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Blog: The Power of Story

Blog: The Power of Story

The Power of Story

What is a Story? 

A narrative that raises an unanswered question or unresolved problem which the characters resolve. “Stories engage our thinking, our emotions, and can even lead to the creation of mental imagery.” Listeners and readers of stories “participate” in them – in learning this means engagement: they want to find out what happens and how the story ends.

Stories create interest

Narrative structure creates interest. Even science papers may be encouraged to be “stories of discovery”. Characters in those narratives create and reinforce memories about the stories. It is no accident that many disciplines teach using case studies.

Stories create structure to remember
Readers may be familiar with the memory tricks that enable vast amounts of data to be recalled. These are often based on associating images with the objects of memory. Stories do this naturally – especially where there are vivid images to link to the ideas within the story.

Stories are familiar and accessible – a great way to share information

 “Some students may be intimidated by abstract concepts, or may doubt their ability to master or understand the material. A story may provide a non-threatening way to ease students into learning.” This is as important for young readers as for adults. Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol (and, more seriously, reading stories) prepare children for this type of learning and ensure that it is seen as a pleasurable experience.
Using Story to Introduce Concepts and New Ideas

As ways of introducing new disciplines and ways of thinking to young children stories are therefore perfect. It's an idea that we've used for many generations - we read to our children and those children in our care. We try to interest them in new places, people, emotions, things. We use non-fiction as much as fiction to do this - but not necessarily in imaginative ways.

Why not introduce a concept taught at Year 2 in school to a 3 year old as part of a story? The author watched his 3 year old listening to the first of the Martha the Mathemagician stories Tarquin has just published. He was enthralled by the story and the pictures and barely noticed he'd been listening to an exercise in halving and doubling. Of course he didn't understand, but he was busy having fun and the concept was accepted and the stroy moved on. If he doesn't understand it beforehand, it won't be alienating when he hears it in school.

Fear of mathematics...pah! 

Likewise conflicting ideas in history - telling the story of an event with several competing perspectives and challenging the reader to think about the many sides of a problem cannot be wasted time. For older children than my 3 year old of course, whose world is rightly simple. But the principle is the same.

Tarquin's new Story Approaches

Have a look at some of what Tarquin is producing:

- For sharing experiences with mathematics for teachers, parents and carers 

- For experiencing the thrills of historical events and sharing them with parents, carers and across schools.

- For early readers - using history and mathematics to offer topics of interest to more children - library, home or teacher use.

This summary is heavily indebted to Storytelling in Teaching, Melanie C. Green, Association of Psychological Science, April 2004

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