My background is as a novelist, so I use stories a lot in the classroom. I also recently wrote an OER textbook that tried to take a storytelling focus to business communication. In that one, I partnered with a president of Seyem (the economic development branch of the Kwantlen First Nation). She shares a story about the topic of the chapter, which relates her business experience to the 7 teachings of the Kwantlen nation, then students reflect on the narrative as they read the rest of the chapter. I've also built in student stories.
Other ways I use storytelling in the classroom:
- I do a unit on storytelling for persuasion in my advanced communications class. We look at the structure of a story and explore the Walter Fisher Narrative Paradigm, then work in groups to see if they can find the elements of a story in different ads. (Some of my favourites to use: ,campaign,ad,). Then students are invited to tell each other about their research in the form of a story. They can either share this story aloud to a partner, or they can storyboard it out.
- When I teach oral presentations, I show the first 2 minutes of a wide range of Ted talks, stories etc. We explore how the speaker hooked us in to the story.
- I bring in documents that use storytelling even in the business context. For example, when we're studying reports, we look at the Red Women Rising report about the DTES, which uses colours, stories and photos. We explore why the authors made these rhetorical choices, how they impact the audience, etc. I also bring in donations campaign materials and discuss how these materials use stories.
- I plan to have students freewrite about the stories in the textbook, making connections between their lives, the stories and the rest of the material in the chapter.
- I use storytelling as a way to build student confidence. One of my first assignments in my pathway communication course is having students tell me the story of how they learned to read and write. They can use any format they want (comic strip, recorded etc).
- I often tell stories in class to help students engage with the material. Sometimes, I'll tell a story of something that happened to me in my working life, then pause it and have students think-pair-share about what I should have done, then say what I actually did and how it worked out. This is a way that I show vulnerability to students, since they learn from mistakes I've made.
- I want to do something about the ethics of storytelling: who has the right to a story? How do we decide what to leave in and what to keep out? Are some stories dangerous to tell? What are the risks and to whom?
These are all fantastic examples - thanks so much for sharing! And yes, the ethics of storytelling is a great conversation to have - maybe it can be a future FLO course!
Those are some great ideas and I liked how you have specific examples. I was most intrigued by the last point on the “ethics of storytelling”.
I think, as listeners, we care about if a story is true or fictional. But sometimes, fiction is presented as truth. Not every personal story is a lived-in experience but it is shared that way. Sometimes, narrators can be misleading and parts of the story may be vague or untrue. The narrators’ intentions also need to be considered in the act of storytelling. Great topic that begs a good discussion!