Narrative structure and expectation is a difficult topic to teach: it is highly conceptualised, yet somewhat narrow in scope.
Question 3 on the English Aqa Ks4 syllabus requires the analysis of form. The Stanley Parable offers useful in-class provocation to consider and learn this skill.
I begin with a simple question as students enter: why do stories need a beginning, middle and an end?
This is developed by writing (and visually stacking) the expectations of students from the following line: “chipped finger nails flicked the burning butt onto the splintered planks below.”
Where is this set? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? Who is this character?
Of course, some guidance is useful (what time of night? What gender? What profession?).
From this the students play the game.
The first run through seems to elicit the following of all the narration, and the switching on of the machine. While this is intense, it is safe enough for secondary students.
Invariably, the second run through sees students attempting to disobey the narration. At this point the game is paused at key moments (such as when Stanley ventures down, rather than up, the stairs). Expectations are made explicit.
It is at this point that students begin to discuss and record the purpose of expectations. The meta of this is recognised by some: the notion of confirming our confounding expectations seems to be discovered by all.
The last run through sees us run through to the office where the code is inputted before the narrator can share it. The sarcastic response by the narrator delights.
The lesson ends with the attempted consolidation of ideas of expectation, with explicit reference in the immediate lessons afterwards.
As ever, students need cultural capital in order to create expectation: the most able and most read gain most from this lesson. However, all benefit.
See below for the worksheet to aid this.
See also the link below to purchase the game.
Two further recommendations are to ensure that the students controlling the game have some FPS experience, and that a randomizer is used to select from these students (I use this number website in lieu of alt + tab to a classtools visualiser as a desktop shortcut).
I look forward to developing these lessons using the narrative walking games: more school safe versions are desirable, although psychological horror is perhaps their best incarnation! I recommend ‘Home is Where One Starts’ (especially for the T.S.Eliot context).