Oct 09

Teaching Tip: Become a Good Storyteller

Teaching Tip: Become a Good Storyteller

A mark of a good teacher is that they can relate whatever information they have to teach to their students.  The meat of the lesson has to make them feel or believe that this is important in order for them to care.  Honestly in an inner city school if they do not care then it just is not going to work.  I am not for sure if that is the case in a rural, suburban, or private school because I have not worked in those places before, but in my experience the amount a student cares determines just how successful they are. 

In my history class one of the best ways to get students to care is for me to become a good storyteller.  The days I have hooked them with a good story they remember and those that story did not connect is almost like a lost day.  I do not know if the bad days are lost because they are just not that in to school or is it the “world” they have created for themselves trying to keep up with other people’s lives (friends and people they have never met) through social media, internet, movies, and television that makes it hard for them to retain school information.  I mean there is some much vying for their short attention spans that just some historical facts or “you need to know this for a test” is not going to break through and make them give up some of that valuable space in their brain and retain school information.

The school information now has to be presented in fun, exciting, and innovative ways.  For history sometimes you have to be able to tell one heck of a story for them to remember it.  For example, I have just finished teaching about American Imperialism, and I was trying to get them to understand why they did some of the things they did back then when today we would think of it as barbaric today.  So to help me get them to understand that times were different back then, and looking at history from today’s prospective confuses people on the why part of history, I tell them about the time Teddy Roosevelt was shot. 

I will not go into full detail about how I tell it but the gist of the time Teddy got shot was

  • During a campaign stop a bar keeper walked up to Theodore Roosevelt and shot him at point blank range aiming for is heart.  Luckily Roosevelt had his speech and his eyeglass case in his front pocket and it helped slow down the bullet before it entered his chest. After the commotion died down and the shooter was apprehended Roosevelt insisted on giving his speech for roughly the next 90 minutes.  His opening line was “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible” followed by “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot.”  He unbuttoned his vest showed everybody his bloodstained shirt and said. “It takes more than that to kill a bull moose,”

I can always tell when I am telling that or any story right because the class gets quiet and they are hanging on my every word.  Once I tell them that story all the other information about Theodore Roosevelt just clicks from his Big Stick Diplomacy to getting involved in brokering the peace between Russia and Japan.  Having a good story to tell students is like the glue that holds all of the other information together. 

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