Using the Pixar Method to Tell a Story

The view from the Crown Room of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco where I learned about the Pixar Method. The Golden Gate Bridge is very clear this day. This image tells a great story about San Francisco.

In education, we sometimes have a terrible habit of letting things like mission, vision, values and goals tell the whole story. Sometime we present data in ways we hope conveys our message. We may have a very elaborate set of thoughts presented through slides, but many times the message may be lost along the way.

Last week, I attended a two day seminar that focused around using the Pixar Method to tell a story. Pixar writers have a method that breaks a story down to approximately 6-8 sentences, also known as The Story Spine. The format works as follows:

Once upon a time there was ___.

Every day, ___.

One day ___.

Because of that, ___.

Because of that, ___.

Until finally ___.

Over the last several days, I have used The Story Spine to create not one blog post, but several titled “The End of ‘School.’” I rewrote the post several times in an attempt to write for a variety of audiences (Student | Teacher | Administration | Parent | School Board). I feel I could still work through a few more rewrites of these posts.

One of the things I thought of was the beginning and end of the story right away. But, I did not find myself getting to the ending I predicted, at first. It is difficult to write a story for one audience. It is even more difficult to write one for a variety of audiences that contains the same message.

Think about the application of the Pixar Method and using The Story Spine to create the tale of your classroom, or of a student, or of some piece of data that is really great (or really awful). The listener/reader takes something away that provides a great mental picture not bogged down in minutiae and details. They can still come back to you for the details. Instead, they are walking away with the pure essence of what you are trying to communicate.

Looking back at my examples, see if you can create your story. Make it your own. Try it with your students. Then try to write it for your stakeholders/audiences to whom you may wish to share your story.

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