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Storytelling - Tips to be a Good Storyteller

Updated: Aug 19, 2023


Story can change the world.

"Once upon a time, in the very essence of human existence, there thrived an art that transcends generations and cultures – storytelling. From ancient cave paintings that conveyed tales of triumph and adventure to modern-day novels that evoke a myriad of emotions, storytelling has been an enduring cornerstone of human communication and connection."

Indeed, stories possess the ability to transcend borders, cultures, and time, carrying within them the potential to shape perceptions, challenge beliefs, and inspire action.

It's no surprise that stories have this universal charm – who can resist their allure?

(Unknown, The Weighing of the Heart from the Book of the Dead of Ani (c 1300 BCE), The British Museum, London. Wikimedia Commons.)

The power of Storytelling in Education

In the realm of education, storytelling is a powerful tool that sparks interest and improves learning. From early childhood classrooms to higher education settings, incorporating storytelling enlivens lessons and captivates students' attention. Stories make lessons exciting and get students engaged. They simplify tough topics and encourage active thinking.

As a teacher, have you ever applied this method in teaching? We bet you have!

 

A good storyteller

Inspired by the insights of Ms. Lillygoy Sedaghat, an Explorer & Storyteller from National Geographic, here's a comprehensive guide to becoming an exceptional storyteller in your educational journey.

1. The Magic of Details

Immerse your students in the richness of storytelling by weaving intricate details into your narratives. Incorporate colors, sounds, tastes, and feelings to create a multisensory experience that captivates their senses. Let them journey through your stories by skillfully placing them within the world you're painting with your words.

Example: "There was a girl named Mia. She loved the rain more than anything else. When raindrops fell, the sound of the rain was like a soothing song that enchanted her. The earthy smell that came with the rain made her heart feel joyful. In those moments, she felt a strong connection with the world around her. She wished she could experience the beauty of rain every day."


2. Connecting the Story with Yourself and Students

Just as Mia cherished the rain as her source of enchantment, storytellers can infuse their tales with a piece of their own heart, allowing the audience to forge a genuine emotional connection.

Take Mia's story, for instance. Picture yourself standing beside Mia as the rain gently descends. Feel the cool droplets caress your skin, each raindrop echoing a sweet memory or a profound longing. As the earthy aroma wraps around you, it ignites a spark of nostalgia, perhaps reminding you of your own cherished moments in the rain. Just as Mia wished for rain's beauty every day, you might reflect on your own desires, connecting the thread of universal human emotions that bind us all. Intertwining your personal resonance with the narrative invites your students to not just passively listen, but to actively feel, empathize, and participate in the story's unfolding.

Example: "And you see, my dear students, as I share Mia's love for the rain, it brings to mind my own cherished experiences in the rain. I recall a time when I stood beneath the wide expanse of the open sky, feeling the tiny raindrops gently kissing my skin. Imagine standing there, the rain embracing you like an old friend, filling me with a renewed sense of vitality and joy. Can any of you relate to that feeling? Have you ever had a moment in the rain that made you feel truly alive?"


3. Making it the Story of Us and the Story of Now

When you connect the story with your own and your students' experience, the story has become the story of us. Do discover relatable elements that unite your audience. Then, lead to the story of now, propelling your students toward actionable steps.


Example: "One day, Mia found herself standing by her bedroom window, as she often did, gazing out at the vast fields now submerged under the weight of rainwater. Her heart felt heavy as her eyes scanned the scene of devastation before her. It was in that somber moment that something remarkable happened, like a bolt of lightning – a realization that would forever change Mia's perspective.

Imagine Mia, looking out at the flooding fields from her window, her innocent wish for endless rain taking an unintended toll on the hardworking farmers. Just like Mia, we've all had wishes without considering their wider impact. Have you ever thought about how your choices might affect others?

Then, like a lightning bolt, Mia's realization struck. She felt a mix of guilt and determination, prompting her to mend what was disrupted. This is where Mia's story becomes us – a reminder that our dreams or actions have far-reaching consequences.

Imagine being in Mia's shoes at that moment, feeling the weight of her responsibility. Have you ever felt that kind of determination to make things right, to turn your realization into action? (The story of now)

So, Mia embarked on a journey to find a way to reconcile her own desires with the needs of others. She recognized the importance of balance and understanding, and she found a solution that would unite her wish for rain with the well-being of the farmers who depended on the land."


4. Reflecting on Your Own Story

To effectively convey your message, it is crucial to tap into your own experiences and memories. Reflect on your past, selecting a pivotal moment that carries significant meaning. Allow your students to step into the shoes of the characters by vividly unraveling the events that transpired during that critical juncture.

Example:

"In the end, collaborating with agricultural experts, Mia spent tireless days and nights designing drainage systems and water diversion techniques. The goal was to regulate and manage the water levels in the fields, ensuring that the rains would be a blessing rather than a curse. Her dedication bridged her love for rain with the farmers' needs. She became a beacon of hope, working with the community to implement innovative solutions. The once-devastated fields flourished as rainwater flowed harmoniously, nurturing the crops.

Mia's story teaches us a valuable lesson – that our wishes and dreams, while personal and valid, are part of a larger picture. They should align with the hopes and needs of those around us.

As you reflect on Mia's journey, consider the steps you can take right now, in your own lives, to strike that balance between your ambitions and the well-being of those around you. What actions can you initiate today, to create a story of harmony and positive change?"


Conclusion

As you can see, Mia's transformative journey began with a lightning bolt realization. Students step into her shoes, feeling her emotions as she witnesses the impact of rain on farmers. Through personal experiences, Mia's story becomes relatable. Her tireless efforts in designing innovative solutions revive the fields. Students immersing in Mia's journey, they are motivated to reflect on their own lives and communities, encouraging them to create positive change and make a difference in the world around them.

Through the art of storytelling, we can effectively convey important messages and ignite a sense of empathy and action within our students. By sharing experiences and connecting on an emotional level, we have the power to inspire and empower others to create a better future.

"We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling."

- Jimmy Neil Smith, Director of the International Storytelling Center

Reference:

Adapted from the talk "Storytelling for change" by Lillygoy Sedaghat at VUS TESOL 2023 conference (21.07.2023).

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