Start with a Story

Karen DoughertyHere in the Boomer Box, we’ve been thinking about and talking about the power of narrative as a teaching tool. We realize that many of our colleagues are loathe to consider education a “product,” but to our aging brains it seems to pretty clear that we are indeed in the business of selling knowledge—as well as a few other vital and useful products (see our Tuesday series on Skills).

Perhaps it is that reluctance to view ourselves as salesfolk that keeps us from snitching the best ideas from those who are proudly in the business of selling stuff. Our friends at Amazon recognize the power of a good story to get their message across, so much so that a currently popular ad uses no words at all. When Amazon wants us to know that “we sell wide variety of stuff to solve your life’s problems and we’ll get it to you fast,” here’s what they show us:

My colleague Anne Stahl has tapped into an ad from Lowe’s to help her students grasp the connection between frustration and aggression:

neurotribesThe technique doesn’t have to be visual. I’m currently reading Neurotribes by Steve Silberman. The book is intimidatingly thick and includes a lot of technical information about autism and its variants. Why would I want to read it? Because I heard an NPR interview with Silberman in which he shared stories about the history of autism.  Silberman’s book begins with verbal portraits of Henry Cavendish and Paul Dirac, brilliant scientists whose contributions literally rocked our world, while both of them exhibited classic traits associated with autism.

Looking to foist some knowledge off on your students? Start with a story.


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