3 Story Lesson Starters That Never Fail – Tip #119

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Every day we tell and hear stories about ourselves, about people we love (or don’t love), and about many other things in our world. Why do some stories stick to our minds while others are like wisps of mist that touch us ephemerally? Is it the ending, the beginning or what happens in between that matters most?

An unpredictable ending keeps us hanging in suspense but the beginning can push us or pull us away from the story. How then should we begin our story? Here are some helpful tips.

1 Provoke the Curiosity of Learners

Ignite learners’ interest by provoking their curiosity. We are drawn to things or events that are mysterious or out of our ordinary life. Present an unusual situation and ask them questions such as: “What would you do?” “Do you have any idea why?” Here are a couple of examples I actually used in my lessons:

In “Hangover Joe,” I stirred learners’ interest by posing the following questions at the beginning of the lesson:

In “Laptop Horror Story,” I asked learners:

Related tip: Tip #43 – How to Use Questions to Immerse Learners in Your Lesson
2 Use Encourage Learners to Think Critically By Presenting a Conflict or Problem

Challenging learners to resolve a conflict or problem will activate their minds to critically analyze the situation and offer solutions. They will be enthusiastic to listen to the story to find out if they are right. Examples of conflicting or problematic situations are:

This is the first slide of a lesson on Kitchen Safety. What makes this scenario problematic? What consequences do you think will arise because of this?

This example deals with Toxic Waste Drum Labeling. What potential problems does this situation pose?

Related tip: Tip #96 – Do Your Learners Value or Throw Away Your Lesson References?
3 Use Descriptive Words That Enable Learners to Create a Picture in Their Minds

“The pen is mightier than the sword.” Words can transport us to another realm. They can stir our imagination to see the vibrant colors of the fields, feel the coolness of running water, smell the cobwebs, or hear the whisper of the leaves. Examples are:
Watch demo here.

Watch demo here.
How do these illustrations make you feel? What does the illustration make you think about? Have you thought about your own or others’ experiences? Would learners be able to put themselves in the shoes of a bank employee or HR staff?

Related tip: Tip #116 – 10 Story Metaphors to Lift Your Learners’ Spirits


A story that activates the mind, heart and imagination at the very beginning will mesmerize learners until the end. We live and relive these experiences for many good years.

Related Tips

Tip #43 – How to Use Questions to Immerse Learners in Your Lesson
Tip #96 – Do Your Learners Value or Throw Away Your Lesson References?
Tip #116 – 10 Story Metaphors to Lift Your Learners’ Spirits


Freeman, Suzannah Windsor. 6 Ways to Hook Your Readers from the Very First Line.
Write It Sideways, January 20, 2010 Didn’t Mean To Hurt Him (with discussion)Demo: Toxic Waste Drum Label
My Declined Credit CardShould You Hire Someone Pregnant?
Tip #9 – Hangover Joe – Chainsaw Safety eLearning
Tip #104 – “Laptop Horror Story” – A Demo Story Lesson (Only Available for 10 Days)
Tip #108 – How to Create 5-Slide Micro-Learning – Tiny, Succinct, Fast

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”