I Gotta Story…

I’m sitting here looking a the Gulf of Mexico.  No oil, no smell of oil.  Only deep blue-green waters with white crest as the waves crash against the shore. Only smell is salty air.  I see snow white sand with green and tan stalks of sea oats blowing in the wind.  There is a random car that passed every few minutes, a street seperates me and the beach.  I hear the waves crash and a weed-eater in the background.

(OK remember that paragraph, I’m coming back to it! You know I could not just have a blog post that just started and stopped normally)

Last night I got to meet someone who I respect greatly.  Many of you know my obsession with the ocean and its ecosystem.  If not, here is a brief explanation.  The person who I respect the most when it comes to ocean conservation is Philippe Cousteau.  Last night I went to the Discovery Education’s VIP reception at the AL MEGA conference to hear him speak. (No I did not go to the conference, but drove an hour to hear Cousteau speak).  He said two things that really stuck in my mind with which are a huge part in my teaching philosphy. So let me share.

The first thing he said was that teachers are storytellers.  I think that is so true.  I love lessons where my students are using discovery to learn, but there is a time where they need to hear information as well.  So often we get stuck on the fact that teachers should never be at the front of the room speaking, etc., but you know what, children like stories! I remember last year teaching hurricanes, I told the kids my story of Ivan, I used pictures and videos to enhance that story. At one point I looked up and my entire class was listening, watching, LEARNING.  The story became real to them.  We forget this.  We become so anti-lecture that we forget there is a difference between lecture and telling a story.

Digital storytelling is my favorite thing to do with kids. Have them create these stories using fun presentation tools.  We need to teach them the value of these stories. Instead of being a project, it needs to be “Look Mrs. Dykes does this all the time,do you remember the one about the moon she did, lets make ours like that!”

Teachers hold a wealth of information, we are experts in what we teach, we NEED to share it.  We need to share it in a way kids want to hear it. Lecturing is not fun and I think can be bad, but storytelling is not a bad thing.  I needs to be done every now and then, not every day, but occasionally.

The other thing he spoke about that caught my attention was teaching kids to be critical thinkers.  I could go on and on about how important teaching problem solving – no not math problems, real life problems – but I feel as though I would be preaching to the choir.  I am putting it in here to remind me and you of it.  Remember my BP post (it is the one linked earlier) and how I blame BP for not being problem solvers or the situation in the gulf would have never happened.  We need to prepare our students for a life of problems ahead.  They will be the ones taking care of our Earth, our economy, and our government.  The need to know how to think beyond memorization.  They need to know how to step up and change what ever bumps life throws at them.

Now back to the first paragraph.  Could you picture what I was talking about?  Could you imagine the beach, the sounds, the smells?  Your students need to be brought to that place. Where ever, what ever, you are teaching.  Tell them the story.  How much better would my story been if I had included pictures, audio, or video as well as the words? That is way storytelling with technology is even more meaningful.  You all are great teachers, I know that, lets be even better!!


11 Comments Add yours

  1. Joan Young says:

    I think this is your best post ever! ( like it matters what I think 😉 lol) You are so right that storytelling is such a powerful tool. Kids actually want to know how “our” experiences relate to them and what they are learning. When we model storytelling whether through digital tools or by engaging in a lively oral discussion, we have given our students an amazing gift. I love the way you ended the post with a challenge. Great job 🙂

  2. Delaney Kirk says:

    I find students of all ages like stories and that these help them to remember/learn the concepts being taught. I teach at the college level and it’s fun to hear the students discuss what they have learned by summarizing “that’s the story Dr. Kirk told about …”

  3. ScottW says:

    You sound like you teach like my wife. She believes in the power of imagination as well as structure. She’s often talked about a time where she could SEE her students picking up on a topic. Grasping it and learning from it. She loves her kids and watching them grow.

    I’m going to forward this post to her email. I think she’ll like it as much as I have.

  4. Nice post. I hate how the word lecture has taken on such a negative connotation. As a history major in college, I’ve sat through hundreds of lectures (haven’t we all). The best lecturers were always great storytellers. I believe that those professors are the true lecturers. A good lecture is a good story.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  5. I try not to “lecture” at my students. I try to talk with them and discuss. Lecture implies that I know it all and they know nothing. We discuss together… sometimes, THEY are the storytellers. Sometimes I am. When I find myself manipulating that “conersation,” I lose my kids.

    Great post, Amanda.

  6. Another great post. I am a talker and a story teller. (That should come as no surprise to you) I agree that we need to tell them stories from time to time. Keep writing amazing posts and keep a spot on the coast for the wife and I. Never been and want to go.

  7. blog0rama says:

    One of the best things I got out of my time with the National Writing Project was model to students what it means to be a writer. I’m fortunate in that we have Smartboards. When I ask them to write, I write. I share my writing, and ask for their feedback, and model what it’s like to receive praise, but more importantly, criticism. Sometimes I choose not to share it first, because I don’t want them to get intimidated. I make mistakes. I share where I think I will revise it. I tell them some things will end up not being explored any further, while other things will be. I think when we teachers just view ourselves as robots, delivering information, we have lost our souls and our way. We need to remember we are humans first, and share our stories. Great post!

  8. I love your distinction between storytelling and lecturing, and I really appreciate how you remind us that it’s OK to be the talker in the classroom sometimes. Maybe one difference is that a lecture is all focused on the lecturer, while a story is told for the listener. I’ve been advocating for a while that teachers need to be learners and designers. I may add “storyteller” to that list now. Thanks for helping me grow.

  9. Great post, Amanda. Storytelling is one of the arts that can be utilized in so much of our teaching. Thanks for this post and your insights on this. I used storytelling to teach all my history lessons when I taught second grade. It really brought the content to life, helped the kids to remember things and also helped make things interesting for me! Happy storytelling everyone…

  10. ktenkely says:

    I love this! Teaching through story is powerful because people have a natural propensity toward story. We connect emotion to it and the learning becomes memorable. It gives context and connection for the new learning. It seems that teachers should all be master storytellers. There should be classes in storytelling before we get our teaching license. When I think about the very best teachers that I had, they shared one thing, the ability to tell a good story.

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