Transform your Teaching: Module 2: Lesson 7: Story graphs

It’s amazing what you can learn from one line. This lesson idea is a great way to help students develop their critical thinking skills and visual literacy. It also allows practise of all four skills.

Look at the graphs below. These show two stories. 

The first one is of my drawing skills over time. When I was a child I drew a lot, but when I finished high school I stopped drawing. I didn’t really draw again until I did my graphic facilitation training, then my drawing skills started to improve again. This is a common story. Many people stop drawing when they leave high school as they don’t have regular art classes. 

The second graph is of my fitness levels over time. In my earlier years, I yo-yoed depending on where I was and what I was doing. At school, I had PE classes and I cycled a lot. At university, I was more interested in nightlife, so my fitness slipped. When I was teaching in South Korea, I got fit again as I did Tae Kwon Do and other martial arts. When I travelled in South America, I got really unfit as I spent a lot of time sightseeing, meeting new people and sitting on buses! Then I started working at the college and got settled in Glasgow. My fitness since then has been more stable, and tends to peak when I’m training for an event. 

At first sight, these stories might look like ‘just a line’, but actually, they can be rich with language opportunities. 

You could: 

– Give students your own stories, and ask them to guess what caused the changes. This is a good opportunity to practise modals of deduction (e.g. might, maybe, could).

– Tell the story and have students mark key points on the line. You can practise all sorts of language here, and develop students’ listening skills. 

– Have students create their own, tell their stories to a partner, then write about them. Here, you could practise sequencing vocabulary (e.g. then, after that) and past tenses. 

– Ask students to draw their own story and add icons to represent each key parts. 

Emily Bryson ELT why everyone can and should draw in the classroom

These little story graphs can be used for all sorts of things: 

– career paths 

– motivation levels over time

– confidence in English over time

– progress over time

It can be a great way to reflect on learning or career development over time. 

I like to use the graphs below to give my students a pep talk on working hard. I draw them on the board and tell students that each line shows English language level over one year. One line is for a student who works hard, attends every class and does all their homework, the other line is for a student who comes late, misses classes and doesn’t do the homework. 

This activity usually results in laughter. It’s a humourous and lighthearted way of conveying a serious message. It can be incoporated into a lesson on study skills, goal setting or reflecting on their studies so far.

Here’s another humourous graph, which I was inspired to draw one sunny day when I decided to ditch my work for a bike ride! Perhaps some of you can relate to it. Is there anything that you do more or less of depending on the weather?

Your task for this lesson is to draw a story using just one line. Share it in the Facebook Group and tell your story. You can use image and text, or create a video or .gif.