Nicholas DeArmas, PhD
Think about a time you learned something new in an exciting and memorable way.
Was what you learned presented in the form of a story? Was it in a podcast, a documentary, a reenactment, or a simulation?
At Kiddom, we recognize the power stories wield in the classroom. We collaborate with educators to enhance their teaching methods by harnessing the dynamic potential of storytelling, empowering them to create more engaging and interactive classroom experiences through the art of storytelling.
Stories are Powerful Tools For Learning
Research shows that stories are critical for learners when they seek to form bonds, commit new information to long-term memory, and discover and attempt to understand phenomena. To say it another way, stories are instructional tools that possess immense power for teachers and students to tap into in the classroom.
At Kiddom, we use stories to help shift teacher and student behavior toward more engaging, successful classroom practices. This is why our teams spent two weeks in November reading and discussing the structure of stories; we even wrote and shared our own heroic journeys, as a way of synthesizing what we had learned. In his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell points out that most of the world’s stories follow a specific pattern, one where a hero finds a problem, struggles against it, and solves it, making their world a better place in the process. We realized that this is the same process many effective teachers use to reach their students, through telling stories. Effective storytelling is exactly what happens in the student-teacher instructional routine involved in so much of our Science, Mathematics, and ELA classrooms.
Storytelling in Science Classrooms
In science classrooms, we find stories at various levels. Through narratives, students learn the story of gravity: you know, the one where Isaac Newton is sitting under a tree, and then an apple falls on his head. But the power that stories hold for science classrooms doesn’t stop with biographies of scientists; Kiddom’s Open SciEd curriculum teaches science through a phenomena-based approach that drives inquiry by asking questions, essentially asking students to take on the role of the hero in their own scientific stories of discovery. They encounter phenomena, struggle to explain it, and, through experimentation and tests, arrive at an understanding. Their pedagogical journey follows the same sequence as the structure of a story. For example, in the video below, an OpenSciEd student tells a story about what she observed when an audio speaker makes noise, explaining this phenomenon in the form of a story, while her teacher drives her toward inquiry.
(From “Equitable Sensemaking OpenSciEd PD – 3.1 Initial Ideas Discussion”, 2020)
Storytelling in Math Classrooms
Stories help students to learn outside of science classrooms; they are also used frequently in Kiddom’s math classrooms. We all remember hearing stories about famous mathematicians, but what about the tiny stories we read in word problems? Personally, I remember hearing Pythagoras’ theorem, but I truly learned it when I was actively engaged in a story where I had to imagine I was a homeowner with a mischievous dog: how many inches of carpet would I need to fill in the missing length that my dog ripped up in the corner of a room? The power of stories in Kiddom’s Math classrooms doesn’t stop at word problems either; research has shown that when students use Math Language Routines to explain their solutions to problems, (like in the “IM Talks Math” instructional routine that IM360 asks students to engage in), students use discussion to tell their own stories, stories that involve narrating their path through a problem by utilizing conceptual understanding alongside procedural fluency, and reflecting upon their productive struggle in the problem-solving process.
Storytelling in ELA Classrooms
Of course, we are saturated by stories in our ELA classrooms, the home of the literary classic. We learn about new perspectives through stories, like when we read about Mexican culture in The Summer of the Mariposa (a novel in the EL Education curriculum). We also utilize stories in ELA classrooms to contextualize vocabulary for the language learner, like in our Language Dives in our EL Education curriculum. During these Language Dives, teachers encourage students to play with sentence components, often acting them out or using them to tell stories about their own lives. We utilize the story structure, as well, when performing discussion protocols like EL Education uses for Think-Pair-Share activities (see video below).
(From “Classroom Protocols in Action: Think-Pair-Share”, 2018)
At Kiddom, we empower your ability to write, tell, share, accept, and discuss stories through our engaging digital learning environmen and curriculum. The dynamic classroom enables Kiddom teachers to be in more than one place at a time, to find students where they are, to track data in real-time, and to save time and energy planning, instructing, and grading.
Why is all of this important? You must play a major role in the story of the learning journey for the students in your classrooms.
So how do you use stories as a learning tool in your classrooms, schools, and districts?
Campbell, J. (2012). The Hero With a Thousand Faces (3rd ed.). New World Library.
“Classroom Protocols in Action: Think-Pair-Share.” EL Education, Classroom Protocols in Action: Think-Pair-Share, YouTube, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/clip/Ugkxaiv0RnUBHgrTYYNeMmacu7SReNPAW51t
“Equitable Sensemaking OpenSciEd PD – 3.1 Initial Ideas Discussion.” OpenSciEd Account, Equitable Sensemaking OpenSciEd PD – 3.1 Initial Ideas Discussion, YouTube, 2020. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X54sW1mdfVo
Zak, P. J. (2014). Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling. Harvard Business Review, 28, 1-5.
Zwiers, J., Dieckmann, J., Rutherford-Quach, S., Daro, V., Skarin, R., Weiss, S., & Malamut, J. (2017). Principles for the design of mathematics curricula: Promoting language and content development. Retrieved from Stanford University, UL/SCALE website: http://ell.stanford.edu/content/mathematics-resources-additional-resources
Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.
For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in one place. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.
Ready to bring digital curriculum to your school or district?
Connect with us in a 15-minute meeting to learn more about available pre-packaged curriculum and assessments, and how the Kiddom education platform can support your learning community.