This post is part of a series that explores the Basics of Educational Storytelling. Largely taken from my master”™s thesis, The Value and Principles of Educational Storytelling (which can be read here), this I will lay the foundation for an educational storytelling model regardless of setting and medium. We look at the basic elements of storytelling, five guiding principles and educational stories, and practical tips.

Check out the rest of the series.

Educational storytelling means a lot of things to a lot of different people. It can be expressed through classroom instruction, student writing, moral teaching, and singing songs around a campfire. These may seem like far-flung and unrelated activities. It becomes even more muddled when we talk about educational storytelling for different purposes: Identity/Social Oriented teaching (like morality tales), and Process Oriented Teaching (like math and science). How can any of these things be reconciled? It feels like there are too many things going on to find common ground.

Well, all of the above can be boiled down into to some commonalities. This is not an end-all list, but a place to start.

In my research, educational storytelling in all its forms can be built upon five basic principles: Hero Audience Bonding, Emotion and Learning, Presentation and Craft, Presentation and Learning Profile, and Interactivity. We will touch on each one here, and dedicate a post to each in the future.

1. Hero Audience Bonding

We create a hero the audience can learn through, vicariously. Once a character is made identifiable, the audience is able to “see through their eyes” and experience the world as they would through empathy and emotion. As the hero progresses through the story, learning and problem solving, the audience will learn the same lessons — given they have bonded with the main character.

2. Emotion and Learning

There is a reason you remember the joke your grandfather told you at six years old, but you cant remember what you had for breakfast. Emotion makes things memorable. This isn’t just an axiom, its biological science. There are specific, easy things you can do in any type of story to entice the brain to store the information away.

3. Presentation and Craft

An educational story will only be effective if it is engaging. Therefore, it is important to follow the conventions of whatever medium you chose to tell your story in. Each medium has its own flares, quirks, strengths and weaknesses. Prose allows you to crawl inside the reader’s mind, Video engage multiple senses, etc. Know your craft and choose the right medium for the story you are telling.

4. Presentation and Learning Profile

Just as every medium has its quirks, each form also engages different people in different ways. I have posted about individual differences and learning profiles, but its enough to say that some people are visual learners while others may learn best through hearing or movement. Specific storyforms lend themselves to these learning styles. Again, choose the right weapon.

5. Interactivity

An educational story must be active, not passive. This does not mean the audience must be moving during the story, but there must be a way for them to express, test, reconcile, and cement the knowledge. To use it. There are a lot of ways to do this, and its not as complicated as it may seem.

As I said, we will tackle each in turn. As we do will will hammer out a skeleton for educational stories and discuss methods to make life a little easier. Read on!

Next we will look at Hero Audience Bonding

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Chris Michaels

Storyteller. Researcher. Coder. Innovator. I seek to push the boundaries of storytelling and education.
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