Vartan begins with two questions:
What makes a good narrative?
What was the last narrative you read and enjoyed?
Definition. A story? Yes, but chronologically ordered and limited by evidence. An underrated skill – Lang, 2003. A form of text/thinking – Bruner.
Or – the art or technique of narrating.
Megill suggests narrative blends description and explanation, whereas Tosh suggests it blends description and analysis, sitting between them.
It is the type of history that most of us choose to read when we have the time.
Vartan talks about some narratives, referencing Narration, Identity and Historical Consciousness (Straub) as a good read on the problems of leaving out the narrative. He recommends some good narratives – Holland; Schama’s Citizens; Gombrich’s a Little History of the World; Larson’s Dead Wake, on the sinking of the Lusitania. He also recommends several TH articles.
Vartan explains how students begin to construct narrative, to consolidate the knowledge before completing something a little more nuanced. They repeat this with KS4, pointing out that the narrative that construct – a bit at a time, over a couple of terms – provides their revision tool. Vartan has also done this with ks5 as a revision exercise.
Pick out context, characters, then timeline. This helps to connect slightly forced distinctions, eg domestic and foreign policies. Agree a narrative.
It provides a bridge – fun for them to write but leads to analysis. Students can use to consolidate, transform their knowledge and revise. Teachers can use to engage, challenge (or access) and evaluate – helpful diagnostic that helps with intervention planning.
Vartan then shares lots of examples from across the year groups and from History and RS. There’s a wealth of suggestions and ideas here on why to do it and how it contributes. Vartan warns that there is a time commitment and that some students might use it as an excuse to avoid other homework they find more challenging, but the arguments to include this sort of thing are strongly made.
A good one to end with – write it as a film script; choose pictures/staging to go with it.
Though these are probably my least coherent notes, the session was absolutely jammed with ideas. So much to take back with me.