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Tips of the trade 35. How to use narrative

When teaching pupils, look for a way of delivering the content within a narrative framework. This will involve planning with an understanding of how the lesson sits within the broad context of the scheme of work.

Look for recurring themes, terms and information that can be woven into lessons. These will allow pupils to revisit ideas and build new information in the same way soap operas engage interest with new and old characters.

This doesn't mean a scientist has to create Mr Oxygen seducing Ms Hydrogen to make water (although this approach can work), but more that narrative can be set up to connect lessons and learning, and deepen knowledge of terms. The key is recurring themes where knowledge is revisited regularly and sometimes added to.

Trigger phrases such as "when did we last see this?", and "let's develop this idea" will help create the narrative feeling across lessons if used regularly.

To stimulate the narrative framework further, use cliffhanger endings, where questions are left up in the air to be developed next time, get pupils to storyboard work as if making a short film, choose points to look back at previous learning, and flag up future activities. Over time, this method can make a difference to the quality of teaching and learning.

Roy Watson-Davis is an advanced skills teacher in the London borough of Bromley. Have you any useful tips for new teachers? We pay pound;50 for all tips published. Send yours to

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