Storytelling – a way of engaging learners

Many of us already use storytelling and we may do so without recognising it. But what is it and why is it effective for learning? It’s one of the oldest forms of education, with many forms used to pass information from one generation to another. Ancient forms of storytelling took place through dance, art and verbal tales told to younger generations. The wealth of information to be gained from these stories was vast – whether it be what animals to watch out for, which plants were edible, origins or group history. We can all recall that great starter from our childhood – “Once upon a time….”. In our own experiences growing up, our families have told us the tales of events; some even had to endure the accompanying slide show.

Because it is such a familiar form for us to receive information, it makes it easier for our brains to recognise and store the information we receive. From a teaching perspective, this can help learners  “unpack” information and help it stick far quicker using storytelling frameworks than a traditional chalk and talk approach.

I’ve delivered sessions on the use of storytelling to trainers and I want to share with you the few lessons I like to leave them with, once I’ve reminded them that good trainers and facilitators are storytellers.

  1. It’s a quick and effective way to connect the heart, body and mind.
  2. Telling stories allows you to look directly at the learners in front of you and connect. This enables you to use gestures, facial expressions and body movements to convey meaning.
  3. Stories will help your learners to recall prior knowledge, allow problem solving, prompt curiosity and gain information in a familiar way. They can help activate, inspire or motivate learners to do something as a result of your training session.
  4. Applying a framework to develop a story using life experience and real scenarios is a great way to ensure learning sticks. This approach makes it meaningful and can help give context to on the job application.
  5. My most important message…..stimulate the senses!! Connect your learners with the story by using familiar words that describe touch, smell, taste, sound and sight. Incorporating the senses will also help you to connect their heart, body and mind.

In future posts we’ll start to explore more on storytelling – especially my top five tips above.

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