Awakening the Innate Storyteller


What does a great story teller have in common with a great teacher?

The ability to explain, entice, provoke curiosity and mystery to invite you into pursuing the unknown–the story not yet told.

How might we capture an evocative story as we design our curriculum?

As a coach, I find it helpful for curriculum designers to start by telling their story out loud. Since most teachers introduce a new unit to students verbally or visually, I ask them to imagine what they would say to a group of students. How would they intrigue, engage, or interest them in what is to come?

As they begin to tell their story to me, I watch them let go of academic or abstract talk, and the energy and passion for the subject they are teaching starts to come alive. At this moment, with a little encouragement, they start to document what they are saying. They open the storyboard template and start with what they find most exciting. For example, some start with a title that is provocative. Others start with a question. And others go right into searching for a picture or another visual that serves as a metaphor for a big idea.

Once the storytelling engine is turned on, the journey is often best shared with another. For example, when I worked with Craig, a HS biology teacher and Michelle, a HS ELA teacher, we sometimes worked as a collaborative and at other times, each worked on their own individual map. Since we were working virtually, what was interesting was that they wanted to hear the questions and I was asking about the other’s map and immediately considered how they might think about a similar style or idea for their own map.

When I asked Craig these questions: “What will the students walk away with by the end of this course? What is it that you hope they will remember beyond the classroom? What might they tell a friend as they describe what the course is about?” he responded with passion about his aspirations for his students. I paraphrased what he said and he took off writing.

Next, I turned to Michelle who said, “I was listening to what you just were talking with Craig about and I am revising some of what I just wrote.”

Craig and Michelle started to listen for my coaching questions. They jotted some down. And they were able to use them to help some of their colleagues start telling their stories. We are all eager to hear how their students hear the curriculum stories and hope that when their friends ask–what is that course all about–they will tell their own version of how they made sense of the stories they heard in class.

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