The Storytelling Tradition: Storytelling is our oldest form of teaching. For more than 200,000 years, human beings have used storytelling to teach about cultural history, pass down survival skills, and create a sense of place and belonging through shared experience. Human beings wouldn’t have survived this long without the power of storytelling to teach us how to be safe and how to care for each other.
Using storytelling as a teaching method makes teachers and students vulnerable, helping them to connect to each other and with themselves. Because storytelling helps students and teachers at Mizzentop Day School remember that vulnerability is a strength rather than a weakness, it helps us all remain open to new ideas, new ways to look at the world, and new lessons. It makes teachers better at teaching. And it makes students better at learning.
Teachers are already storytellers
We believe in using storytelling as pedagogy. The practice of storytelling is integrated with everything we teach.
Students perceive the world around them through stories. From early childhood through adolescence, children understand their families from the stories that are told around the dinner table. They learn social norms and skills through the books we read to them at bedtime. And they connect to their peers through the stories they tell each other. We’ve all seen a young child so excited about an experience that they just can’t wait to tell the story of what happened to everyone they see. That is the power of storytelling in its most basic and beautiful form.
Storytelling in a classroom is interactive
Storytelling enables children to make sense of disjointed pieces of information and form a coherent picture. It actually helps students form better questions. Studies continue to provide data on the power of storytelling to make learning purposeful for children. It shifts the focus from learning for learning’s sake, to learning for understanding, for comprehension, and for connection.
Storytelling is ingrained in every discipline
For our students, approaching scientific learning as a series of mysteries that need unraveling encourages the use of metaphor to find meaning and helps students comprehend and retain complicated concepts.
We are wired to retell stories. The retelling of stories turns our students into teachers, emboldening them and giving them a sense of pride in what they’ve learned and their ability to share it with others. How often has your child come home and started a conversation with, “did you know”? That is the opening line to a story, likely a story about what they enjoyed learning about in school that day. By actively engaging in your child’s story, you are also an integral part of the power of storytelling in your child’s education.
The science of storytelling
There is a reason that cultures develop strong oral traditions. Stories help us map the plot so we remember things better. The story of photosynthesis or of the founding of our country become part of who we are through storytelling.
Sometimes simply teaching facts, with little or no context, actually reduces children’s ability to learn new material. Storytelling provides the critical missing component of context to cold hard facts.
There is significant evidence to support the power of storytelling for learning. And here at Mizzentop Day School it is part of our everyday curriculum.