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The Purpose of Stories

What Stories can do

Stories can serve several functions in the sequence of your lesson/s. They can serve as a means to:

Make the subject accessible to students

Stories can be used to explain and illustrate abstract ideas or concepts in a way that makes them accessible and attainable. Stories bring facts to life, make the abstract concrete and, through meaning making, walk the listener through the mind of the scientist or mathematician (Ellis, 2005) to understand the value and application of such concepts. Wells (1986) argued that storytelling is a fundamental means of meaning making. Teachers are experts in their field and, as a result, are accustomed to using sophisticated language that can intimidate and overload a novice. Storytelling breaks down the communication barriers between experts and novices and forms an accessible bridge for both to meet intellectually.

Gain the attention of novices

Stories are a way to settle the minds of students and focus their attention in the beginning of your sequence of instruction. They can be objects to think with (Papert, 2000) as the sequence logically connects one object to the next.

Build stronger schema and memory, making knowledge easier to recover

In a study by Banister and Ryan (2001), children remembered abstract science ideas more effectively when taught in a story format. Remembering isolated and disconnected facts and concepts is more difficult than recalling this type of content in a story because the information is presented in a coherent and connected way.

Assimilate new ideas and build a path to understanding

Using stories as a way to provide students with their first exposure to complex or abstract concepts can help assimilate the new information and build a strong path towards understanding the continuation of learning events that build upon these learning blocks (Wells, 1986).

Reduce resistance or anxiety to learning

Presenting instructional content in the form of a story can help students overcome intimidation with complex abstract concepts. Stories can be a non-threatening way of presenting the information to students.