Storytelling has an important place in history of human communication. It has long been the way that one person can make a connection to other people in the present and people in the past. Storytelling can give meaning to events that don’t make sense and can give context to information that seems out of place. Because of these qualities, storytelling has long been used by educators to engage students. Children who grow up hearing stories can instantly connect with the structure when they come across it in the learning environment. Storytelling helps students remember the essence of ideas. Here are some things to keep in mind as a content area teacher who wants to turn factual information into stories that bring processes and formulas to life.
Every part of a story, whether it is fictional or true, should lead to a specific ending. Any part or scene that does not affect the outcome should be cut from the story. If you are teaching about the Explorer Leif Erikson, you don’t need to tell the story of Christopher Columbus or Henry Hudson. Keep your story focused on the main idea.
Your students are growing up in an age of instant gratification. Unless you get to something exciting or interesting in the story right away, you’ll lose their interest. One way to do that is just start the story with the problem. If you were teaching about desert ecosystems, you might ask the students to imagine what it would be like to be a cactus during a drought. Early in the story you must create a world that your students want to listen to.
Part of the storytelling tradition is engaging listeners by making them feel like a part of the story. You should do this with your students by making eye contact with them as you are telling the story. You should also be mindful of the language that you use to be sure that it attracts all listeners. Don’t worry so much about using very specific vocabulary, instead, translate the story into language that students can understand.
Because you’re trying to help students learn a new concept with this technique, make sure that you activate as many senses as possible while storytelling. When students can step into the story with their five sense, the story becomes more real and easy to remember. It may also help if you can use props while storytelling.
You already know your content area objectives. By the end of this story, your students should be on their way to learning something new and working toward mastering the objective. Don’t start telling the story without knowing your goals. Instead, the information you share in the story should be thought through and should lead to an ending that helps students think about global issues and themes.
Storytelling is a wonderful tradition that can be used by teachers and students of all ages. Have you ever used storytelling in your classroom? We’d love for you to share about the experience with your fellow educators in the comments section.