Monday, November 2, 2015


As I grew up, I listened to my grandparents, great aunts and uncles and my parents spin stories of “the good old days.”  
“Great Grandpa did this…,” my grandma would begin.  
“Oh yea,” My great aunt would reply, “Well, Aunt Beatrice did that…” 
As I sat and listened, my imagination ran wild with pictures, some of which were actually based on places I had visited and people I had known.  I pictured younger versions of the people before me, and my mind’s video editor filled in the rest of the picture for me.
Recently I listened to a podcast about the brain and what is happening when we use language.  In the podcast, Dr. Ginger Campbell interviewed Ben Berger about his book, Louder than Words. Listening to this podcast, I took away some wonderful insight that helps me as a teacher, and it easily connects to stories and teaching. As it turns out, the excitement that helps us remember all of the stories of childhood has its basis in science and how we are made.
It seems that when you describe something to me, many different parts of my brain are built to jump on the task and help me understand what you are saying. For instance, if you share a story with many visual details, my visual cortex activates in a way similar to when I am actually looking at the thing being described. The same is true if you tell me a story full of action.  When you do this, my motor cortex fires up and works in a way much like when I am doing the actions myself.
This information is really important to me when I teach.  When I tell a story to my students, I understand that their brains do many things to engage the material, classify it and organize it.  What seems to be an intellectual process of remembering, turns out to be even more than that, and it is due something called “embodied simulation” 
By telling a story full of visual imagery, action and pathos, I am connecting with my students, drawing them in, and helping their minds prepare to grasp what I am teaching. If I succeed in telling the story well, I stand the opportunity of engaging my listeners kinesthetically, visually, and aurally, all at once.  This is important, because each person learns differently.
More than, though, we are naturally curious beings.  We want to connect and be connected to those around us.  Story can help achieve this connection for us. It worked for the ancient Greeks with their oral tradition, and it can work for us.
So, who is your audience?  What do you have to share or teach?  How can you use story to reach your listeners?  
If you have a story to share, please share it.
For an excerpt for the book, Louder than Words, copy this link and paste it in your web browser:

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