Most of us are very familiar with the title phrase. Paul Harvey, noted lecturer, author and syndicated radio host, always ended his noon radio show with these words after he had recounted an interesting story. Everyone’s attention was focused on what he was saying and what they would learn.
Storytelling is an important element of subjects beyond literature. Tom T. Hall, country music legend, gained the reputation for being the country music storyteller. American Indians used the power of storytelling to convey customs and beliefs to young members of the tribe.
In previous blog posts I have mentioned that through my years teaching, I have been given the title of storyteller. Storytelling is a method I have found to be effective and, being an old southern girl (GRITS – Girls Raised in the South, wonderful book!), it just comes naturally to me. Get the point across. Relate it to an event with which people (aka-students) can identify. Get those mental juices flowing! It appears to me that effective teaching is more or less dependent on these.
Now for the validation! You know, I take it whenever I can get it! It appears this pedagogy has quite a bit of merit. The Corporation of National and Community Service, National Service Knowledge Network (www.nationalservicesources.gov) has published several articles on the effectiveness of storytelling in the classroom. One, in particular, caught my attention: “Developing Literacy Skills Through Storytelling,” by Linda Fredericks, originally published in Spring, 1997. It has remained a classic.
The article stressed that stories have the ability to promote discussion, positively impact behavior, generate interest in academic subjects, and involve students who had previously shown no interest in their classes to become engaged in the material. Eureka! What a concept!! All accomplished by just telling a few stories. Some may be silly, some personal, and some may be on a more serious note, but they all have the same goals: to reach as many students as possible.
In the past, storytelling may have been looked upon as being a way to pass the time or even to be a complete waste of one’s time. Hmm, now look–it is being recognized as a powerful tool which can be used to build literacy and critical thinking skills.
Author and educator Joseph Chilton Pearce, in his book Evolution’s End, notes that exposure to stories helps trigger internal images and meaning associated with subject matter. He asserts when students listen to stories, they respond by creating images of things being described. With the use of a story, individuals can explore what others have in common as well as how they differ and how to relate those stories to concepts in the world of education, regardless of discipline.
These anecdotes don’t just take up time – they are essential! They are powerful and indispensable tools for developing literacy and critical thinking skills in each and every student.
As for me, I plan on continuing to tell my stories (I’ve got a million of them) and hopefully this has inspired you to follow suit. You may never know how something so simple to you may impact your students, helping them to realize that what they are learning does have a place and is relevant to their life.
Thank you, Paul Harvey!
“Storytelling is an act of love. Sharing stories connects us to each other. When I tell my story, it connects to your story.”
—Njoki McElroy, teacher and storyteller