June 23, 2012

Teach by Storytelling

The unmistakable quality of stories is that everyone—young and old—connect with narratives personally. Lists and equations, acronyms and paradigms, and clever sayings may lodge themselves in the mind, but stories evoke the human experience to action. William Barclay says it well when he states: “To teach in parables is to teach in pictures, and most men think in pictures” (William Barclay, The Mind of Christ, p. 95). Another rich quality of storytelling is that stories don’t necessarily tell people “the truth,” but engage the listener in a thoughtful journey through which he/she discovers the truth for themselves. As we teach, we can trust the story to do more than we will ever do by trying to explain. Some teachers simply tell the story or have students read it and ask: “What does this story teach you?” or “What is the central truth of this story?” or even “Why do you think this story is meaningful?”