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Engage reluctant writers using branching narrative

Carstairs Primary School have been using the Scottish Friendly Book Tour to inspire young writers in their P6/7 class.

Language: English
Genre: Fiction, Gaming
Age group: 6-8, 9-11
Audience: Professionals

Last updated: 07 December 2022

Two young boys concentrating on their writing

Pupils have been exploring branching narrative fiction and developing their own interactive stories using Code.org. 

What is a branching narrative?

Branching narrative fiction features immersive, game-like stories where the reader is cast as the main protagonist and can chose the direction the story moves by making choices and turning to the appropriate page to read the outcome.

As part of the gaming tour in 2022, Scottish Book Trust hosted a series of online sessions with authors, gamers and illustrators. One session featured fantasy author, entrepreneur and games legend Sir Ian Livingstone talking about his career in the games industry and his Fighting Fantasy range of branching narrative books. 

Our class has several enthusiastic gamers, so I signed up for the event with Sir Ian Livingstone, hoping that it would also spark their interest in reading and writing.

- Nicola Whitehead, principal teacher

The class thoroughly enjoyed the session. Some had read 'decision' books as they called them and already had couple in their library. The class decided to use this as a springboard to create their own interactive fiction.  

Using technology

Luckily they had also recently been working on coding in ICT and had found a branched story template on the Code.org(this link will open in a new window) website. This was extremely helpful as branching narratives can be tricky to keep track of, with one choice quickly branching into many separate story threads. 

The Code.org template(this link will open in a new window) works by linking web pages and comes with teacher guides and planning sheets. The class used these to plan the flow of their stories and keep track of where to add decisions and their results, eventually fitting everything together into one larger group story.

This has really helped us learn about coding and how to use our computer skills to link pages together. Using technology has been an awesome help to our learning and we can't wait to learn more.

- P7 pupil

Working together

All of the writers really enjoyed seeing their tales come to life and great pleasure was had in seeing classmates make decisions that sometimes sent them to their doom! 

Teaming confident writers and enthusiastic gamers together in writing pairs really helped to motivate pupils and the short narrative format of branching fiction worked well for those who were less confident writers. 

Nicola said that events like Authors Live and the Scottish Friendly Book Tour can be a 'great hook, and I would encourage teachers to use that. We have attended a number of events and they have all brought real positives to our classroom.'

Need more help getting started with interactive stories? Check out our article for young writers.