The Power of Storytelling in Teaching

There’s a fair chance that you don’t do enough storytelling.

And it really could be impacting the connections and relationships you are building with those around you. A good story draws us in and takes us prisoner captures our imagination and attention.

After all, who doesn’t love a good story?

Sceptical Face

Ah…Wait. Um… Nope. It’s definitely everyone.

In case you didn’t realise, stories are a secret weapon and superpower to teaching. I don’t just mean typical classroom teaching either. Oh no, we’re talking all forms of it: coaching, mentoring, disciplining (or as we call it at our home – life educating), team building or supporting anyone to learn anything.

Yep, storytelling can be that powerful.

What’s even more amazing is that you have all that power stuck in your head waiting to be let out. Right now.

The power of Clint compels you to let it out.

Anytime we try to help a friend or colleague, what’s a typical response? Recapping a similar experience or anecdote. We provide them with our story to show what we’ve been through and to teach them a message or lesson we’ve discovered during that time.

Like when a close friend lost their grandparent and felt lost and angry. I remembered similar feelings after losing a key person in my life and shared how it triggered intense feelings that affected many parts. Or that time a colleague opened up about feeling unsupported and isolated in their work. We went for a walk and shared similar journeys we’d both experienced to help them try to navigate a way through their current challenge.

Or when a child opens up and shares a problem facing them each and every day – a person picking on them or ridiculing them simply for being them. It’s safe say, nearly everyone has a story from their life they could offer to provide meaningful and helpful strategies or lessons in that situation.

When we share stories with those around us we can build stronger connections and feelings of trust with others.

Even if their story and life lesson isn’t the same as ours, it gives us an opportunity to build on their story…which allows for more storytelling, more connection and more learning.

Storytelling is that powerful.

This week the power of storytelling not only engaged, but brought to life something that can be boring, yawn-worthy and all round soul sucking: Place value and partitioning.

I can already hear the excited intake of breath from you, right now.

So how was the power of storytelling harnessed during this maths session?

I decided to use a personal story and experience to build up a sense of connection with my class. I wanted them to see me get through the struggle e all face at some point in our learning (which actually means we are learning). I wanted them to see and understand the purpose and reason we are learning this topic.

I also wanted to get every single person listening and engaged before our learning.

Here’s the personal story I shared this week (again, to introduce the seemingly dry concept of partitioning):

I’ll never forget the time when I was helped to change how I saw maths. I used to always have this sense of confusion or being worried about not knowing what to do. If I didn’t understand something I couldn’t really ask for help, otherwise I would look ridiculous.

I remember feeling like I needed more time, or getting frustrated because something hadn’t been explained properly. Anyone else ever feel like that? (Hands across the world rise up!)

I’ll never forget that moment when a teacher really showed me how to “get” place value. They used hands on and visual materials, they showed me the maths and let me play with it! Suddenly I realised that numbers were just made up of different parts, in different places that were worth different amounts –  it was like a light bulb going off!

And you know what the amazing thing was? Once I knew how to use and play with all of those different number parts, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing became so much simpler.

I remember running home, showing off to my Mum that I could solve 5,467 + 348…IN MY HEAD! Or better yet, as I got older I didn’t even need to write down multiplication sums like 15 x 13…all because I knew how to partition the numbers to make maths easy for me!

Suddenly, I had the power to use the numbers to make maths problems so much easier for me. Once I knew how to partition and split numbers into their digits, I could choose how I solved any number problem.

Anyone else want that power?

Cue students wanting to be involved, share their stories and seeing the importance of this topic.

Stories built onto other stories and we were well and truly ready to increase our learning. The engagement and interaction levels from the whole group were incredible.

High Five
Boom! That learning just happened!

Every single time I use a story that comes from the experiences of myself, friends, family or students, the learning that happens is always so much more powerful.

Do you know what the hardest part is? Choosing which stories you want to share and consistently making the time to share them.


What stories are you holding onto that should be shared?

We’d love to hear your stories and experiences!


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