. One might also look at the army. The Roman army was also a major contributor to the building of the empire. How is military might an example of ambition? Of course, ambition can have positive and negative effects. It is generally noted, for example, that Rome suffered from an entire list of problems. These included: a series of emperors whose military leaders sought to overthrow them (some emperors had military leaders killed thereby weakening leadership in their armies), endless infighting, weakening Roman unity (by the end Rome had two capitals, Rome and Constantinople, each with its own emperor), economic problems (Rome was spending far more than it could afford and by the end didn’t have enough gold or silver to make its own coins), mass migration, and plagues (illness decimated the Roman population).  By addressing the reasons behind the rise and fall of Rome in terms of ambition our students will encounter the extremes of ambition, its pros and cons, and the human source of this great empire. At what point did the desire for power of Rome as a whole, not to mention individual Romans, lead to its demise? Such questions can be resolved in vivid narratives.


    Topic:  Ancient Civilizations (Ancient Eygpt)

    Subject Area:  Social Studies

    Cognitive Tool: Narrative Structuring

    Narrative structuring might invite students to travel back in time to explore ancient Egyptian society.  They will be traveling as scientists, explorers, and adventurers.  They could be “given” new (imaginary) technology that will transplant them for brief periods of time into the bodies of the people they will be studying.  Until they arrive in the bodies they will have no idea of who or what role they will have in Ancient Egypt, nor which one of the particular twenty-five dynasties that made up Ancient Egyptian civilization.  To make things interesting students might be told that they will be traveling back in time with no support other than their own wits and training. It will be made clear to them that there is a risk they may not come back, or that if they reveal that they are from the future, they could destroy their “temporary hosts”, or change society and their own future. 

    Our story might be shaped as follows:  First, two scientists, friends of the classroom teacher visit the students in their classroom with an unusual proposition.  They have discovered new technology that will allow people to travel back in time and temporarily inhabit the minds of Ancient inhabitants.  The technology is not without its problems, however. The neural synaptic impulses of adult brains are too inflexible and adults tend to become permanently trapped in the past.  Archimedes and Leonardo da Vinci are referred to as two scientists who went back in time and then were trapped in the past because their cerebral cortex’s weren’t flexible enough to jump back to the future.  This means that only adolescents can safely travel back to the past and return to the future. Second, the technology will transport students back to Ancient Egypt but the specific time and date are unknown. It will be the students’ responsibility to determine where and when they are.  There are clues that students can use to determine where and when they are in the Egyptian past.  Third, in traveling back to the past and temporarily inhabiting a host, the students may only go as observers.  They must be very careful that they fit in and exhibit no behaviour that people might find unusual or odd.  For this, they must complete a temporary program of training that will give them the background information they need to function. 


    Topic:  The Water Cycle

    Subject Area:  Science

    Cognitive Tool: Narrative Structuring

    This narrative structure is based on an image that captures the wonder of the water cycle. I imagined the most exotic or extreme places that the water could have come from.  I visualized the polar ice caps, slime covered lakes, the insides of a blue whale or even a family pet. Where has the water you drank this morning come from? Perhaps the same water molecule that you just sipped from a glass was once lapped up from a stream by a dinosaur… Or perhaps a short time ago it was swirling in someone’s toilet bowl! Or, again, that water we drink today might have been a tear of Cleopatra’s at one time. As water molecules, my students were to set off on their own heroic journey to new and exotic (and also just plain gross) locations where they, as water molecules, could bravely venture into the unknown (to borrow from the Star Trek Series):  Water, the final frontier. These are the voyages of H20. Its continuing mission: To explore strange new places. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before.