Storytelling for learning: value, methods and strategies

Storytelling for learning structures educational content into a narrative to facilitate learning and make the information meaningful. Introducing anecdotes, legends,...

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Storytelling for learning: value, methods and strategies

Storytelling for learning structures educational content into a narrative to facilitate learning and make the information meaningful.

Introducing anecdotes, legends, illustrations and stories about characters and events makes it easier to grasp and understand concepts. By grabbing students’ attention, it also improves retention.

Based on the structure of a traditional narrative, with its introduction, middle and end, teachers can improve students’ results

To help you successfully integrate this resource into your teaching strategies, in this article we will look at what storytelling for learning is, its value, methods and strategies. 

Storytelling for learning: value, methods and strategies

What is storytelling for learning?

Storytelling for learning is the use of narrative to explain concepts, characters or events in a way that engages, motivates, improves understanding and increases retention. 

Storytelling for learning can take many forms. Here are some examples: 

  • Folktales. 
  • Folklore. 
  • Myths and legends. 
  • True stories.
  • Epics. 
  • Ballads. 
  • Fables. 

Remember, stories have been a part of mankind since the beginning of time and have been used throughout history to pass on knowledge

Incorporating this resource into your teaching practices will help improve your students’ results by capturing their attention and sparking their curiosity. 

The value of storytelling for learning 

The value of integrating storytelling for learning lies in the many benefits it brings to learning. 

Learners become more engaged with the content, but also develop skills such as remembering, rethinking and reconnecting as they retell these stories to others.  

In addition, this type of learning involves 3 cognitive processes that we describe below.

Concreteness

Concrete and tangible examples help the learner to condense abstract or complex concepts once they have been understood. 

They are very useful for teaching complex concepts in subjects such as physics, chemistry, or mathematics. 

Assimilation

The use of stories that allow students to identify with situations and characters or to draw analogies to the present, promotes the integration of new perspectives into their thinking.

Structuring 

Stories help students apply concepts learned in situations that are analogous to the context presented in the story by valuing learning.


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Methods for enhancing storytelling in learning

The following basic steps will help you incorporate storytelling into your instructional strategies. 

Know your learners

Knowing your students means not only knowing who they are when they come to class, but also getting to identify their universe, their tastes, the social networks they use, the information that captures their attention and their social and family realities. 

Only then can you find the right kind of stories to motivate them.

Be creative, entertaining and concise

Entertainment must be a factor in your didactic stories and to capture attention, humor and brevity are elements that must be combined.

In today’s information society, a capsule of information is more effective than a story that covers a lot of data. 

Learning strategies such as microlearning give very good results in the long-term assimilation of concepts. 

What is storytelling for learning?

Look for the usefulness of the story

It is important that students understand the usefulness of any exercise you propose to them. 

Explain what the story you are going to tell will be useful for and how it will help your students in their learning and on a personal level.

Make sure your story meets the characteristics of a good story

For a story to meet instructional goals, it must be:

  1. Accessible. Make sure your students can access the story when they need it through channels that are accessible to everyone. They can use social networks, an application, etc.
  2. Portable. It is important that the story is easy to remember so that it can be shared, which helps to fix the information beyond the forgetting curve. Use a clear message and simple structure.
  3. Identifiable. A good story is one that allows the receiver to see themselves in it, to develop empathy and to extrapolate it to their reality. 
  4. Interactive. Invite your students to participate throughout the development of the story. Ask questions, let them make hypotheses, etc.
  5. Exciting. Develop your story around obstacles and contexts that keep your students on the edge of their seats, without forgetting to create charismatic characters that inspire them. 

Storytelling teaching strategies

At this point, storytelling teaching strategies can take many forms. Here are a few that you can incorporate into your physical or virtual classrooms

SWBST strategy

It is based on creating a template with 5 columns that students fill in to identify key elements of the story:

  1. Someone. This refers to a specific character who is usually the main character, but can also be a secondary character.
  2. Wanted. This is to indicate what this character wants.
  3. But. The student must point out the conflict or problem. 
  4. So. Identify how the problem will be solved. 
  5. Then. Conclude with the outcome of the character’s action.
Methods for enhancing storytelling in learning

Storymap

Suggest that students create a storymap with the essential elements of the story, such as: characters, setting, conflicts, resolutions, etc. 

This will also help them understand the structure of stories so that they can create their own in groups or individually.

Choose your map

It is based on creating 2 groups in the class. One has excerpts from the story and the other has cards that define a conflict, an action, a character, a resolution, etc. 

The group with the extracts reads one and the other group has to identify which card corresponds to the text. It can also work the other way around. 

In this way, storytelling for learning can help you to: 

  • Provide challenges and problems for students to solve. 
  • Introduce new concepts or curriculum topics. 
  • Develop essential learning skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, decision-making, creativity, imagination or empathy.
  • Provide varied and stimulating assessments. 

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