Storytelling in the Classroom
Humans love stories. We have been telling them forever. We have used stories to teach lessons, to pass on information, to solidify our cultural identity, and for fun. Movies, television, and even video games are stories.
Because we love stories, we remember them better than anything else. We also pay attention to them more than anything else.
When I was a freshman in high school, my favorite class was World History. It was my last class of the day, and I looked forward to it all day long. The crazy thing is, it was 100% a lecture class. The teacher stood up in front of us and talked for an hour while we busily scribbled down notes. It sounds like torture. It is exactly the way we are told not to teach.
Why did I love this lecture class so much? My teacher wasn't lecturing; he was telling stories. They were exciting, funny, and they fit together in a complete narrative. Sure, we had to know places, dates, and people for tests, but these were easy to remember because we remembered the stories.
You may be thinking, sure, history is easy to teach using stories because history is a story, but I would argue that every subject has a story to share.
I began my teaching career teaching science. There are a lot of facts in science, but it is also an amazing story. What kids don't think about is that everything we know about science didn't just appear. People were curious, they asked questions, investigated, and made discoveries. Today these discoveries are neatly organized in a textbook, but they have lost their stories.
Chemistry has always been one of my favorite subjects. I loved balancing equations because it was like a puzzle. I realize that most students do not feel this way about chemistry. In fact, I would say that most kids are completely overwhelmed by chemistry. There is so much information to memorize.
But chemistry also has an incredible story. By going back to the beginning of chemistry, students can see that the first chemists were just as confused as they are now. In Ancient Greece, people believed there were only four elements. As time moved on, chemists built on the work of those that came before them to learn more about the world. Today, we know that atoms are made up of more than just protons, neutrons, and electrons.
If you are teaching chemistry, or you just want a great story for your students, you can check out my History of Chemistry set. You can buy one story at a time, or get a discount on the entire history.
I also have a history of the Civil War, and I am working on an Earth History.
If you are short on time (aren't we all?), these stories are a great investment for your classroom, but you don't have to buy anything to start telling stories in your classroom. Look at your subject and ask yourself, "why?" Why is this true? How do we know? Where does this come from? Answer these questions, and you will have your story.
What stories do you use to teach in your classroom? Share your ideas in the comments!