Personalizing learning by telling stories -- before digital story telling became 'a thing'

I have often been told by my students that they remembered what I was teaching because I attached it to some crazy story about an adventure or about my family. Even in word problems I wrote for math class, Bob, my husband, was a regular character. The length of his nose, his love of cookies and pizza, how far he was working away from home -- these were all subjects I alluded to regularly. I would wait for someone to get up the courage to ask, "Who's Bob?" and for another student who'd opted to take second course with me to have the pleasure of replying, "Her husband!" I think these stories help foster a sense of family in class.

In that spirit, I have posted in my blog a story for you all about a crazy Christmas adventure I had when was living in the Yukon in the early 1980's. What stories do you tell your students when you're trying to make a point in class? I'd love to hear some of them.

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Isn't it fascinating how one article can have such a powerful and long-lasting impact on our work?
My 9th and 10th graders also love hearing stories.... and boy do they remember them!

I was teaching Of Mice and Men on the day my grandmother passed away. I went into class the next day to teach a lesson on euthanasia and my 10th graders were flabbergasted when I told them the story of how my grandmother suffered from Alzheimers, incoherent for years, while my grandfather deteriorated himself from taking care of her. You could have heard a pin drop in that classroom, but it sparked the best discussion we'd had all year. By getting that bit of "personal" into it, they came together and responded brilliantly to the debate.

Even something as silly as telling a story of how an 11th grade teacher embarrassed me while reading The Crucible out loud... now a whole new generation of students has gotten a chuckle out of Abigail's reminiscence of her and John's escapades behind the barn.... or how I went on a date once with a guy who made fun of me for not knowing the word "impervious" (a vocab word)... silly story to tell, but that's probably the only vocab word my students can remember learning this fall!

It's sometimes hard because it's my first time teaching, and sometimes I have to think "is this story really necessary?" but the students really do respond/remember and I've found it's a really big key to connecting with them on a personal level as well. It's a way we can get to know each other as human beings, but also use it to learn something.
You know, Sandy, I don't think stories even all have to 'be necessary'. We have to remain cognizant of how powerful we are in students' lives as role models. I think a lot of my storytelling has to do with letting the kids in on how you can seem foolish sometime and find a way to laugh at yourself, or how you make mistakes and move forward, or even how you can have a terrible fight with your husband and it doesn't mean the end of the relationship. These anecdotes teach the life lessons that are so much bigger than all the math and science I dole out on a daily basis. I also think they let the kids see how human we really are and show how to be connected with others in real time and space -- not through just through devices in 140 characters.

PS. Bob now sits at the end of our 14 foot dining room table with his little computer. When works he has a habit of muttering to himself out loud. he spend so much time talking to his the little laptop, I've taken to calling her Lola. The kids now come to class asking how Bob and Lola are doing.
I totally agree about the human aspect when it comes to sharing stories with our students. They need to understand that just like them we make mistakes and learn new things everyday. In fact I find it's the same with teaching teachers. They like it when I have to use Help in the middle of a demonstration, rather than looking unprofessional, it helps them relax.
I'm always telling stories, I'm sure most of my students would wish I'd stop, but the one that would always get their attention was my story about using the toilets in Japan.

I lived in Japan for 3 years and that helped me to have a lot of anecdotal stories about the cultural aspects of the country. Whenever we did the "in the home" unit I'd break out my story about the toilets. For students who'd never even knew that squat toilets existed, having their teacher demonstrating how one squats to go to the loo was hilarious for them. Generally the actions speak louder than words, not that I could be heard over the uproar sometimes. Despite what could be termed as lack of focus in the class, the unit was always the most successful and memorable for the students. I think it's because it started on such a high note, giving them real life insight and humour to an otherwise boring topic.
Attached is a link to a podcast with Jilliane Yawney about her recently published research on storytelling in the classroom.

http://www.itales.com/podcast.php
Would you be interested in presenting or attending our upcoming Ohio Free-Tech 2010 Conference? I extend this opportunity to you, your colleagues, and graduate students to share research findings regarding technologies in the classroom, 21st century pedagogical approaches, 24/7 learning environments and communication skills that effectively engage digital natives.

Following the conference(s), SmartEd Services will be happy to make your research available via www.teachsmart.org and other social media networks.
Though we are a technology reseller, our mission is to create understanding, not simply to sell “stuff.” This conference offers teachers and administrators the opportunity to come together and explore these integrated technologies and methodologies.

Recognizing the fiscal constraints facing Ohio’s schools, and with the knowledge that training budgets have been cut, we have taken it upon ourselves to bring professional development to these educators. Conferences will be held in January and February at locations in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. They are offered at no charge to the attendees. Also, please know that we will not use this as a platform for sales.

Our goal is for attendees to walk away with a better understanding of their students’ needs and how proper technology integration addresses those needs through a range of disciplines and learning styles.

Presentation application forms can be downloaded at www.teachsmartconference.org. For more information, please call (800) 251- 4077 x397.
Would you be interested in presenting or attending our upcoming Ohio Free-Tech 2010 Conference? I extend this opportunity to you, your colleagues, and graduate students to share research findings regarding technologies in the classroom, 21st century pedagogical approaches, 24/7 learning environments and communication skills that effectively engage digital natives.

Following the conference(s), SmartEd Services will be happy to make your research available via www.teachsmart.org and other social media networks.
Though we are a technology reseller, our mission is to create understanding, not simply to sell “stuff.” This conference offers teachers and administrators the opportunity to come together and explore these integrated technologies and methodologies.

Recognizing the fiscal constraints facing Ohio’s schools, and with the knowledge that training budgets have been cut, we have taken it upon ourselves to bring professional development to these educators. Conferences will be held in January and February at locations in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. They are offered at no charge to the attendees. Also, please know that we will not use this as a platform for sales.

Our goal is for attendees to walk away with a better understanding of their students’ needs and how proper technology integration addresses those needs through a range of disciplines and learning styles.

Presentation application forms can be downloaded at www.teachsmartconference.org. For more information, please call (800) 251- 4077 x397.

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