Why Imaginative Educators Tell Stories

Why Imaginative Educators Tell Stories

Education February 06, 2017 / By Gillian Judson
Why Imaginative Educators Tell Stories

One of the most powerful learning tools human beings employ is the story. See how the story-form can unleash imagination and creativity in your teaching.

Human beings love stories.

We don’t just love stories, we actually think in stories. We make meaning of our experiences by shaping information in emotionally significant ways. For teachers, this is a key to engaging students, developing imagination, and unleashing creativity. Imaginative educators create emotionally engaging contexts in their classrooms.

The golden rule of imaginative teaching:  Identify the emotional significance of the topics you are teaching for your students.

To maximize your students' engagement and learning, you need identify what it is about the topic that evokes your sense of wonder. On one level, this is obvious. Students know when their teachers are interested or engaged in a topic. A teacher’s passion and enthusiasm in general can inspire students to learn. In imaginative teaching, the teacher's engagement with the curriculum lies at the very heart of effective and imaginative teaching. It is not an option. It is not a frill. A teacher’s emotional engagement with a curriculum topic is an essential part of all good teaching. Finding an emotional connection to a topic is how you find “the story”; it is the first and most important step towards teaching as storytelling. (This post looks more deeply at the idea of teaching as storytelling.)










Story vs. Storytelling

Let me clarify terms. Using "story" in your teaching does NOT mean you are going to create a fictional story. Nor does it mean that you must tell your students personal stories. Lastly, it does not mean finding a "story" you can read along with all of your lessons. These activities are uses of story and may, on one level, support learning and formation of relationships with your students, but they do not tap into the potency of the story tool for imaginative learning.

For the imaginative educator, a “story” is more profound:  it is a way of shaping information to bring out its emotional importance.

And now for some good news and then some more good news.

The Good News

Any and all topics in the curriculum can be story-shaped. Whether primary explorations of numbers, advanced study of quantum physics, a lesson on counting to 100, or exploration of world literature, topics that are taught in ways that leave students feeling a human emotion such as care, concern, awe, fear, intrigue etc. are more meaningful and memorable. This is the great educational power of the story.

More Good News

All human beings make meaning in their lives in storied ways: all human beings feel something for the events in their lives. If I asked you how 2017 has been treating you so far, you would tell me a “story”; you would describe your year in a way that would leave me feeling something about the events that have shaped it so far. This is “story-shaping”; it connects human emotion to information. The trick for effective teaching is to tie up emotional responses with the curriculum content you are dealing with.

Remember the golden rule:

Begin with your emotional engagement--find your story--and you will be able to evoke the wonder in your math concepts, language arts concepts, or biology lessons.










Quick Example:  Punctuation

If you want your students to learn to effectively use punctuation—like I mean really know how to use a semi-colon—then you'll be more effective if they feel something about it. That’s right—you want to imaginatively engage your students with punctuation.  

So, remembering our golden rule, start by asking yourself:

What’s the story on punctuation? How is punctuation wonder-full?

(These may not be questions that you have ever asked yourself before. I know…)

I'm curious...what do you think about punctuation?  (I would love to know what you think...Post a comment below!) One thought I had is that punctuation marks are ingenious; they are tidy little packages of meaning that help convey body language that we physically experience in face-to-face interactions but that is lost in written communication. Imagine, for example, the facial expressions and bodily gestures that may be conveyed with an “!” Or, think about the way a “;” can replace a wink (e.g. I got a new car; it is a midnight blue Mazarati.) This could be my story on punctuation: punctuation marks are unsung heroes; they are great conveyors of meaning upon which human beings rely for clarity in all aspects of life.

So if you want to unleash imagination and creativity in your classroom (at any level or subject area) then find the story in the topic you are teaching. To do that, begin all of your planning by feeling your way into a topic.

Explore the topics you teach with your emotions alert. Seek what it is about the topic that engages your passion or evokes your sense of wonder. 

When you have found that emotional core then you, like the reporter sent to get “the story” on some news-worthy event, know what emotional aspect you can evoke to engage your students in the topic.

Learn more about the power of imagination and how to engage it in your classroom on this blog about imagination-focused teaching: imaginED education that inspires.

This post was originally published with BAM Radio Network EdWords

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