The Power of Storytelling

I recently completed a six month mentor-guided course in public speaking, and in every session my mentor told me, “Your story is your superpower.” With that mindset, he encouraged me to start compiling a list of personal stories that I might include in presentations I make in the future, so that the presentations will have the maximum impact on the listener. 

Our classrooms are great places for students to use their personal stories to connect with content, connect with others, and deepen their overall understanding. In the book, Amplify Student Voices: Equitable Practices to Build Confidence in the Classroom then. In the book, authors AnnMarie Baines, Diana Medina, and Caitlin Healy share the following suggestions for developing storytelling in the classroom (pp. 84-94):

  1. Lay the groundwork. Identify and articulate the overarching goal of the storytelling project. Use prompts to generate ideas. Model storytelling. Put structures into place that support storytelling as an educational tool.   
  2. Acknowledge the emotional nature of storytelling. Stories are deeply personal and as such often cause emotional responses in both the teller and the hearer. Let students know this ahead of time, and be willing to share your emotional responses as well.  
  3. Set the conditions for storytelling. Preparation time, appropriate themes, presentation time, and feedback mechanisms should be clearly articulated for the use of stories in the classroom. 
  4. Teach listening skills. In the early stages of listening development, students can focus on who, what, when, where, and details. As they increase listening skill, they can begin to learn note taking while listening. At the highest levels, students can learn how to extend their listening through questions and reflection. 
  5. Mine memories. Maintaining a story journal is a good way to keep track of stories. Students may find it useful to have prompts such as “the funniest thing that ever happened to me” or “something I learned the hard way.” 
  6. Promote community. Stories have been used in communities since the beginning of mankind. Use them in your classroom to develop that sense of community.

As you prepare for next week, think about how you might bring storytelling – yours and that of your students – into your classroom. You and your students will be glad you did!

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