Monday, March 18, 2013

Storytelling Versus Lecturing #ASCD13 #EdChat

I have always thought of myself as a storyteller. If you have ever had a conversation with me, there is a very good chance that I hijacked the meeting and have told a crazy story that may or may not be on topic.

I have always believed that a good story can do more for a person than a lecture. Maybe that part of me comes from watching too many episodes of "Boy Meets World" or "Saved by the Bell" where the adult tells a story that perfectly sums up everything that has happened over the last thirty minutes. Those stories are also the reason I remember almost every episode of those two shows.

You see, lecturing, to me, is just the sharing of facts. A cold connection that might impart information, but does not connect with people. A storyteller uses events in their life to express the same points the lecturer is trying to do, but it is in a way that is far more personable.

I bring this up because I had a chance to see Maya Angelou speak at #ASCD13. At 85, she is still a rockstar that carries with her a presence that is hard to match. She talked to the audience about the value of teachers and how they can be the "rainbow among the clouds" for our students. Now, she just didn't say that. She told multiple stories about her Uncle who forced her to learn her times tables and what it was like to be asked to write a poem for the United Nations for their 50th Anniversary after longing to be part of the UN as a teenager. I felt a connection with every single word she said.

I have become more sappy in my old age thanks to my adorable son, but I'm still not easily swayed by speeches or videos. Maya Angelou on the other hand, moved me with her words. Although thousands were in attendance, I felt like she was talking to me. She made me part of her story and I felt like we were one on one when she read her poem.

This is the type of power I think every teacher can have if they look at themselves as the "rainbow in the clouds" as Dr. Angelou said in her speech. We need more storytellers and far fewer lecturers. So, the next time you think you are off topic with your story, keep going. You might be making a difference and not even know it.


  1. Before the session, I was wondering what kind of speech Maya Angelou would give. Now I realize, she didn't give a speech at all. She told a story and she shared from heart...and it was powerful.

    More storytellers, less lecturers...well said, Nick!

  2. Excellent post. Stories fit in our brain.

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  5. You are so right; there is nothing like a good story to illustrate a point, and to keep a listener's long as it is good and not too awfully long! It is such an art! How exciting to have been there to hear Maya Angelou!

  6. As a history teacher, I see a lot of this sort of thing. Calls for us to rap, sing, dance and dress-up; to "bring history alive" in the classroom. But in the final analysis I am not sure I see the difference between storytelling and lecturing: in the end they both posit students as audience and not creators and constructors of their own knowledge. It's like the comment Audrey Watters made about TED-talkers: "They talk. We listen." I am not saying that there isn't a place for storytelling in learning, but that its place--for the benefit of our students' development--should be as limited as that of the drier presentation of information that is lecturing. What do you think?


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