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Narrative structure & video lesson plan
by Sandra Bradwell
- 3


Stage 1

Prompts for discussion

Do you enjoy listening to stories or do you think it’s a waste of time? GIVE YOUR OPINION

Are people born story-tellers or is it a skill to be practised? GIVE YOUR OPINION

Do stories have a typical structure? DISCUSS then WRITE THE STAGES ON THE CUE CARDS

What ingredients make for a good story? DISCUSS then WRITE IDEAS ON THE CUE CARDS

Do you revel in telling stories or find it tedious? DISCUSS

Stage 4

VIDEO Transcript

a Jane: Easter isn't a religious festival any more is it, in Britain?
b Sandra: No, probably, unless you…unless you're involved in the church. My sister's become
quite..quite involved in the last few years.
c J (nodding): uh-huh
d S: Did I tell you about what happened at
East, at Easter I was going to say , in February? I went back for her baptism, do you call
it baptism? Yeah baptism.
e J: Ah yeah I remember you taking some time off.
f S: Yeah in the middle of February it was and er it was so funny.
It was on the Sunday morning and and I think the baptism was at .. the service started at
one o' clock and the baptism was
g J (nodding): mmm
h S: at the end of the service half past ten
we were all ready, waiting for this big event..
i J (nodding): raring to go
j S: ..I'm never usually up before half past ten
but ..but there, with the children and everything, we'd been up since 8, and my uncle …
Roy and Valerie, cousin turned up at quarter past twelve
k J: Oh, so the whole family
were involved then?
l S: Yeah family erm and we were having a drink and anyway I nipped
up to the toilet ..and suddenly, …I was in the in the toilet, …the next thing, everything
went quiet and
m J: Yeah?
n S: and I thought that's strange, especially with the children.
o J: Yeah
p S:
Anyway I open the door, go downstairs, nobody around, er ...go into the front room and Stella
is backing off the drive in the car.
q J: You're joking!
r S: I'm not, no, and she's so busily talking
s J: oooo! Ssshhh! Aargh!
t S: to my cousin .. chatting away.. doesn't see me standing there, waving, shouting "Hey,
hey I'm here!" Oh I couldn't believe it, so I thought well.. what do I do next? So, go to
the front door.. locked, go to the back door.. locked, all the windows had these special
locks on them.. couldn't get out of the house.
u J: Did you panic?
v S: Well, I was a little bit,
just shocked I think, that they could forget me. Just shocked!
w J (moves hands): guest of honour!
x S: Well yes,
some guest of honour. Anyway then I realised that everybody has mobile phones so I rang
my cousin Valerie, no answer, I rang Stella's sister-in-law erm….., she'd ..left a little bit
earlier, Linda, no answer, anyway finally I got through to Stella's and there was a
leave a message.
y J (mouth open): Ah!
z S: So I left this really weird message of me shouting down the phone
"Hey I'm here, in the house, when are you going to come and get me?", laughing
a2 J: Aha!
b2 S: Anyway I thought there's no point getting all worked up about it,
might as well just stand by the window
c2 J: uh hum
d2 S: and hope that somebody will come
soon …come to get me.
e2 J: And they did?
f2 S: Yeah about, it must've been.. about ten..
fifteen minutes later..
g2 J: What a relief!
h2 S: brother-in-law came back, David , big grin on
his face as he walked down the path
i2 J: yeah
j2 S: and me at the window, looking stupid ..
But anyway he asked what had happened, and I told him what had happened. Anyway,
silly really but...
k2 J: yeah
l2 S: and fortunately we arrived at the church just in time
m2 J (nodding): Great!
n2 S: Well it'd started a little bit but in time to see most of the service.
o2 J (hands open): So a happy ending?
p2 S: Yeah there was and I think it was good for Stella in the end because she'd been quite
nervous and I think that made her, certainly calmed her down, I don't think she'll
forget her baptism in a hurry
q2 J: Ah so you've got a good family story now to……talk about
r2 S: Yeah, I
don't think she'll forget er the incident ..I certainly won't let her forget it easily
Yes it was nice,
s2 J: Good
t2 S: we had a nice afternoon..

… pauses
overlapping conversation
connecting conversation

Stage 5

Typical structure:

Abstract optional
Opening, at beginning of anecdote, summarises for listener what the story is about.
I'll always remember the time …
Have you heard about the time I…
I must tell you about the other day …
You'll never guess what happened yesterday…
I had a funny experience last week …
Near beginning of story to tell the listener(s) about people involved, time, place.
you know that secretary in our office, well, last week…
Remarkable event
Temporally ordered actions, outlining a remarkable event which the narrator wants to share his reaction to.
And then, suddenly ….
Next thing we knew…
Then you'll never guess what happened …
But wait, there's more!
Anyway, to get back to the point …
Oh, by the way …
How the characters in the story or the listener(s) react to the events related.Typical reactions include expressions of anger, fear, amusement etc
And you know what?
So I …
What amazed me was …
I couldn't believe my eyes/ears!
I was over the moon!
Coda optional
Its function is to round off the story by building a bridge between the story world and moment of telling.It may focus on progress of one of the characters or the lasting effect of one of the incidents in the story.
Makes you wonder.
So, there we are.
And that was it, really.
Looking back, it was all very …

While these five elements give the story its structure, there is another element which can occur throughout the story, to maintain interest and make the story worth telling. The term to describe this feature is 'evaluation'. Labov (1972) says story tellers use evaluation devices to help the listener(s) appreciate that something is funny, embarrassing, humiliating or unusual.
Storytellers use exaggeration, repetition, noises, mimicry, changes of intonation, emotive language, gestures and attention to small detail to interest and involve the listener(s).
Language learners usually find it difficult to use these devices and tell the bare facts of a story with little evaluation (McCarthy 1991)


There are several ways people can show they are listening:

back-channel responses (I am listening!) To evaluate or summarise
Go on (disbelief)
Oh dear, I'm sorry to hear that
That was awful!
How funny!
You must be joking!
Oh no!
You're joking!
What a relief!
So a happy ending?
uh -hu
Repeating vocabulary or expressions or ideas
' raring to go'
Be careful!
Asking questions to fill out details:
what happened next?
Did you …?
And they did?

To check details:
hang on but…I didn't catch that!
So you …
So the whole family …

Predicting details:
Guest of honour!
Paralinguistic features Nodding head
Looking serious
Look of astonishment (mouth open)
Moving hands

One story usually sparks off another, each person who has a story to tell may demand the floor to tell it. Why does Sandra tell the story of the baptism?

To the lesson preliminary information

To the lesson procedure

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