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.

I’m going to attack two guiding principles of educational storytelling in this post, since they are so related.


It is not enough, simply to tell a story with a good message. Even if all the steps are perfectly executed in a captivating tale where the lesson is wonderfully presented, students do not learn by listening. Students learn by doing. It is important, after the story has concluded, to include segments of practical discussion. Not theoretical analysis of the literature, but truly pragmatic discussion of the lesson. Students must be encouraged to
act on the lessons learned and explore the topic with greater depth.

Learning Profile

A Note on Learning Styles

All people do not learn in the same fashion. This is something that has been known to mankind since the beginning of time. However, in recent years, some more scientific study has been completed that has helped educators understand how different students process information. Theories of multiple intelligences abound. Robert Sternberg broke intelligence into three separate categories: academic, creative, and practical (Berger, 2006).

Howard Garndner, on the other hand, took the research even further, breaking intelligence into eight forms:

  1. Linguistic- Sensitivity to words, sounds and rhythms in language.
  2. Logical-Mathematical- ability to understand patterns and long segments of reasomng
  3. Musical- Intelligence concerning, pitch and rhythm.
  4. Spatial- Able to perceive visual mediums accurately and “perform
    transformations on one’s initial perceptions.
  5. Body-Kinesthetic- Learning through the movement of the body.
  6. Intemersonal- Social understanding of others moods and emotions.
  7. Intrapersonal – Self-understanding
  8.  Naturalistic- Capacity for natural objects, plants and animals. “Fine sensory discrimination.”
    (Slavin, 2006 p. 122-123)

Closely connected to multiple intelligences is the study of learning styles or
learning profiles. Where multiple intelligences focus on how a student processes information, learning profiles are a bit more practical. They focus on how a student learns best based on the intelligence they are strongest in, personality, interest, and experience.

While all people can learn in any manner, some learn best through reading, movement, music, or repetitive motion (writing). Also involved in a learning profile are the interests of the students. Some enjoy sports and some enjoy fantasy and some prefer social networking.

Learning Profiles and Medium

Once a story is constructed, its time to focus on telling the tale. This should not be restricted to prose. It is possible to tell a story through a myriad of crafts including, television, film, theatre, prose, oral, musical, poetry, graphic, and many more. In some cases, a story lends itself to a specific medium. For instance, a story that requires a heavy amount if inner reflection on the part of the hero would not be suitable for film, where the
characters thoughts are virtually never heard.

There is another factor involved in determining the presentation medium: learning profile. This includes interest, experience, and dominant intelligence. Interest and experience largely determine the attributes of setting and character for the story. Certain crafts lend themselves to specific intelligences. For instance, theatre involves a lot of movement, a hallmark of the Body-Kinesthetic intelligence. In also includes cooperation
and social aspects which involve interpersonal intelligence. For the purposes of this study, the crafts are as follows:

  1. Oral- Telling a story audibly, usually involving nonverbal communications
  2. Drama- Students act out the story as depicted in a script or through
  3. Prose- Written narrative with emphasis on introspective speech. Primary
    form is a novel or short story.
  4. Motion Picture- Visually narrative, typically video or film
  5. Graphic- Story told through a series of still pictures (photography or
  6. Music or Poetry- A story told in form of a poem or song
  7. Memoir- Story told through first hand accounts such as diaries or newspaper articles.
  8. Interactive- Stories in which students (to an extent) portray segments and determine the outcome of the story.

Which Medium for Which Learning Style?

This is just a guide to get us thinking in the same direction:

  • Logical – Mathematical Prose, Interactive
  • Musical – Music or Poetry
  • Spatial – Kinesthetic Drama, Interactive
  • Interpersonal – Interactive, Memoir
  • Intrapersonal · Prose, Memoir
  • Naturalistic –  Drama, Prose

Age Appropriateness

It is important to note the appropriateness of a st?ry for the specific age, not only in content, but in the complexity of the lesson or message. Younger students can only assimilate or pick up on messages that are simple and extremely blatant. They do not yet possess the ability to complete the vicarious bond between hero and audience. At the same time, older students will benefit more from complex stories and investigations on
the theme from several points of view. Perhaps multiple characters grow, some for the positive and some for the negative. This allows the students to explore different repercussions.

In the next installment, we look at Interactivity, the last Guiding Principle.

Follow me

Chris Michaels

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

Latest posts by Chris Michaels (see all)