March 8th, 2016
We continue to reflect on the role of stories today with an examination of the stories that surround us every day. At the end of her post, follow Katie’s tips on bringing stories to the forefront of your teaching. And then tell us on Twitter: What is your story today?
Investing in Stories
Katie Egan Cunningham
These days it seems like every industry is talking about the power of stories. Want your advertisement’s message to stick? Tell a story. Want your shareholders to keep investing? Tell a story. Want to bring in more customers? Tell a story.
In fact, if we want students to be college, career, and life ready, an investment in stories looks to be one of the most important investments we can make. Here are a few examples across industries that caught my attention.
In the December 2015 issue of Inc. magazine Thomas Goetz, CEO of Iodine, a digital health startup, says, “The story, it turns out, is the most important thing. It can’t just review what we’ve done; it must also excite the imagination about what the world will look like once we do more. It won’t be enough to present a plausible, worthy case for our future—our story must convince people that it’s worth millions of their dollars to see that future happen.”
At the online health hub HospitalityNet, consultants in the hospitality industry advise business leaders to use the structure of fiction to improve their forecasting and strategic thinking: “A good fictional storyline may seem like a whirlwind of characters and events, but for exactly that reason it can captivate and motivate an audience to grasp real issues and see different possibilities, all within a framework that everyone understands could plausibly evolve from the world as it actually exists today.”
The streets of New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood have a new retail store that changes the shopping experience—including the store’s layout and merchandise—every few months. The name of the store? Story. The driving idea is that the store is a place for discovery and maybe even reinvention. What is your story? What do you want it to be? Come in, look around, and find a new story for yourself.
Audible, the audiobook giant, advertises finding “stories that surround you.” Folding laundry? Surround yourself with a romance novel. Eating cereal? Surround yourself with the French Revolution. Sitting on the beach? Surround yourself with a noirish thriller.
Finally, the world’s biggest media brands now trust the “social media evangelists” at Storyful to “discover, verify, and acquire social media for their storytelling.” Businesses want to know which stories are worth telling.
All of this points to what, I believe, we as educators have always known—that humans are addicted to stories. That when we listen to someone else’s story we encourage a sense of belonging and make change possible. That stories are a pathway to connection.
As teachers, this gives us even more justification that time spent on powerful stories is time well spent. Here are some simple and joyful ways to keep stories at the forefront of your teaching:
- Make read-aloud a daily ritual, without exception. Create space for discussion before, during, and after reading.
- Vary the kinds of stories you share to highlight different perspectives and life experiences.
- Explore the structural elements of narratives as both readers and writers.
- Zoom in on craft techniques storywriters use to hook readers.
- Listen to songs and have students rewrite the lyrics as a narrative.
- View print and media advertisements, noticing how they tell stories to persuade their market.
- Listen to audiobooks as a class to “surround” yourselves in stories.
- Make it a year-long goal to build a classroom culture of story every day.
Where do you notice other industries spotlighting stories? How do you build a world of story in your classroom?