For as long as I can remember, I have always loved stories. As a second grader, I participated in U.I.L. storytelling, and books with characters, plot, and setting have always captured my interest. My passion for literacy, history, and writing all revolve around story, and each time I have the opportunity to teach others, my first thought is, "What story can I share?"
Several years ago, I attended a workshop with Tanny McGregor, and she introduced me to The Heath Brothers. Their book, Made to Stick, is one of my all-time favorite professional titles because in order for learning to transfer, it must be sticky. Years later, the powerful phrase "Stories stick and facts fade." continues to resonate.
My student teacher presented her first social studies lesson today, and my heart swelled with pride as I watched her engage the children with story. Instead of presenting a bunch of boring facts, she vividly relayed the events of the Battle of San Jacinto, bringing to life characters from history like Sam Houston, Santa Anna, and Erastus Deaf Smith. The kids were captivated, and they could not contain their curiosity, excitement, and passion. My hope is that these children will always remember learning about the historical events of Apr. 21, 1836—not because they viewed a YouTube video clip or read a section from the textbook—but instead, because their student teacher chose to tell a mesmerizing story about heroism, bravery, and valor.
People, both big and little, are hard wired for story. I know this because I taught a staff development session to a small group of beleaguered teachers this afternoon. When I told stories about my own students, heads nodded, eyes sparkled, and understanding bubbled to the surface. During any learning endeavor, we all want to identify with others, connect emotionally, and construct meaning. These lofty goals are met when worthwhile stories are shared.
One of my favorite thought leaders, Dan Pink, recently shared an interview with Jonathan Gotschall, the author of The Storytelling Animal. I haven't had a chance to read the book yet, but the subtitle has my full attention—How Stories Make us Human. I watched his TEDx talk, and I love how he references storytellers as wizards and conductors.
Tomorrow I think I might sport a Harry Potter hat and wave a baton in the air as I attempt to teach impetuous 4th graders who are itching for Spring Break.