The Power of Story

What is a Story? 

A narrative that raises an unanswered question or unresolved problem which the characters resolve. “Stories engage our thinking, our emotions, and can even lead to the creation of mental imagery.” Listeners and readers of stories “participate” in them – in learning this means engagement: they want to find out what happens and how the story ends.

Stories create interest

Narrative structure creates interest. Even science papers may be encouraged to be “stories of discovery”. Characters in those narratives create and reinforce memories about the stories. It is no accident that many disciplines teach using case studies.

Stories create structure to remember

Readers may be familiar with the memory tricks that enable vast amounts of data to be recalled. These are often based on associating images with the objects of memory. Stories do this naturally – especially where there are vivid images to link to the ideas within the story.

Stories are familiar and accessible – a great way to share information

“Some students may be intimidated by abstract concepts, or may doubt their ability to master or understand the material. A story may provide a non-threatening way to ease students into learning.” This is as important for young readers as for adults. Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol (and, more seriously, reading stories) prepare children for this type of learning and ensure that it is seen as a pleasurable experience.

As ways of avoiding fear of mathematics, or introducing new disciplines such as history, stories are therefore perfect.

This summary is heavily indebted to Storytelling in Teaching, Melanie C. Green, Association of Psychological Science, April 2004