Storytelling – isn't that what we all do?

I’ve realized recently that everything I do involves storytelling. And I like it. I love spinning a tale and getting my audience excited to know what happens next. It is just as thrilling for me as it is for the sixth grader who can’t help but ask, “So, what happened next?”

I try to do that with my fiction and non-fiction writing. Most importantly, I try to do that when I work with schools.

I am lucky in that I have opportunities to work with children. You might think that my storytelling work with kids is about language arts or creative writing. It isn’t, or at least not in the way you might imagine. While I would love to work with the language arts teachers and their students, I have never yet been hired to do that. Instead, when I go into schools, I work with the science and math teachers. I teach their students about the Earth. I help them learn Earth science and study our atmosphere, pedosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere. But we don’t do it by conducting a lecture. Rather, I present in the form of a workshop. We tell stories immediately when I work with a class. I start by getting the kids to observe and tell stories about their observations. What do we look at? An image of the Earth.

Earth image east
Courtesy, NASA MODIS

Then, I get them to act on their environment and to challenge their own assumptions. Through that, they start telling their own stories as they participate in doing the science. They are no longer studying it from the outside. They are experiencing it from the inside. They learn by doing, and that is the magic. And by the way, this sort of experiential learning works for students of all ages.

The other day, I taught my “Head in the Clouds” workshop at a convention. One of the participants was a college professor. At first she hesitated to even stay in the workshop when she saw the empty water bottles, blue and white paper, and kids’ scissors.

“I’m not sure my college students will be into this,” she said.

“Just wait,” I promised. And then we did cloud formation physics with those bottles. Seeing the cloud form and then freeing it from the bottle, blew her away.

“My students will love this! I’m going to use it first thing in the autumn term. But, can I have your intro? I think that’s what will sell it.”

That was the kicker. Just making the cloud in the bottle is cool. But, it is the story around it that gives it context and meaning. That story sells the information. Students learn it and retain it better if there is a hook. The story is that hook. The more we tell stories, the more we will connect to our audience regardless of what we want to convey. Tell them a compelling enough story, and they will all want to know, “So, what happened next?”

That urgency will sell it. Get them eager to know what happens next, and you’ve got ’em! Tomorrow, we will look at compelling stories in fiction and non-fiction. So tune in.

What about you? How do you use storytelling in your day? Sound off below.

Sending you all of my love.

Z


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