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English Detective #46, The Power of Stories: Dec. 2, 2014
December 02, 2014

I’ve been reading about the power of stories to engage our brains (as well as hearts and memory) and their value for teaching. The more I read, the harder it was to choose just two articles to share. So this issue of English Detective will briefly introduce four of the best.

For practice in reading English, I would recommend “The Science of Storytelling” and “Engaging Students with Stories.” (Quite short-- #3 below.) For teachers, I would also highly recommend “The Hidden Importance of Teaching with Stories.”

“Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling” gives more of the neuroscience background (including his lab’s experiments with the ways stories can increase oxytocin production-- and empathy) and its implications for business presentations.

Each article adds a few unique points to their shared theme: the value of telling stories to connect with your audience (whether students, customers, or potential supporters) and make your point memorable and persuasive.

I‘m working on a reading comprehension section for EnglishHints, and I’d like to learn better how to teach using stories. I thought you might be interested too.

Getting the whole story

“The Science of Storytelling points out that telling a story (as compared to giving a power point presentation) engages many more parts of a listener’s brain: the parts that process experiences (not to mention emotions) as well as the ones that process language.

I found the whole article full of helpful insights for teachers and writers, including this: “Why does the format of a story, where events unfold one after the other, have such a profound impact on our learning?

“The simple answer is this: We are wired that way. A story, if broken down into the simplest form, is a connection of cause and effect. And that is exactly how we think. We think in narratives all day long...”

In ”The Hidden Importance of Teaching with Stories, a teacher writes about the effect stories have on the brain-- and also how sharing stories with his students encouraged them to share their own stories as well. It led to much deeper connections with what they were reading and with each other.

“Figuring out what story to tell, and how it connects, is the job of any great teacher. If we want our students to change the world, they’ll need some inspiration from the stories of those that have already changed the world.”

Engaging Students with Stories is a very short blog post that also highlights the value of telling a story to encourage students to share theirs.

“Why your Brain Loves Good Stories” talks about the chemical basis for empathy and how stories can increase engagement and cooperation. As people are drawn into the stories’ conflicts, they begin to identify with the people in them, to understand and remember on a deeper level, and to want to help.

P.S. A note if you get gmail: Have you missed any issues of English Detective? if you find English Detective in your Promotions box, you can move it to your Primary box (if you want) by clicking on it and dragging it there, then clicking Yes when asked if you want to always get it in the Primary box.

In case you missed these: Earlier issues of English Detective have articles on a number of topics, plus practice with all 570 words from the Academic Word List. You can check them out with the link to the back issues page below (or find what words were practiced each issue here.

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