Simple story prompts

Stories are a great way to activate learners prior knowledge and help learners to connect and recall concepts as simple stories are sticky.

Caitlin Foran avatar
Written by Caitlin Foran
Updated over a week ago

By simple stories we're talking about things like: allegories, fables, analogies, idioms, sayings, quotes. You get the gist. For simplicity, throughout this article, we'll just refer to "stories", but as you can see, there's actually a big range.

Give learners a story that relates to both the topic and their likely prior knowledge. Ask them to tell you everything they can about the story. For instance you might give this one of Aesop's fables...

A lioness and a vixen were comparing their young. The vixen said how beautiful her litter of cubs were, and remarked sneeringly that the lioness only ever had one cub. "Ah yes," said the lioness, "but that one is a lion..."

... and ask learners how it relates to the workplace, raising seedlings, or even goal-setting.
Stories are sticky and have multiple interpretations, so they're a neat, creative way of surfacing connections and giving learners an easy way to recall those concepts later.


  • Choose stories that would make sense to learners and also allow you to connect to the new concepts.

  • Be mindful of the huge amount of cultural context involved in understanding some analogies (especially idioms).

  • Consider using a widely known saying that is actually technically incorrect. This can be a great starting point for discussion and debate.


  • Turn it into more of a "gallery walk" by including multiple stories for learners to reflect or comment on. .

  • Ask learners submit their own story that relates to the topic and explain why/how it relates.

  • Have learners identify which parts of a story relate to a topic, and which don't.

Make it social

  • Have learners share comments or their interpretation of how the story relates to the topic.

  • Have learners share their own stories relating to the topic and explain why/how they relate.

  • Group learners to share their own stories and look at things like: In what ways are they similar/different?

  • Give learners two stories that relate to the topic and ask them to compare and contrast: In what ways are they similar/different?

  • Give learners a pulse to poll them about which of two stories is a better fit for the topic. If possible, lead this into a group discussion about the results. Was there a clear consensus? Should we debate?

Simple story prompts are just one way of activating prior knowledge, be sure to check out the rest of the articles in this set.

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