Describe an imaginary (straight) timeline on the ground in front of your group, representing the beginning and end of a particular experience.
To start, invite one volunteer to step forward and stand on that part of the line that represents when a particular memory (of theirs) occurred.
Ask this person to briefly recount (aloud) their memory to the rest of the group.
Invite a second person to stand on the line representing another memory of the experience.
Then, as will be repeated each time someone new joins the line, ask these two people to briefly recount their memories starting with the earliest recalled fact through to the last.
Repeat this process of adding new people to the timeline and recounting the sequence of these facts each time.
When everyone is standing on the line, recount all of the facts from the beginning through to the end one final time.
How To Play Narrative
I love this reflection strategy for lots of reasons, but mostly because it’s a terrific way to clearly establish what happened in an experience.
Begin by inviting your group to imagine that there is a straight line lying on the ground in front of them. One end of the line represents the very start of a particular experience, and the other end is the conclusion of that experience.
Explain that you would like your group to work together to re-tell the story of their experience, fact by fact, where every moment is situated somewhere along the line.
To demonstrate, invite one volunteer to step forward and stand on that part of the line that represents when a particular memory (of theirs) occurred.
For example, they may recall the moment when someone shared a particular idea. If this event occurred about halfway through the experience, they would stand on a point close to the halfway point of the line.
When they arrive on their spot, ask this person to briefly recount (aloud) their memory to the rest of the group.
Next, invite a second person to stand on the line representing another memory of something that happened in the experience, standing to the left or right of the first person.
Then, as will be repeated each time someone new joins the line, ask everyone standing on the line to briefly recount their memory starting with the earliest recalled fact through to the last. Naturally, in the beginning, this will only involve a small number of people and happens quickly.
Continue to invite more people, one at a time, to add to this emerging timeline of memories. Bit by bit the storyline is populated with as many of the facts of what happened representing this group’s experience.
As soon as everyone from your group has joined the storyline, invite them for one final time, to briefly re-state their facts to tell their story from the beginning to the end.
The constant recalling of the facts does as much to reinforce the story as prompt people to fill in the gaps of those moments which are important enough to remember.
You now have a general agreement about what happened. You are now ready to dive a little deeper, to more fully understand what these facts mean.
Refer to this article to learn more about how to conduct an effective debriefing or processing session.
Practical Leadership Tips
Note, as you visually point to each end of this hidden line, be sure that there is sufficient room for everyone in your group to stand on it.
On occasions, you may need to prompt your group to recall one or more significant facts. Unless your intention is to simply invite your group to communicate, you want to pull together as many, if not all, of the most significant facts of your group’s experience as possible.
You could integrate Storyline as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to understand the perspectives of and empathise with others including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of engaging in the process of self-reflection.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully recount the events of an experience may speak to the benefits of being mindful because of the progressive and reflective nature of the group’s story.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Storyline could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Storyline Focus: Narrow the focus of your group’s reflection by guiding their thinking to one or more topics, eg their decision-making process.
Circle Storyline: Challenge your group to create a story that has a beginning, a middle and an end which also happens to connect (somehow) to the beginning.
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Useful Framing Ideas
It may sound like:
“THIS NEXT ACTIVITY WILL INVITE YOUR GROUP TO RETELL THE STORY OF WHAT JUST HAPPENED, ONE FACT AT A TIME AS IF SITUATED ON A LINE…”
“SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED IN THE PAST COUPLE OF HOURS, I THINK IT’S IMPORTANT THAT WE, FIRST, GET CLEAR ON EXACTLY WHAT TRANSPIRED. FOCUSED ON JUST THE FACTS, I’D LIKE YOU TO STAND ON THIS IMAGINARY LINE THAT REPRESENTS A TIMELINE OF EVERY MINUTE OF YOUR EXPERIENCE, AND RECALL YOUR MEMORY OF WHAT HAPPENED AT THAT TIME…”
The inspiration for Storyline was sourced from a fellow group facilitator, many years ago (now long forgotten.)