Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tell stories

“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; Through the Looking-Glass 

I have been giving a lot of thought lately to the importance of stories in our lives. In this digital age of information overload, the age-old tradition of storytelling is more important than ever. We have swung on a pendulum from the days before the written word, to the days before much of the population was literate, to the information age, but in each phase, storytelling has played a vital role.
Who we are is defined by the stories we have been told, and the stories we tell.  Much of our learning would have been lost if people had been subjected to bulleted stone-age PowerPoints instead of compelling, meaningful stories. Storytelling used to be the primary means of learning, internalizing, and passing along our history, our culture, our morals, and life lessons. Ironically, in the age of instant information, it is now one of the only truly powerful tools we still have that allows us to engage in, remember, and internalize the ideas that shape who we are.

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
Philip Pullman

Storytelling is the primary way I communicate what I am doing in my classroom, and still the main way I teach to my students. I use my own stories, and listen to the stories that others tell me. When students tell me about their lives and their learning, I listen closely. When teachers tell me about experiences, I listen closely. I repeat the stories of others often. When I'm teaching a lesson to my students, I tell them stories about the experiences of other students in similar situations. When I'm working with other educators, I tell them stories about my own experiences, and the experiences of other teachers that I've been told. When I'm working with administrators, I tell them stories about how the decisions they have made (or have yet to make) impact real people.

“It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

We engage in personal stories that are told to us because they are directed at us for a specific purpose. It's not like having a random selection of books or articles - stories are told to us at a specific time, in a specific situation, for a specific reason. Because they are interesting, engaging, and real, we listen, we empathize, and we internalize them.

“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here.”
Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

Stories are one of the main reasons that I have felt the pressing importance of keeping one foot firmly in my classroom practice, even though I spend more and more time working with other teachers on their own practice. It allows me to continue to draw from a wealth of relevant stories that I know will have an impact on them. Personal stories give me credibility.

My students are exposed to so much media in their daily lives, how do we cut through the noise and make them hear us? We tell them stories.

We want our students to have "digital literacy" - part of that means being able to critically evaluate what they see, but it also means being able to communicate in an impactful way. We need to make sure they know how to tell and communicate stories people will listen to.

  • Listen closely to the stories people tell you - even if they don't realize that's what they are doing. 
  • Tell your stories to others.

Most of my posts on this blog tell my classroom stories. They are about experiences I've had, the experiences of others, and also about ways you can teach aspects of impactful storytelling to your students.

Here are just a few storytelling resources from this blog that your students can use:
Screen Casts
Book Trailers
QR Codes
Virtual booklets
Blogs and Wikis
Time Lines
Online Slide Shows
Map Making
Magnetic stories and poems
Concept Maps

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tracie,

    I love how you break down the latest in EdTech in your blog. Your insight is really helpful! I kept a blog when I taught in Tuntutuliak ten years ago, but it was like how most other AK blogs are nowadays--full of anthro-personal narrative.

    Keep giving us the useful hints--and your interpretations and opinions of them! Very helpful to the field.