Storytelling has been around as long as humankind. It is one of the most effective ways to communicate an important truth to another person. It is a connection point between two people. It gives meaning, context, and understanding in a world that is often filled with chaos and disorder.
Because of this, teachers must use stories if they hope to reach their students. Stories will stay with people much longer than facts or statistics. If a teacher becomes an excellent storyteller, he or she can ensure that any concept they teach will be remembered for years to come.
Stories don’t just work well for narratives; they can be used to illustrate scientific or mathematical processes as well.
Take for example the difference between learning a formula, and the ability to solve that problem in the context of a real-life example. Stories bring information, knowledge, and truth to life.
So in this post im going to share with you 10 hacks that can help you to capture your learners’ attention.
- Every Part Of Your Story Must Be Important
When you compose your storyline, be it a fictional story to teach a lesson, or a non-fiction example, make sure that each part of the story is important to the ending. Each character, point, or principle must somehow relate to the main point you are trying to make to your learners. Anything that does not affect the outcome in some way (directly or indirectly) can be hacked off the story.
Let’s take for example, a story about the planets. You may be trying to help students memorize the order of the solar system. Any tale you create to help highlight the facts must be related to the planets. It is not the time to talk about black holes, supernovas, or even the size of each planet.
Keep the main thing…the main thing.
- You Must Have a Hook In Your Opening
In writing, it is called an “inciting incident”. You hook the listener in by presenting a problem that encourages them to keep listening. You can use this tactic in any lesson.
For example, if you are teaching the concept of photosynthesis, start your story by imagining a world in which all the flowers didn’t have leaves. You create a problem that the story (in this case photosynthesis) solves. In many cases, students don’t realize how many principles they take for granted (gravity, light, etc.).
Creating a world in which it is taken away reveals the ultimate importance of the process you are describing.
- Draw a Theme Out of Your Story
Stories have a depth of meaning when there is a theme. But, it isn’t always easy to write a story with a theme in mind. Rather, write the story first- with all the points you want to cover. When you’ve finished, stand back from the story for a moment to see if you can draw out a theme.
This is especially important when your story relates to incidents in the past. History can be a boring subject without a lot of real-life application. Themes help connect the past with the present, and ultimately the future. Don’t be discouraged if once you find your theme, you have to rework and rewrite the story.
- Keep It Simple
Complicated stories aren’t necessarily better. If your audience is young, simple is obvious. But, even older audiences can be extremely impacted when you take a complex idea and reduce it to a piece that can be remembered.
Scientific principles like gravity and electricity can be difficult for young minds. Using analogies can help. For example, to explain an electrical circuit, describe how a train can only move along tracks that are connected to each other.
A broken track means the train must stop and electricity is the same way.
- Maintain Eye Contact All The Time
Eye contact is one of the most important non-verbal ways to connect with other people. It not only helps keep a student’s attention, but it also conveys a sense of confidence and truthfulness.
Imagine telling a story while looking at your feet. What kind of emotions would your learners feel, even if your story was graceful and happy? Always look directly into your learner’s eyes. You will connect with them and keep their attention longer.
- Use Clean and Clear Language That Kids Can Understand
Some psychologists argue that telling stories is one of the primary ways humans learn. Even if you are teaching science or math concepts, pick a word or two that your learner’s haven’t heard of before. Describe and define the word first, and then use it throughout the story.
For example, if you are talking about science, identify the word “energy” and then use it several times during your story. By the end of the story, they will have learned the concepts of the story plus some vocabulary.
The most popular television shows use this method. Dumbing down the vocabulary will minimize the power of your story. It is similar to reading a text in a translation. When someone wants to study the content more carefully, they first learn the original language it was written in to understand more fully what the writer was trying to convey.
You want to use the right words, which may mean first having to explain them so your learners can follow along.
- Use Movement
Movement can be used in a lot of ways. As the storyteller, you can paint pictures with your body- using your hands, feet, legs, and head. Similarly, you can ask the student’s to perform movements during certain parts of the story.
This will help activate their memory and keep their attention focused on what you are communicating.
- Use Dramatic Pauses
People often talk more quickly than the brain can process. If you pause at crucial moments in the story, you give your students the chance to think critically about the piece of information you have just given. Don’t be afraid to pause, especially at a tense moment.
Popular television shows use dramatic pauses (or cliff-hangers) to tie the audience back into the story. When it seems that the problem is unsolvable, it is the right moment to pause, giving your audience a chance to think up the solution themselves.
- Change Your Voice with Different Characters
It helps to make characters more memorable when you give them personalities. Part of that includes changing your voice with each character. Without visual props, the voice is one of the only ways to bring the character to life.
If you can have multiple instructors acting as different characters, this is the best option. But sometimes, it isn’t possible. If you are re-enacting the Civil War, stand tall and speak deeply when you are President Abraham Lincoln. When you are speaking as an African American slave, change the volume of your voice and use an accent.
Maybe collapse your shoulders to take on a look of oppression.
- Make Your Ending Strong With an Important Take Away Point
The ending is the last thing your students will hear. Whatever points and/or principles you think are most important, put them at the end. If it doesn’t make sense to wait until the end, simply add them AGAIN at the end- to drive the point to your learners.
If you can make the ending one sentence, this is even better. Use sound repetitions, repetitive words, or a singsong rhythm to help make it memorable.
For example, if you want your learners to remember that equality is the theme of the history lesson, come up with a phrase like, “The Civil War taught Americans that everyone is free to live, free to pursue their dreams, and free…to be free.”
It is easy to remember that “freedom” is the central theme.
Now its your turn. What do you think are some of the ways that you can use to capture learners attention? Let me know in the comments below
This is a cross-post from opencolleges.edu.au; 30 Storytelling Tips For Teachers: How To Capture Your Student’s Attention