Continue the Story

Engineering Area
Analysis & problem definition
Group or Individual
Amount of People
Up to 15
Type of Class
Duration of Activity
Between half an hour and one hour
Type of Activity
Collaborative team setting, On-line Classroom activity


What is this technique about

The “Continue the Story” method sparks the students’ creativity by making them complete a story. It can be used either for ideation, need analysis or as a solution development session in a workshop. The students are given the beginning of a story that the teacher has developed. Every student is also assigned three random words, which s/he must use to make one sentence that can then be used to start the story. The words can come from previous exercises (e.g., catchword, ABC method) or be given by the teacher. It is important that the three words are used in the sentences and should also be related to the main topic of the workshop of problem. Continue the Story can be used in different phases of a workshop; hence it can be implemented as an opening combined with (e.g., catchword or photo story) but also as an idea combination session where students develop a solution or scenario.

Where does it come from 

This method is one of the many variations of the storytelling method. Stories are a way for humans to make sense of the world and envision possibilities outside of the immediate reality (Zaidi, 2019). Creating and telling stories is thus a genuine human capability, and this method makes use of it.

For which purposes it is used (why in your engineering teaching)

When implementing the Continue the Story method in engineering teaching, the teacher can enhance the student’s creativity by making the first sentences composed of three different random terms the students are given. The outcome will then be different from the stories students would normally write because students need to formulate the sentences more creatively to make sure that they use their three words. 

Continue the Story also is a good starting point for scenario development, because the stories with their plots, places and main characters serve as a first step in building a complete future world that can then be used in the design phases for identifying personas or prototypical use cases (Zaid, 2019).

How to use it

Before the session can begin, the teacher must prepare the beginning of a story (three to seven sentences) that the students can work with. Additionally, every student should be given three words to develop a starting sentence, which could be found from a previous session (e.g., photo story) or words that the teacher has prepared. The writing can take place in a shared document sheet where each student has an assigned slide/page with their name on and the beginning of the story. Furthermore, each slide/page should contain the three words the student has to work with to develop the story within 15-20 minutes (the session can also be longer). When the time is almost up, let the students know that they have 5 minutes left. After finishing their stories, let them read it out in plenum or in their subgroups.  

How to implement this technique online

Preparation, what do before the session

    1. Invent the beginning of a story.
    2. Write the beginning of the story down in the shared document on each slide/page so everybody has it in front of their eyes.
    3. In the case that the three words will not be an outcome of a previous exercise, prepare three words for each student and put them into a table. Make sure that the students will not get the same combination to broaden the outcome of the stories.
    4. Upload the shared document to the teaching platform.

During application, i.e. while giving the session

    1. Introduce the exercise and its purpose.
    2. Let the students open the shared document and download it to their own computer. From here they work offline.
    3. Tell them that they have 15 minutes to continue the story (or longer)
    4. Assign 3 words to each student (e.g., show a table, or assign from previous exercise). Explain that they each have three words in their first sentence, and that these words  cannot be changed and must be included.
    5. Explain that students will have to finish the story.
    6. Read out the story and start the timer. Ask the students to start writing now and inform them that you will tell them once there will be only 5 minutes left.
    7. Let the students know when they have 5 minutes left.

Follow-up, about what to do after the session

    1. Let the students upload their stories. 
    2. Ask students to read out their stories, and discuss them in plenum – what does that mean for the solution that will be developed? Use the stories to evaluate how a future scenario or use case could look like.

Examples and/or testimonials

The below is an example of how the method was prepared and facilitated in February 2021 by a student group during the course “Megatrends and Technological Innovation” held by Prof. Dr. Patricia Wolf at the University of Southern Denmark.

Opening II: Storytelling 9:20

Start Presentation: Nicholas is screen sharing, (Lina main responsible) and explain the task to the participants (see slide, copied here) – show them where to find the document – then switch to presentation, change to slide where group distribution is shown and stay on that slide
Task: Your task is to complete the beginning of the story individually and include the three words assigned to you from the previous method. Use your imagination and write a detailed story. Upload your result PowerPoint Slide in the same folder with the name Group X_YourName after 10 minutes. Please see which group you are assigned to (A, B or C). Download the file that you find in the folder OpeningII_Storytelling in the teams Group 07_Bonding according to your group A, B or C.

Set a timer and tell participants to start working on their stories (they stay in the call!), tell them to stop after the 10min are over.

Ask participants to upload their stories now, maybe show first slide again so they can see how they should rename their file or tell them again – check if all stories have been uploaded.

    • Result: 1 short story from each person (max. 17) uploaded as a PowerPoint document

Example of Continue the Story – SOSU challenge, 2021

Storytelling Task

    • Please see which group you are assigned to (A,B or C)
    • Download the file that you find in the folder OpeningII Storytelling in the teams Group 07_Bonding according to your group A,B or C
    • Your task is to complete the beginning of the story individually and include the three words assigned to you from the previous method. Use your imagination and write a detailed story. Upload your result in a PowerPoint slide in the same folder with the name GroupX_YourName after 10 minutes.
    • If you have questions you can ask us in this teams meeting 🙂

Please continue the story
including the three words assigned to you

Group A: School scenario
Imagine it’s the year 2045. The school year at SOSU has just started and it’s the first day of classes. You are really excited for this new chapter in your life but don’t yet know what to expect. As you enter the classroom… You see that the teacher is not in the room. You take a seat and a fellow student tells you that the teacher has to participate in a conference in Sydney. In the next moment, a robot enters the room. The robots represents the teacher and in the head of the robot there is a display where you can even see your teacher’s face like in Zoom call e.g. The robot also uses the voice of your teacher and thanks to AI the robot is able to interact with the students and do whatever the teacher wants to because she has the control, even from down under. In this way it is still secured that the students receive teaching and the teacher has the freedom to teach from every place in the world.

Tools needed

You will need a platform to share screens and communicate with the participants, such as: MS Teams, Zoom or similar. As well as access to a shared document (e.g. Google doc, Word).

    • Miro
    • Mural
    • Concept board
    • Evernote
    • MindMeister
    • Padlet
    • Mindmup
    • Timer (Phone, watch, computer)