I’m really taken with this idea. I have realised that I used to teach themes or topics as bricks in a wall, that they should be sold to children as journeys through a landscape. Learning isn’t random bricks inserted in a wall of understanding, nor is it confining ladders or spirals. It is a glorious meandering journey where each event relates to its forerunner.
Story telling is the most ancient tool of the teacher. Their impact has been charted in many cultures through out history. There seems to be particular text that is referred to regularly:
Hardy,B (1977) Narrative as a primary act of mind. This work is cited by many seeking to assert that narrative is a tool for learning, including Daniels (1996).
I have been conscious of this notion since becoming aware of Pat Sykes & Ken Gale’s work on Narrative approaches to education research. (2006) They begin this with the following statement:
“Human beings are storying creatures. We make sense of the world and the things that happen to us by constructing narratives to explain and interpret events both to ourselves and to other people.” Sykes & Gale (2006)
This notion crosses cultures and is well summed up in the guidance on digital storytelling by Gail Matthews (2008) Digital Storytelling – Tips and Resources, which has an extensive set of links to storytelling in many cultures.
Wikipedia provides the bridge to the thinking I have been undertaking in this area. The storytelling entry begins with the cultural history of story telling, and goes on to explore the impact of storytelling in business and marketing: The key work seems to be Jameson’s (2001)
article on Narrative discourse in Management.
“…narrative discourse helped resolve conflict, influence corporate decisions, and unify the group. By collectively constructing stories, managers made sense of the past, coped with the present, and planned for the future.”
This is extended by Jones cited in Huang (2009) who suggests there are 4 steps to selling to people using story:
Stories should be drill able. (Activate the public’s curiosity, enough to sleuth out more depth and detail on their own)
Each piece of the story should be enriching, but not vital to the understanding of the story (so that a customer can still have a clear idea of the bigger picture even though he has missed a part of it)
Involve the fans in the creation process.
Build a world in which your story can evolve.
People this is dynamite!!!!!!!
When planning your themed unit of work apply these principle and those contained in this blog by Kevin Moloney on Transmedia Journalism.
What is outlined above is the logic behind a simple and beautiful concept. A themed unit of work is not enough. We must apply theories of advertising and journalism, with roots in ancient teaching.
Don’t teach the Amazon as a theme, sell the children a relationship with a person, Eduardo, who lives in Brazil and is on a journey through the Amazon for a reason rooted in current affairs. Give children a narrative, or a map of the journey, they can contextualise it and build meaning around the journey. This is the real meaning of cross curricular. This is valid for any idea; Great fire of london becomes the story of a child living in Pudding Lane; World War II becomes the story of a family and evacuation.
I have wondered for a long time what impact sales strategies can have in the classroom. Is one of the reasons we have de motivated children, that we lack the skills to make them want to ‘buy’ what we are selling? There’s more on this to come in future blogs.
Hardy, Barbara (1977) Narrative as a primary act of mind. in M. Meek, A. Warlow and G. Barton (Eds.) The Cool Web; The pattern of children’s reading. London: Bodley Head
Huang, Christine(2009). Advertising Age, Volume 80, Issue 40, p. 13
Matthews (2008) Digital Storytelling – Tips and Resources. Simmons College Boston. [online] Available at: http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI08167B.pdf ( Accessed 10th February 2012)
Sykes & Gale (2006) Narrative approaches to education research. Plymouth. Available at: http://www.edu.plymouth.ac.uk/resined/narrative/narrativehome.htm (Accessed 10th February 2012)
Jameson, Daphne A. (2001). Narrative Discourse and Management Action. Journal of Business Communication, 38 (4), p. 476-511