Have you ever been inspired by a podcast, a Ted Talk, or a talented public speaker? The greatest communicators are skilled storytellers, who realize that people remember stories more accurately than they remember facts.
It follows, then, that storytelling is a skill every teacher can utilize in order to make coursework more accessible to students.
In affirmation of the importance of narrative in education, professional storyteller David Novak visited MFS for two days. He performed at various assemblies, worked with individual classes and grade levels, and conducted two afterschool storytelling workshops for faculty and staff.
During Monday’s workshop with fifth grade students, Novak asked for a volunteer to stand at the window and look outside. “What do you see?” he asked. Peering out the window, student Ed Crisonino named a laundry list of items: snow, trees, “Mr. Van Meter’s house.” Then Novak asked him to turn and face the class and explain what he’d seen. Looking at his classmates, Ed’s story changed to explain “the paintings that show you where to park” and “a tree that was really just an oversized bush.” Everyone laughed. Novak then encouraged Ed to gesture with his hands, and students gave feedback on how the storytelling experience became more engaging over time.
Student Sara Chesnick then took a turn looking out the window and describing what she saw. Novak prompted her to begin her description with the word “imagine.”
“Imagine a fence…” said Sara, and she listed the colors she saw. Then: “The snow is dirty now. It was white when it fell, but someone’s come and moved it.”
Next, fifth graders had the opportunity to wander around the Meeting House and notice details they’d never noticed before. Each time Novak clapped his hands, students gave the name of something new they saw. Then they connected the items using literary terms they’d learned in class: for simile, someone shouted, “red like a brick!” and for alliteration they recalled the “painted parking place.”
Novak uses storytelling as a way to enhance learning, engage emotions, and help people from diverse backgrounds find common ground. He has been a performing and teaching artist with the Lincoln Center Institute, the Los Angeles Music Center, and festivals around the country. A Master Storyteller for The Disney Institute, David was awarded the Circle of Excellence Award from the National Storytelling Network.