Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Power of Storytelling

Yikes! It has been forever since I blogged. I sure hope I remember how. Things are going great in my first year of teaching, but as expected, things are crazy busy. I feel like I am desperately treading water, and the time just flies by each day. I look back each day, hoping that I taught the students something, but hardly remembering all the lessons we did. The good news is that I do feel like I am keeping my head above water... I am certainly not drowning, but it's not a leisurely swim either.

I had a realization this week about my style of teaching. I have a student who goes to the extra help room for every independent work assignment. So, he is with me for the lesson, and then goes to do the work in The Learning Center, or TLC. This week I sent him with a math workbook page practicing multiplication with zeroes using mental math and turning them into 2x1 multiplication problems.... things like 80x2,100 or 90x500. The teacher in TLC called me to ask how long we'd been doing 2x2 multiplication because the student wasn't getting it. I explained to her that the way I had taught it was not as a 2x2, but as a 2x1, adding the zeroes at the end. And I told her the story I told my students... the story of ghost zeroes.

As I was teaching how to work the problem 80x2,100, I concocted a story of ghost zeroes. I suppose I was inspired with Halloween approaching. I wanted the students to set the zeroes aside, but not forget them, so I told the students they were ghosts who flew away temporarily so that we could work the 2x1 problem of 8x21. And then the ghost zeroes flew back at the end to give us our final answer. I even rewrote the problem with dotted zeroes instead of solid ones.

That's when I think I really realized the power of storytelling. Students who had been struggling to grasp the concept caught on right away. Even my true strugglers who joined me at my small group table for independent work time, caught on. All I had to say was where are your ghost zeroes, and they wrote the problem just the way I had and got the correct answer.

Then I thought some more and realized, I tell A LOT of stories when I teach. Whether I am weaving them to "explain" a concept, telling the story of something that happened in history, or telling a personal story to help relate a concept or bring it to life for the students, I tell stories. And I don't just stand there droning on. I TELL the story... I am really quite spazzy. I think it helps hold my students' attention and keep them interested in what we are talking about. And hopefully the end result is that, not only do they learn the concept, but they remember the story and take it with them forever.

Whether you are classroom teacher, substitute teacher, specialist, or support teacher, you can always use storytelling to help your students understand anything. All it takes it a little creativity and some energy to tell it.
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