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SAMPLE MAGAZINE : USING STORIES FOR LEARNING AND THINKING
October 2012

This month we think about using stories and story structures to improve teaching and learning.

Article: Using Story for Learning
New Resources
Teaching Tips
Mike's Books
Additional Resources

This Month's Article:

Using Story for Learning

An Article that concisely summarises the concept of 'story' then proposes how it can enrich teaching and learning.

A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that orderJean-Luc Godard

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside youMaya Angelou

What is a story? Why are stories and storytelling important? How can you enrich your teaching with stories? 
              
This is a Free Sample Resource

A story is a series of events linked together to create meaning and to convey ideas. Stories are told in writing, through film, orally, in dance, with music and using combinations of these forms.  Cinderella is a story; exploits recounted in the pub are stories; your life is a story busy being told.
The diversity of stories and the variety of their subjects is immense. But analysis reveals surprisingly simple structures that appear in all of them. Studies such as Christopher Booker’s 7 Basic Plots present a handful of story types and an overall sequence common to every one. Booker argues that there is just one story motif from which all the others can be derived:

1. A problem, challenge or discontinuity prompts action
2. Action takes place to meet the challenge
3. New problems are encountered
4. A final ‘battle’ occurs
5. The problem is resolved yet seeds are sown for a new challenge

Not all stories reflect this order or include every stage, but a surprising number do. Think about the story of your last interaction with a phone company or retelling the tale of a disrupted journey.

Story is integral to human experience but sadly, as children trudge through the school system, a wonder of fairy tales gives way to a routine of timetables and examinations. Something gets lost, something that is fundamental to learning and to our intuitive expectations of how knowledge organises itself. Story must therefore be nurtured throughout formal schooling and beyond. It must be exploited for all the learning opportunities it presents: Stories crystallise knowledge into memorable chunks; stories capture attention and interest; stories help us make creative connections between ideas; stories carry cultural heritage and stories allow us to imagine a better future.

There are many practical ways to infuse stories and storytelling into learning. Most basic is telling a story that relates to the lesson content. More complex is using the stages in a story motif to craft engaging lessons. A story is a series of events linked together to create meaning and to convey ideas. Stories are told in writing, through film, orally, in dance, with music and using combinations of these forms.  Cinderella is a story; exploits recounted in the pub are stories; your life is a story busy being told.

The diversity of stories and the variety of their subjects is immense. But analysis reveals surprisingly simple structures that appear in all of them. Studies such as Christopher Booker’s 7 Basic Plots present a handful of story types and an overall sequence common to every one. Booker argues that there is just one story motif from which all the others can be derived:

1. A problem, challenge or discontinuity prompts action
2. Action takes place to meet the challenge
3. New problems are encountered
4. A final ‘battle’ occurs
5. The problem is resolved yet seeds are sown for a new challenge

Not all stories reflect this order or include every stage, but a surprising number do. Think about the story of your last interaction with a phone company or retelling the tale of a disrupted journey.

Story is integral to human experience but sadly, as children trudge through the school system, a wonder of fairy tales gives way to a routine of timetables and examinations. Something gets lost, something that is fundamental to learning and to our intuitive expectations of how knowledge organises itself. Story must therefore be nurtured throughout formal schooling and beyond. It must be exploited for all the learning opportunities it presents: Stories crystallise knowledge into memorable chunks; stories capture attention and interest; stories help us make creative connections between ideas; stories carry cultural heritage and stories allow us to imagine a better future.

There are many practical ways to infuse stories and storytelling into learning. Most basic is telling a story that relates to the lesson content. More complex is using the stages in a story motif to craft engaging lessons.


New Resources:


Story Memory Thinking

A Thinking Skills Tool that uses an ancient memory technique (Architectural Mnemonics) to help pupils improve their recall of key curriculum knowledge.





Story Memory Thinking 

Story Memory Thinking Template


A Thinking Tool Template in PowerPoint, providing two examples of Story Memory Thinking together with slides you can edit for your own lessons.

This is a Teacher Premium Resource

Story Memory Thinking Template

History Think Sheet - Using Evidence



A Think Sheet of Thinking Classroom ideas adapted specifically for teaching History, focussing on using evidence to reconstruct the likely features of past events. Includes a visual version of Story Memory Thinking.

This is a Teacher Premium Resource

History Think Sheet - Using Evidence

The Man Who Thought Too Much



A Story about a man whose words become solid and whose thoughts appear to everyone. Suitable for Key Stages 2-3 and including prompts to get pupils talking about what they say and how they think.

This is a Teacher Premium Resource

The Man Who Thought Too Much


Teaching Tips:

Tips for Using 'Story'



Teaching Tips for using the stages of a story to inspire lesson design and for building learning relationships by telling your own stories.

This is a Teacher Premium Resource
Story-Inspired Lessons

Think of your lessons as stories in learning and make this explicit to your pupils. Use the story stage language instead of traditional lesson events. For example, “Today’s challenge is....let’s get to action.....here comes the final battle!” in place of, “Today’s learning objective is....let’s read page 29 together....have you finished your work yet?”


 
Share Yourself and Your Story
Revealing a little of your present life and past experiences is a very powerful way to engage pupils and to build your learning community. After all what value do relationships have when one party knows nothing much about the other? Of course you need to choose the right context, the right time and the right class, but snippets, stories and anecdotes bring you to life as a person with whom pupils can have a high quality learning relationship.
 
If you are not yet comfortable with this level of familiarity or want ideas to get started, then here are some basic prompts. Use the story stages above to give structure and depth to your tales.


Remember to allow pupils space and time to tell their stories - whether to you or to each other.

Mike's Books:

Books to help you develop the use of stories in class

Thinking Stories to Wake Up Your Mind
by Mike Fleetham



A Book containing 27 original tales with follow-on currciulum-linked activities for Primary and Lower Secondary. Literacy infused with the full range of Thinking Skills inspired by Bloom's Taxonomy. Classroom tasks with photocopiable worksheets that will save you planning time and embed Thinking firmly into everyday lessons.

Available in our shop

Find out more

Surprising Stories to Stimulate Creativity
by Mike Fleetham



The follow on Book to Thinking Stories with 28 original tales with currciulum-linked activities for Primary and Lower Secondary. Literacy, Thinking Skills and Creativity are combined within engaging stories and tasks saving you planning time and ensuring rich curriculum coverage. Ideal for supporting a creative curriculum. Photocopiable worksheets included.

Available in our shop

Find out more

Additional Resources:

Thinking Classroom Archive:

The Trouble With Wishes


A Story taken from 'Surprising Stories to Stimulate Creativity' in which a girl accidentally kills a wish devil then discovers at first hand what the phrase 'Be careful what you wish for' really means. Includes curriculum-linked follow on activities.

This is a Free Sample Resource

The Trouble With Wishes


Books:

Stories for Thinking by Robert Fisher


Existing stories for the classroom with thinking skills questions. The book includes an introductory section about using stories for teaching thinking and how to lead a discussion. There are 30 stories from around the world, each is given a theme such as anger, truth etc. For each story there are 10 questions to help establish the meaning of the story, 10 questions to encourage thinking about the theme and 5 further activities.

Available from Amazon

The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker


A comprehensive, well-written and wide ranging study of the common heritage of all stories.

Available from Amazon

Websites:

Story Resources for the Classroom


There are many books and websites which provide stories to deliver and enhance your curriculum delivery, especially when the subject itself is related closely to story (Greek Myths for example). Story Arts is one of the best; clearly laid out and practically useful.

www.storyarts.org